Reflections for the first and the second meeting

From the initial meeting, we have established an approximate direction towards our presentation topic which is related to queer theory and issues related to LGBT. As we are a group with four different majors, we started with finding a middle point of our own interests. While I was presenting the metaphysical puzzles about the identity, that objects might be composed by temporal parts (i.e. me as a baby and me as an adult), the theme of identity seems to attract the others attention. It was then that Victoria suggested to look at the queer theory and extended to the LGBT contemporary debates which have sustainable relations to the theme of identity.

As a philosophy-majored student, I am inspired to explore under the theme of the believability of one’s sexual intention. I was very struggled with this suggestion at first since the philosophical issues are always complicated to explain within a limitation of words. Since we are doing a presentation-based project, I was worried about the object not having enough time to be clearly presented. However, after some discussion, I thought perhaps this subtheme would be a good ‘bridge’ to link the whole project.

We were suggested by the supervisor to have a look in some feminist campaign and social media for which I am assigned the former one—Woman’s place UK. I found that the text on the website all results to be the propaganda of the campaign and aims to appeal to more people to join them. Interestingly, such a feature seems like a pyramid selling to me. Also, one article records the failure of the communication to several female MPs for some female-victimized event. An interesting contrary is shown here that the female MP is seen as the opponent to them whilst Woman’s place UK appeals for the eradication of the inequality of gender. Here, the incommutability of the female MPs is seen as the hierarchic role which is against them as a female group which echoes to the phenomenon that normally the role played by the female MP is played by the male-power.

In our second seminar which was carried out very well, after we expanded our research, we were attracted to the theme of LGBT expressed in the performance art. Whilst Victoria and Emmanuelle gave out some related films to explore such as boy don’t cry, I thought of one of the Chinese transsexual dancer Jin Xing, who is the only mainstream transsexual public figure. Contrary to Caitlyn Jenner, who holds a rather conservative attitude towards equality in sex and whose sexual orientation is female, Jin Xing adopted three children in 2000 and has been married to her German husband in 2005. Jin Xing did her transsexual surgery in 1995 which was a very early era, especially when she was born in a traditional family in northern China. I presented an interview video during the meeting for the others to have an initial image of her https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jiv9p8qdPMk

Although Jin always pursues the femininity, she also persists the importance of independence for the woman. The fact that she is being more accepted, especially by the young generation, makes her positive for the Chinese future. Her talk shows and all the tv programme she stars all publicizes the ‘non-conservative’ thoughts, i.e. marriage shouldn’t be trapped by the original family, the woman should accept her minor social position in China nowadays as mere truth but should also fight for her own rights for a better society.

On the other hand, we have discussed to switch the way of presenting the philosophical issue in our project: after researching, I can help everyone to prepare a small philosophical talk into their presentation, which would make the presentation more interesting and more cohering. I will be looking at more of the philosophical issue presented in LGBT and share my thoughts with the others in our next meeting.

 

Research from this week

Livia Gershon, ‘Gender Identity in Weimar Germany’, JStor Daily (Published 18/11/18) https://daily.jstor.org/gender-identity-in-weimar-germany/ [Accessed 2/1/19]

Summary: an accessible article written by Livia Gershon, using discussions around the legal rights of transgender people in the US as a prompt to look back to Katie Sutton’s research about Weimar Berlin, that she positions as “the first political movement around gender identity in the modern West”. This period is therefore a useful historical point to understand how discourses around transgender identities have developed and been shaped, regardless of whether or not we look specifically at this period.  Useful points include:

  • Policing of visual expression of gender identity: respectability politics.
  • Differing experiences of men/women: investigate the erasure of ftm?
  • Assimilation of gay masculinity into the Nazi regime
  • Hirschfield’s Institute of Sexology.

Matthew Wills, Ernst Röhm, The Highest-Ranking Gay Nazi’, JSTOR Daily (Published 27/3/17) https://daily.jstor.org/ernst-rohm-the-highest-ranking-gay-nazi/ [Accessed 4/2/19]

Article briefly introducing Enst Röhm, head of the SA and highest ranking gay Nazi official. Although not immediately applicable to our areas of interest, one particular paragraph struck me in terms of the visual expression and coding of queer identity:

“As Eleanor Hancock explains, Röhm, his face scarred from war wounds, stressed a hyper-masculinity to counteract contemporary views of homosexuality as feminine. A First World War veteran, Röhm ‘attached paramount importance to the values of militarized masculinity.’ This aligned with Nazi views of the homosocial Männerbund. Such all-male organizationsof warrior-comrades were supposed to be united under the banner of discipline and order aginst the threatening ‘wave’ of the bourgeoisie, women, Jews, socialists, Bolsheviks, all of represented weakness, chaos, and disorder – in short, the Weimar republic.”

