Perry Zurn

Society Fellow


Perry Zurn is Provost Associate Professor of Philosophy at American University, and affiliate faculty in the Department of Critical Race , Gender, and Culture Studies. He researches primarily in political philosophy, critical theory, and trans studies, and collaborates in psychology and neuroscience. He is the author of Curiosity and Power: The Politics of Inquiry (2021) and the co-author of Curious Minds: The Power of Connection (2022). He is also the co-editor of Trans Philosophy: Meaning and Mattering (forthcoming), Curiosity Studies: A New Ecology of Knowledge (2020), and Active Intolerance: Michel Foucault, the Prisons Information Group, and the Future of Abolition (2016), as well as the co-editor and co-translator of Intolerable: Writings from Michel Foucault and the Prisons Information Group, 1970-1980 (2021). Zurn also co-directs the Trans Philosophy Project.

Research Focus

How We Make Each Other: Trans Poetics at the Edge of the University

The story of trans life in the university is often told through the lens of policy-procurement. Scholars and practitioners focus on what those trans-inclusive policies are and why they matter. In How We Make Each Other, I tell a different story. I focus not on trans-inclusive policies but on the poetics of trans life lived at the edge of the university. In Western intellectual history, the term poetics—stemming from the ancient Greek poeisis—typically refers not only to the specific craft of making poetry but also to the general craft of making or fabricating anything at all. In How We Make Each Other, I focus on the ways in which trans students, staff, and faculty make history, build resistance habits, and cultivate hope with and through one another. While the book is a work of theory, I take the Five Colleges in Massachusetts as a case study (i.e., Amherst College, Hampshire College, Mount Holyoke College, Smith College, and University of Massachusetts, Amherst). Relying on more than 100 interviews, as well as college archives, I draw out local lessons for the praxis of trans poetics—or, put differently, for how we tell our stories, craft our struggles, and nourish our visions for another world.

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