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.
Capital refers to a dynamic social relationship emerging from the capitalist private property form and subsequent exploitative labor relations. Capital's fundamental principle is wealth accumulation through profit. The distribution of wealth throughout society is contingent on what is advantageous to those with capital, or the power to shape social relations. The ways in which proprietary and exploitative logics materialize on macro and micro levels cannot be predetermined and depend on national and local particularities. Capital's operational specificities are characterized through its functioning as part of assemblages of power relations including colonialism, nation, gender, and sexuality (Joseph 2002: 14).
Propelled by a perpetual need for growth, capital is characterized by continuous movement. It cannot be contained within narrow territorial, productive, or categorical borders. While capital is a global force, its lines of flight are nonlinear (Browning and Kilmister 2006: 71) and indeterminate. Discursively, ownership and exploitation logics exceed class as a social location and economic site of commodity production and consumption. The politics of transgender representation in Canada exemplify how ownership, entitlement, and the appropriation of labor extend beyond arenas understood as capitalist. The space taken up by, and extended to, “successful” trans middle-class professionals to set the agenda for and to be representative of trans movements erases the labor performed by racialized transsexual and two-spirit people—many of whom were women working as prostitutes—to ensure better lives for marginalized populations.
Capital constantly subsumes activities that have often been outside competitive market relations (Browning and Kilmister 2006: 147; Negri 2008: 4). In fact, capital(ist) discourses permeate our immaterial social and cultural worlds in ways that impact reproductive and intimate relations (Negri 2008) and shape desire (Browning and Kilmister 2006: 135). Critical scholars of neoliberalism—capital's current regime of accumulation—emphasize market society where nearly all aspects of life privilege individualism, privatization, and competition.
How capital mediates subject formation is a key debate that continues to enrich research concerning trans embodiments, experiences, and resistance (Spade 2012; Aizura 2009; Irving 2008). Within neoliberal society, the ontological functioning of capital has reconstructed “homo economicus” (Foucault 2008). Antisocial and alienating discourses stressing sole proprietorship, industriousness, innovation, productivity, and investment govern the fashioning of individuals as “entrepreneurs of the self” (Rose 1990). Autonomy is celebrated, as people are personally responsible for honing themselves to be physically, spiritually, and emotionally fit to engage and excel in competitive free-market relations.
Freedom and democracy are linked to one's ability to participate in competitive productive relations. Individuals become human capital. This concept indicates ways in which oppressed and marginalized groups are interpolated into capital(ist) “common sense” relations. As sole proprietor of oneself, one is encouraged to acquire the education, skills, and experiential knowledge necessary to increase competitive advantage within all spheres of market society (Foucault 2008). Care of the self is an element of exploitative relations, since labor is re-created as an affective, intellectual, and communicative activity, a “creation of being” (Negri 2008: 222). Akin to corporate actors, many transgender activists work to achieve recognition for trans and two-spirit–identified people through promoting images of them as rational active subjects. It is understood that such acknowledgment from state and society will most likely ensure the vitality of trans subjects as well as the well-being of their families and communities. The logics that comprise capital as a social relation, as well as the ways in which capital intertwines with other power relations, are hidden from view; however, by analyzing “possessive individualism” (Macpherson 1962), certain dimensions of capital can be uncovered.
Capital continuously maneuvers to normalize exploitative relationships, to naturalize private property relations (e.g., whiteness as property), and to steadily erode common, collective, and cooperative spaces. Despite the fact that only a few actually own private property (the “1 percent”), whiteness as property refers to the expectations of power and control held by whites in US society (Harris 1993). Like racialized others, the majority of whites are forced to sell their labor to those with capital; however, their elevated sociocultural and political status shapes their unreflective claims to privilege (“We deserve to live in a safe neighborhood,” for example). Trans activist efforts to remove Gender Identity Disorder from the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 4th ed., and to include “gender identity” in nondiscrimination and hate-crimes laws are two additional examples.
Given global economic crises, escalating rates of un(der)employment, and declining economic growth, an increasing number of people are rendered abject as surplus populations. Members of surplus populations are denigrated in language reflective of capital as worth-less, unproductive, unfit, backward, risky, and/or inflexible and are subsequently blamed for their social and often literal deaths. Given that racialized, queer, and trans people are overrepresented within the category of surplus, it is imperative that research within transgender studies problematize discourses of sex and gender self-determination, geopolitical dimensions of transitioning medically, and trans rights struggles.
“Trans-” (Stryker, Currah, and Moore 2008) methods can enrich the formation of resistance strategies. While nearly impossible to see in its totality, capital is a whole system (Jameson 2011: 3, 6) of scattered economic practices (Gibson-Graham 2006: 2) framing social orders. Like sex and gender, capital(ism) is an historical phenomenon that is neither naturally dominant nor self-containing (ibid.: 54). Capital's continuous movement to legitimize itself reveals moments at which it falters or fails. It is within these spaces that it can be disrupted (Browning and Kilmister 2006: 136) as monstrous others labor to cultivate the diverse relations of solidarity necessary for transitioning into “new economic becomings” (Gibson-Graham 2006: 60).