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Queering Paradigms IV

South-North Dialogues on Queer Epistemologies, Embodiments and Activisms


Edited By Elizabeth Sara Lewis, Rodrigo Borba, Branca Falabella Fabrício and Diana de Souza Pinto

South-North Dialogues on Queer Epistemologies, Embodiments and Activisms is composed of research presented at the fourth international Queering Paradigms Conference (QP4), held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In line with the QP project ethos of bringing together diverse epistemological and geographical allegiances, this volume intends to contribute to building a queer postcolonial critique of the current politics of queer activism and of queer knowledge production and circulation. However, rather than perpetuating the North-South dichotomy, the papers gathered here are an effort to establish global dialogues that crisscross those axes, as well as attempts at queering epistemologies, socio-political bonds, and bodies, embodiments and identities. They endeavour to trouble unequal geographies of knowledge – namely the North as an exporter of theories and the South as their importer; the North as a producer of knowledge and the South as its object of study – hosting enormous potential for reinvention.

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Queering Biopolitics: Normation and Resilience of South African Trans*-gendered Citizens


← 278 | 279 → THAMAR KLEIN

I have long been intrigued by diversity, taxonomies, the (re-)configuration of socio-cultural norms, and the manifold possibilities for social organization. When, in 2005, a German trans* friend of mine faced the threat of infringements to her reproductive rights due to German biopolitics, I started to look for examples of best practices abroad. At the time, I found the most progressive legal role model to be in the Global South, specifically in South Africa. This aroused my curiosity and prompted me to carry out further research in that country.

This chapter, therefore, discusses the power dynamics between global and local classificatory systems regarding trans*sexuality in South Africa – with specific interest in the politics of gender classification along the Global North / South axis. It investigates how these politics and dynamics produce normation constraints, and how South African trans* citizens challenge such constraints with recourse to local as well as global agency. Of particular interest in this regard is South Africa’s history of apartheid (racialized segregation) and its role in the generation of diverse gender concepts. Keeping the diversity of South African trans* citizens in mind and reflecting on the shifting constellations between the state and its subjects in the gender-defining process undergone and undertaken by its citizens, this chapter explores the intersection of international, national, and local influences on trans* identity-making in South Africa.

The chapter draws on data obtained during 11 months of fieldwork in South Africa as...

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