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GSSC Seminar Series
11 November 2022


Ungendering the Real: The Trans * Politics of Monsters in Brazilian Medicine, Literature, and Visual Culture

Dr. Janek Scholz (University of Cologne)
Dr. Carlos G. Halaburda (University of Toronto, Erich Auerbach Institute for Advanced Studies - University of Cologne)



In this presentation, we examine how the notion of the monster operated in medical and cultural texts to perpetuate and yet simultaneously resist coercive systems of sexual discipline and gender regulation in modern Brazil. By studying a series of scientific and cultural sources, from psychiatry, criminology, and endocrinology to trans* memoirs, poetry, and graphic narratives, this research explores the multiple somatic and aesthetic constructions of the trans* subject. The project traces an ample genealogy that identifies a radical shift in perspectives of transness. Whereas in the twentieth century, the monster was a marker of pathology, contemporary trans* literature and visuality reimagine the meanings of monstrosity and trans* embodiment through a post-humanist lens. Based on an aesthetic reappropriation of ‘monstrosity,’ used as a leitmotif of body modification, twentieth-first century trans* cultural interventions refuse what we call in this investigation ‘cis-hetero realism.’ This critical perspective shows the interdependency of factuality and fictionality in medical and aesthetic representations of the experience of transitioning, either through cosmetic techniques, hormone replacement therapy, or surgery. Revealing these bio-aesthetic procedures of ‘monstering’ and ‘re- monstering’ will offer new methodologies to show the cultural trajectory of transness within the current scholarship on gender-sex minority populations.


Short Bio:

Janek Scholz is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Portuguese- Brazilian Institute, University of Cologne, Germany. He holds a degree in Romance Studies (Italian and Portuguese), German as a Foreign Language and English Linguistics at Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena. In 2020 he completed his PhD at Universität Wien with a project on the figure of the fortune teller in Brazilian literature, adopting a narratological and post-colonial approach. He is currently developing a postdoctoral project on contemporary queer literature in Latin America. He is the author of Kartomantie in der brasilianischen Literatur. Fiktionale Möglichkeitsräume und narrative Hegemonie, Peter Lang, 2021.

Carlos G. Halaburda is a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Toronto and a Visiting Junior Research Fellow at the Erich Auerbach Institute for Advanced Studies, University of Cologne, Germany. His articles have appeared in Taller de Letras, Latin American Theater Review, and El lugar sin límites: Revista de Estudios y Políticas de Género. His next works will be published by Revista Canadiense de Estudios Hispánicos and Symposium: A Quarterly Journal in Modern Literatures. His article “Lunfardos: Queerness, Social Prophylaxis and the Futures of Reproduction in Argentine Dramaturgy” received two awards: the LASA Carlos Monsiváis award and the Canadian-Hispanic Association Essay Prize. His first book project Erotic Villains: Melodrama and the Twilights of Reproduction in Latin America is in preparation.