Kadji Amin

Society Fellow

Overview

Kadji Amin is Associate Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Emory University. Amin is a materialist theorist of gender and sexuality. His research and teaching bring empirical scholarship on the history of sexuality and on gender and sexual variance in the Global South to bear on queer and trans theory. He is the recipient of a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship in “Sex” from the University of Pennsylvania Humanities Forum (2015-16) and a Humanities Institute Faculty Fellowship from Stony Brook University (2015). His first book, Disturbing Attachments: Genet, Modern Pederasty, and Queer History (Duke 2017) won an Honorable Mention for best book in LGBT studies form the GL/Q Caucus of the Modern Language Association. Disturbing Attachments deidealizes Jean Genet’s coalitional politics with the Black Panthers and the Palestinians by foregrounding their animation by unsavory and outdated modes of attachment, including pederasty, racial fetishism, nostalgia for prison, and fantasies of queer terrorism. Amin has published articles in journals including TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly, GLQ: A Journal of Gay and Lesbian Studies, Social Text, differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies, and Representations. He is the coeditor, with Amber Jamilla Musser and Roy Pérez, of a special issue of ASAP/Journal on “Queer Form.” He serves on the Editorial Board for TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly and Gender and Women’s Studies and is the State of the Field Review Editor for GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies. 

Research Focus

Trans Materialism without Gender Identity rethinks the foundations of contemporary transgender politics and scholarship by arguing that the concept of gender identity is a fiction that has historically done transgender people more harm than good. Gender identity, it demonstrates, was devised by midcentury US psychiatry to discipline the boundaries of legitimate transgender being. Historically, the effect of gender identity has been to privatize transness as an interior identity congruent with liberal and neoliberal forms of governance. With the definition of gender identity as a protected human right by the Yogyakarta Principles in 2007, this concept is now being extended as a basis for governance globally. However, historically in the West and currently in the non-West, most gender-variant people have not needed gender identity to transition or be recognized.

Methodologically inspired by the combination of historical materialist theory and macro-history of Silvia Federici and Christopher Chitty,[1] Trans Materialism without Gender Identity theorizes patterns across transgender medicine, online LGBTQ+ discourse, the history of sexuality, and the anthropology of sexuality. This method demonstrates that, both historically and globally, gender identity structurally abandons those transfeminine people whose cultures are too public, too sexual, too social, and too shaped by labor to be privatized as individual identities. Defining “materialism” with reference to both the political economy and the materiality of gendered bodies and behaviors, Trans Materialism argues that transgender theory and politics must be materialist if they are to contend with the harms that face the most vulnerable transgender populations.

 

[1] Federici, Silvia. 2004. Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation. Brooklyn, New York: Autonomedia; Chitty, Christopher. 2020. Sexual Hegemony: Statecraft, Sodomy, and Capital in the Rise of the World System. Edited by Max Fox. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press. I find Federici’s approach to reproductive labor useful despite the trans-exclusionary turn of her latest book, Beyond the Periphery of the Skin (2019).