I am Associate Professor of Gender and Diversity Studies based in the Literature and Art Department at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences of Maastricht University. I am director of the Centre for Gender and Diversity, a platform that connects all levels of researchers in these fields, creates a network of societal partners, and seeks to enhance public-facing scholarship.
As project leader of the national consortium “The Critical Visitor: Intersectional Approaches for Rethinking and Retooling Accessibility and Inclusivity in Heritage Spaces”(NWO-Smart Culture, 2020-2025), I guide a diverse group through a research co-creation process. We have fifteen public partners, the PhD candidates Liang-kai Yu and Noah Littel, and besides myself the co-researchers Prof. Hester Dibbits and Dr. Dirk van den Heuvel. Together we investigating “How can initiatives in the Dutch cultural sector become more intersectional, in the sense of developing multi-issue approaches to inclusion and accessibility?” (See more under the folder for projects.)
Driving my multidisciplinary research is the question of how local visual and material cultures can be marshaled to respond to global challenges of inclusion and exclusion mechanisms related to minoritarian identities, foremost to queer and trans identities. This focus has directed my investigations into the politics of cultural production and exhibition in the film, arts, and heritage sectors. The results have been disseminated in an award-winning monograph on trans cinema aesthetics, an edited volume with Routledge on artistic activism and resilience, five special issues in major journals for cultural studies, philosophy, and gender studies, and over 30 peer-reviewed essays.
I combine roles of scholar, curator, and consultant to cultural institutions, for example, producing a photography show “Radical Tenderness: Trans for Trans Portraiture” for the Alice Austen House on Staten Island funded by the National Endowment for the Arts (2021), being a member of the “Circle of Critical Friends” for the Schwules Museum in Berlin (on-going), and advising the National Museum for World Cultures on their “What a Genderful World” exhibition (2018-19).
I specialize in citizen science research that involves stakeholders to comprehend as well as intervene in the meteoric rise in transgender imagery, discourses, and debate. Current discourses and legislation that claim transgender people “don’t exist” makes establishing trans heritage a pressing issue that I respond to directly through research collaborations with museums and archives. My long-time interest in transgender studies is due to the way it potentially innovates any discipline by centralizing how bodies are generated through assemblage: of hard and soft technologies, discourses, desire. I research trans cultural production to understand how frameworks of visuality, embedded in specific visual mediums, shape the perception of bodily difference. My research agenda is to affirm representations of trans embodiment while accounting for the difficulties of being seen as a legible person. I also identify as a non-binary trans person –some might say as genderqueer– and use the pronouns they/them/their. I describe my attitude towards my profession as “me-search” in the preface to my 2019 book Shimmering Images (Duke University Press).
I received my PhD from the University of Amsterdam in 2011 with a full fellowship from the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis. My Masters in Cultural Studies (with distinction) was awarded by the University of Leeds in 2004. I am also a proud alumni of The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, USA (BA, 2003) and the Mahindra United World College of India (IB, 1999). I call Amsterdam home and Louisville, Kentucky 'back home.'
My career has been dedicated to building up trans studies not only through mounting my own research lines on sexuality, visuality, and heritage, but also by establishing channels for others in the field to find their readers.
I was the founding Arts and Culture Review editor (2013 – 2020), then editorial board member (2020-present), at TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly (Duke University Journals), the first non-medical journal in the field that established a venue for social sciences and humanities scholarship.
Recently, with co-editors Susan Stryker and Jian Neo Chen, I launched the only trans studies book series ASTERISK: Gender, Trans-, and All That Comes After (Duke University Press) with three monographs released to date.
I also serve as an editorial board member for the journals Capacious: Journal for Emerging Affective Inquiry, Museum & Society (University of Leicester), MAI: Feminism & Visual Culture, and am currently helping set up the journal Culture Caleidoscoop as a member of the Advisory Collective.
I serve as a board member of the national research schools NICA: National Institute for Cultural Analysis and The Netherlands Research School of Gender Studies (NOG). As a member of the Advisory Board of the NIAS-Lorentz International Science Center I evaluate various kinds of applications for interdisciplinary scholarship and activities.
Special journal issues
My editorial work also extends to creating field-defining and interventionist special issues to shape scholarly conversations. These issues are marked by interdisciplinary research and putting questions of difference (gender, race, ability, species) to the forefront.
Parallax "installing the body" (co-editor Maaike Bleeker)
Angelaki: Journal of the Theoretical Humanities "tranimacies: intimate links between animal and trans studies" (co-editors Marianna Szczygielska and Anthony Wagner)
Dutch Journal for Gender Studies"trans approaches, methods, concepts" (Co-editors Liesbeth Minnaard and Looi van Kessel)
Somatechnics Journal of Bodies - Technologies - Power "cinematic bodies" (Co-editors Laura Horvak and Cáel M. Keegan)
TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly "europa" (Co-editor Yv E. Nay)
PhD, Postdoc, and other Supervision
My research analyzes a full range of cultural forms, and takes up cases and artists from many areas of the world. This global and multi-medial perspective is also reflected in the PhD projects that I supervise: on queering the museum in Europe (Liang-kai Yu, Maastricht University), LGBTQ archives in Europe (Noah Littel, Maastricht University), intersectional South African short stories (Robyn Ausmeier, Maastricht University), feminist politics of care in artist wills and estates (Valentina Curandi, Maastricht University), Lebanese street and digital art activism (Sinine Nakhle, University of Amsterdam), Kathy Acker’s use of sexuality for auto-theory (Tessel Veneboer, Ghent University), the relation between experimental filmmaking and crafting trans embodiment (Raphaëlle Bessette-Viens, Concordia University), sodomitical assemblages in the Dutch Golden Age between New Amsterdam-Cape of Good Hope-Amsterdam (Thato Magano, Rutgers University and Leiden University), and queer-baiting in Chinese online culture (Wenxuan Peng, Leiden University). Dr. Zexu Guan (“Promoting Beauty in Digital China: Gender, Technology, and Economy") and Dr. Jiyu Zhang ("China Redux: The Central Frontiers of the Modern Nation in Chinese Cinema") have successfully defended at Leiden University and hold academic positions in China.
Together with Marijke de Valck, I'm co-supervisor of Dr. Cyd Sturgess for their postdoc “Trans/Missions: The Politics of Identity and Precarity in Transgender Film Festivals in Sheffield, Amsterdam, and Berlin,” based at Utrecht University (Funding Leverhulme Study Abroad Scholarship June 2022 - April 2023). Cyd is creating a documentary about these film festivals using archival sources and live interviews, and will deliver a series of articles.
I also supervise the NWO-MuseumGrant awarded to Nicole Emmenegger at the Netherlands Institute for Sound & Vision, called “Rewind and Record: Preserving the People’s History.” The year-long project aims to generate a theoretical foundation for engaged cultural co-creation that speaks specifically to the thorny questions of accessibility and trust-building with formerly marginalized communities. It focuses on queer and trans media histories in the archival collection and eliciting new records through participatory practices.
Additionally I am Scientific Supervisor to the Bonnefanten Museum’s Research “Alternatieve Canon” (Alternative Canon) project on 10 Years of Diversity and Inclusion Policy, working together with researcher Arent Boon during 2021-2023 (funded by Mondriaan Fonds).