Abstract

This section includes eighty-six short original essays commissioned for the inaugural issue of TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly. Written by emerging academics, community-based writers, and senior scholars, each essay in this special issue, “Postposttranssexual: Key Concepts for a Twenty-First-Century Transgender Studies,” revolves around a particular keyword or concept. Some contributions focus on a concept central to transgender studies; others describe a term of art from another discipline or interdisciplinary area and show how it might relate to transgender studies. While far from providing a complete picture of the field, these keywords begin to elucidate a conceptual vocabulary for transgender studies. Some of the submissions offer a deep and resilient resistance to the entire project of mapping the field terminologically; some reveal yet-unrealized critical potentials for the field; some take existing terms from canonical thinkers and develop the significance for transgender studies; some offer overviews of well-known methodologies and demonstrate their applicability within transgender studies; some suggest how transgender issues play out in various fields; and some map the productive tensions between trans studies and other interdisciplines.

Pedagogy, narrowly construed, is the study of teaching and learning; more generally, it pertains to the social construction of knowledge, values, and experiences. The common assumption that the classroom is the exclusive site where pedagogy transpires is challenged by educational theorists such as Henry A. Giroux (2004), Antonia Darder (2002), and bell hooks (1994), whose definitions of pedagogy extend it beyond the classroom and who, like Paolo Freire, advance a conception of pedagogy as a “practice of freedom” (Freire 2000: 80). Freire similarly redefines “educator” to mean more than a mere classroom instructor; for him, being an educator should encompass the multiple perspectives of “border intellectual, social activist, critical researcher, moral agent, radical philosopher, and political revolutionary” (Darder 2002: 249). Pedagogy, broadly defined in this way, engages questions of teaching and learning with questions of culture and power, of democracy and citizenship. It points to the multiplicity of sites (corporeal, spatial, temporal, psychic) in which education takes place and where, most importantly, knowledge is produced.

Transgender studies, as a framework or lens through which to theorize the myriad ways in which people understand, name, experience, and claim gender in relationship to such other processes as racialization, class, nationalism, and globalization, needs to incorporate a critical pedagogical perspective. In the 2008 Women's Studies Quarterly special “Trans-” issue, Vic Muñoz and Ednie Kaeh Garrison coined the term transpedagogies (291), seeking a word to capture the dialogic relationship between trans subjects and pedagogical practices. They envisioned the term as a “coalitional concept” that encompassed transsexual, transgender, and gender/queer perspectives, through which an analysis of the production of knowledge could be linked conceptually to varying experiences of gender socialization or gender identity in diverse contexts.

What might such a transpedagogy encompass? A pedagogical perspective on transgender studies should, at a minimum, note that teaching and learning about transgender phenomena take place across a spectrum of social practices and locations and that transpedagogies are part of a broader public politics not solely limited to what goes on in schools. But more expansively, a pedagogical perspective on transgender phenomena can also help unsettle historically and contextually specific knowledge(s) that shape understandings of normative gender. Transpedagogies should offer students the tools they need to participate in the political and economic power structures that shape the boundaries of gender categories, with the goal of changing those structures in ways that create greater freedom. In a transpedagogical approach, processes of learning become political mechanisms through which identities can be shaped and desires mobilized and through which the experience of bodily materiality and everyday life can take form and acquire meaning.

Transpedagogies supply a discursive mode of critique for challenging the production of social hierarchies, identities, and ideologies across local and national boundaries. They represent both a mode of cultural production and a type of cultural criticism for questioning the conditions under which knowledge of gendered embodiment is produced. They provide a space for affective engagement, for the affirmation or rejection of values, and for the inhabitation, negotiation, or refusal of culturally prescribed gendered subject positions. Understanding pedagogy as a mode of cultural production in this way underscores its performative nature. It is how theory becomes practice.

The proliferation of culture via new communication technologies and social media further shifts the production, reception, and consumption of knowledge about gender diversity. It allows for new and alternative modes of access to knowledge and for fresh ways of knowing that purposefully resist normative bodily comportment and that confound the boundaries of gender. Such technologies of the self create a space for what Chela Sandoval has called “differential maneuvering,” where “the transcultural, transgendered, transsexual, transnational leaps necessary to the play of effective stratagems of oppositional praxis” can begin articulating themselves (2000: 63).

Stratagems of oppositional praxis are precisely what critical transpedagogical practices should aim to produce: they must shift the framework available for understanding, describing, and addressing the multiple and varying vulnerabilities to violence faced by transgender subjects. As Dean Spade notes, there is an uneven distribution of vulnerability and violence across trans populations, and such harms are not fully described or addressed by the single vector of transphobia (2010: 447). Paying attention to the highly variable and sometimes contradictory narratives that transgender subjects actually use to describe and explain their experiences of classist, racist, sexist, and ableist exploitation is a necessary pedagogical practice. It situates knowledge production in specific or local “acts of knowing.”

Centering the transgender body as a site of knowledge production is a crucial transpedagogy. It creates new opportunities for teaching and learning by working to understand how transfolk critically understand their places in the world and tactically maneuver through it (i.e., how they negotiate relations of power, privilege, and subordination) as well as how they actively participate in the transformation of their world(s). This type of transpedagogy is radical to the extent that it critiques, and can potentially transform, how power and authority construct and organize knowledge — including knowledge of gendered desires, values, and identities (Giroux 2004: 69). Transpedagogies are indeed “practices of freedom” that can link teaching and learning to social change.

Transpedagogies must keep up with the continually shifting terms and conditions through which gender is named, imagined, and theorized as well as with the ongoing neoliberal depoliticization of public life and the impoverishment of public discourse. Transpedagogical perspectives and approaches need to ask how knowledge of transgender phenomena is constructed through this absence as well as through its presence and circulation in the public sphere. Proliferating trans-knowledges in the public sphere is only the first step of a radical educational agenda. The heart of effective transpedagogy, buttressed by rigorous intellectual work and political courage, is to link theory and praxis to create new modes of resistance and collective struggle.

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