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Queer and Trans Universities

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Organizer: Jessy Nyiri

Co-Organizer: Grace Lavery

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Colleges and universities may be the only institutional locations in which queer and trans people are not underrepresented relative to the general population. Possibly for that reason, figures of queer and trans students and teachers are increasingly deployed as the imaginary targets of legal and political movements to undermine public provision of tertiary education. Far-right state actors from Orbán to DeSantis have closed gender and sexuality studies programs in recent years, purportedly to counteract mass “indoctrination” into “radical gender ideology.” Over the same period, and prompted by the collapse of the academic labor force in the wake of the 2008-09 financial crisis, a number of scholars have focused on the institutional logics and material structures that govern knowledge production. Such scholarship – undertaken within and without the university, and often in conjunction with resurgent abolitionist and labor movements – has raised new and urgent questions about the fitness of colleges and universities for sustaining queer and, especially, trans life.

This seminar invites participants interested in exploring figural, ideological, and historical encounters between the university writ large and dissident practices of gender and sexuality.

How have universities enabled and constrained the emergence of such dissidence?

How have universities enabled homonationalism and pinkwashed colonialism, for example, through campus expansion?

What remains of the Romantic notion of aesthetic education in contemporary queer and trans pedagogy?

For better or worse, how have genres and representations of campus life—the campus novel, menippean satire, the slasher flick, the college-set movie, tv show, and documentary—reified the university as a space for the tenuously amoral free-play of sexual and gender deviance?

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