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"Stare back!": trans/queer countervisuality & the possibility of looking otherwise

Davies, Ian (2022) "Stare back!": trans/queer countervisuality & the possibility of looking otherwise. Undergraduate Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This thesis works across a variety of objects in order to theorize the political potentiality of trans/queer countervisuality. I draw from and expand upon Nicholas Mirzoeff’s concept of countervisuality as a contestation of the dominant ordering and visualization of history, and I consider the specifically trans/queer instances and possibilities of this notion of countervisuality.

The first two sections consider two modernist novels, Herman Melville’s "Typee" and Virginia Woolf’s "Mrs. Dalloway," parsing the texts for the ways in which acts of seeing constitute or contest relations of power and subjectivity. I then briefly consider infamous exploitation film director Andy Milligan’s 1989 camp comedy "Surgikill," and put the film’s thematic of unintelligibility in conversation with a few comics appearing in the "Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction," theorizing the film and comics as gesturing toward what we stand to gain from embracing forms, appearances, and desires which are unstable and unintelligible within the normative regime of gender. I finally turn to early 20th century archives and contemporary visual art to more explicitly put forward a theory of how rejection of the demand to be visible as gendered subjects within racial capitalism might function as both a counterposition as well as a nonnormativity—after Marquis Bey—in that trans/queer countervisuality rejects the logics of visuality and visibility of what Jules Gill-Peterson calls “the cis state,” but does so without necessarily reproducing or replacing the oppressive logics of its normativity. I borrow the phrase “stare back” from an illustration and injunction appearing in the 1997 trans punk zine "Unapologetic," and I theorize staring back as a trans/queer practice which might allow us to both resist and imagine outside of the hegemonic visuality of gender. This theory of trans/queer countervisuality attempts to partially answer the provocative question Eric Stanley poses to the demand for trans recognition and visibility: “how can we be seen without being known, and how can we known without being hunted?”


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Davies, Ianied5@pitt.eduied5
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Thesis AdvisorBeaulieu,
Committee MemberBoone,
Committee MemberBové,
Committee MemberStanley,
Date: 17 December 2022
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 2 December 2022
Approval Date: 17 December 2022
Submission Date: 15 December 2022
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 69
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: David C. Frederick Honors College
Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > English
Degree: BPhil - Bachelor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Undergraduate Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: trans, transgender, queer, visuality, countervisuality, queer theory
Date Deposited: 17 Dec 2022 14:31
Last Modified: 17 Dec 2022 14:31


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