Channel 4 News, ‘Germaine Greer on women’s liberation, the trans community and her rape’, Ways To Change the World: A New Podcast Season 1 Episode 10 (Published 23/5/18) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aU_csXGfdVM [Accessed 4/2/19]

We decided to look at Germaine Greer as she is frequently pointed to as a feminist figure who holds trans-exclusionary opinions. The video covers a range of topics, but in terms of our project (interest in the visual, the body and postcolonial approaches to transgender studies), these were the most interesting quotes:

“We are not even allowed to refer to the fact that somebody is transgender. We’ve got to call these people women and we’ve got to behave as if we cannot see that they are not as we are even when it’s blindingly obvious.”

“That masquerade is what is being presented to us back as the real deal with the hair extensions, and the false eyelashes, and you think, why do you think that’s real when we all know that it isn’t.”

“intersex is relatively common, especially in certain ethnic groups”

“In China during the Great Leap Forward men and women were indistinguishable, they looked exactly the same. Now that’s made very easy become they’re the same height. Now in our race, our mixture of races, speaking of basically of Aryan, men are bigger than women, characteristically women are shorter so it’s hard for us to pretend to be men and it’s been one of the things that breaks my heart when I see female-to-male transsexuals that they have tiny hands and tiny feet, just as male-to-female transsexuals have enormous hands and enormous feet and I think here you are, you’ve taken male hormones, you’ve grown a little beard, your hair is cut and you’re wearing men’s clothes and here are these tiny hands and feet that are giving the game away.”

independent meeting – 29 Jan

Today’s independent discussion was really useful and enabled us to pinpoint exactly what our topic was through a visual brainstorm on the board and various examples from each of our disciplines or domains of interest. The connections and tensions between trans and feminist discourses appeared like our preferred subject, after last week’s discussion on the Gender recognition act. Syukie studied Women’s Place and explained that their discourse heavily relied on historical references and never explicitly addressed their transphobia. More generally we are interested in looking at two different phenomenons: conservatism in the trans community regarding women’s position in society as well as transphobia in feminist discourses, and particularly second wave feminism. We will look into the imperial burden on the subject and will also discuss the imaginative Weimar Republic “exoticism” and in what ways it has shaped such discourses. Each of us are going home for the week with different tasks and interests to then share with the group as we come back next week. Overall a very useful discussion!

Reflections on Initial Meeting, Fragmentation Group A

Our meeting began with a discussion of our majors and the ways in which our essays interpreted the idea of ‘fragmentation’. Our majors cover Comparative Literature, Film, Philosophy and History; and our essays interpreted ‘fragmentation’ from a variety of viewpoints (whether it be a negative tension, a positive opening of possibility, or a neutral description within metaphysics). From this starting discussion, it is clear our group is intellectually diverse. While this means there are not obvious crossovers in everyone’s interest, it also works as an advantage to the extent that our project will naturally become interdisciplinary and benefit from an array of analytical standpoints.

As one of our group members was unfortunately unable to attend the meeting, the possible topics we discussed are by no means fixed. But our initial suggestions seem to be mainly gravitating towards queer theory/identity and visual coding, possibly thinking about hair as a starting point. This lends itself well to mine and Emma’s interest in the film and cultural studies, however will need refinement as to not exclude philosophical analysis.

Following on from that meeting, we have discussed as a group the best way to share our ideas and communicate outside of our meetings and have settled on a facebook group as that will enable us to easily share and keep track of any articles or ideas that we may want to share with each other.

As everyone will be present at our next meeting, it will be a chance to continue to establish common areas of interest that will lend itself well equally to all our disciplinary interests. From here, hopefully we can assign ourselves research tasks in preparation for next week.

Fragmentation Group A 18-19 (Emmanuelle Dot)

With this work on fragmentation and interdisciplinarity, I would be interested to put in practice some ideas from Queer theory as well as notions of aesthetics in philosophy and identity politics. “Taking control over one’s body” and the identity struggle are subjects that have been more and more prominent in mainstream media and discussions. Studying the fragmentation of identities and symbols through a study of the Body would be a segway into the subject, especially through the example of buzzcuts and their different meanings in popular culture.

 

Ideas of ways to address this in the presentation:

– Questions to fellow students and teachers: point out one part of their body that they most identify with and see as a representation of their identity à photo project

– Historical look at one particular aesthetic: tattoos and/or buzzcuts

– Queerness and “looking gay”: the twink in popular culture / film

 

Disciplines and theories:

– Queer theory

– Aesthetics in philosophy

– Identity Politics

– Cultural studies / History

– Representation: film and literature