Interregnum Week 4-5

Interregnum Week 4 and 5

These two weeks of podcasts finished the trans-disciplinarily conference and continued with talks by prominent transgender thinkers.

David Cunningham talks about Derrida’s writing about the university. His engagement with Derrida is absolutely stunning, and showcases the skills of a close thinker who can draw on a deep philosophy catalogue. The highlight for me was a discussion about Derrida’s suggestion that philosophy should no longer be considered autonomous, which is a refreshing contrast with the disappointing series on French Theory currently being run by the Brooklyn Rail.

Simon Morgan Wortham’s response to Cunningham is brief, but once again a careful consideration of Derrida. Moreover, I like how Wortham reiterates a previous comment that “a responder is one who responds by taking responsibility for the paper.”

The trans-disciplinary and anti-humanism talks continue with a second session on gender. There are two incredibly standout talks from Tuija Pulkkinen and Ken Corbett.

Pulkkinen asks if Gender and Sexuality studies is a discipline. Her motivation is that programs dedicated to Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality studies almost universally declare themselves to be inter-, trans-, anti-, or non- disciplinary. Yet while calling themselves such, these programs seem to have the traits of a discipline.

The second talk is by Sara Heinamaa, who uses phenomenology to multiply standard concepts of sex and gender. Heinamaa draws heavily on Husserl and Merleau-Ponty, which was interesting to hear explained, but the resulting distinctions still seemed clumsy and I’m not sure that they help address many of the important problematics in gender and sexuality studies.

The third talk is by Corbett, who is a practicing psychoanalyst. He is educated in queer theory, which he brings to bear on the clinical tradition. His work as a clinician is obvious, as the distinctions he draws influence his everyday practice, which brings an added level of clarity to his concepts. Don’t miss the post-talk discussion, which brings out tensions between academic approaches to psychoanalysis and the precision necessary for clinical practice.

The discussion period of all the papers is wonderful. I especially like those questions that further explore Corbett’s command of psychoanalytic practice.

The last three talks for these weeks are by giants of transgender issues. All three are audio tracks taken from youtube recordings.

The first piece is an impressively comprehensive discussion between Sandy Stone and Kate Bernstein. The two hold a discussion that is laid back, conversational, and unafraid to tackle major topics. Even for those who already know a lot about trans issues will get a lot of the discussion, including fascinating stories and smart self-reflection about everyone’s role in gender liberation.

The second talk is Susan Stryker’s breathtaking survey of the last 130 years of transgender-related history in the United States. Even those well versed in contemporary trans issues will be rewarded by hearing Stryker’s impressive timeline of events. Moreover, in the question and answer period, Stryker  addresses some of the thornier questions about ethnic, national, and historical comparisons.

The third talk is an incredibly thoughtful take on the malleability of gender by Sandy Stone. Stone includes camp in a way that drives thought – a fun innovation that goes beyond pure novelty. Moreover, Stone’s knowledge as both a theorist and sound engineer are on full display. Ironically, the audio was a little inconsistent, and I tried to fix some of it.

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