Davidmann, Sara (2010) Queer conceptions: procreation beyond gender: a photographic essay. In: Queer Again? Power, Politics and Ethics, 23 - 25 September 2010, Berlin, Germany. (Unpublished)
|Type of Research:||Conference, Symposium or Workshop Item|
The acts of conceiving and giving birth beyond socially sanctioned binary gender roles arguably represents the ultimate challenge to heteronormative beliefs on sex and gender, propelling assumptions about essentialism, biology and gender dynamically to the fore. Taken from a larger photographic project depicting personal experiences of ‘queer’ births and parenting, this photographic essay presents Jason’s story (The Birth of LJ), in a series of photographs of a queer pregnancy and the weeks following birth. In the photographs the ostensibly conflicting signifiers of sex and gender contest widely held views on gender and biology. Through a heteronormative lens, pregnant = female = woman while moustached = male = man. Nonetheless, Jason is depicted occupying a space beyond these boundaries and moving freely between them.
The social expectations of photography, which are that photography reproduces reality, underline and reinforce the dynamics of these images. With regard to mainstream beliefs on sex, gender and giving birth, in 2008 Thomas Beatie, a trans man, became pregnant and took his story to the press. The media frenzy surrounding the idea of “a pregnant man” and the public uproar that followed demonstrates the powerful threat that transgression of the ‘man impregnates and woman conceives’ equation poses to the two-sexes/two-genders system. Beatie became the recipient of hate mail and death threats and he was described as “a freak”, “a monster” and “sick” on Internet chat forums.
By presenting Jason’s perspective, this photographic essay counters and refutes the media’s account of what it means to be queer and pregnant. Further, Queer Conceptions arose in response to the increasing number of people who, while self-identifying as queer, are having children, becoming parents and raising families. These photographs capture the emergence of a new generation, that by the very nature of their birth, challenge preconceptions of sex, gender and procreation. Following this, Sara Davidmann argues that procreation seen through a queer lens may represent the ultimate challenge to the binary sex and gender systems.
|Additional Information (Publicly available):||
The concept of queer is volatile and, at times, difficult to grasp. As a result, we need a continuous review of the fields and directions of Queer Studies (as for instance, in the Social Text issue of 2005 with the programmatic title What’s Queer About Queer Studies Now?). In recent debates the ethical impetus of queer criticism has been confronted and challenged by the dominance of the so-called antisocial thesis. In his 2004 study No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive, Lee Edelman manoeuvred queer theory into a kind of aporia and thus deep crisis that persists to this day. Subscription to an ‘ethics of futility,’ as Edelman suggests, signals that the borders of ethical thinking have been reached. This prevalence of the antisocial thesis in its different manifestations reveals a pressing need to reflect anew the relationship between queer, theory, art, ethics and politics. Taking this as a starting point for the conference, we want to take up the iterative moment that seems inherent in the concept of queer: queer is regularly in a state of crisis that needs to be made productive, and in this way it can be continuously reworked and reshaped. We want to open a space to further the debate about sexuality and gender and their multiple interwoven connections in fields of power in contemporary contexts. Consequently, the following questions will be at the centre of attention: How can queer theory be situated in current academic and activist spheres? What does the focus on interdependent relationships (of sexuality, gender, race, ethnicity, class, age, (dis)ability etc.) mean for the formation of a queer ethics? How can we rethink concepts of temporality and generation or community? And what does queer mean in different geographical and temporal contexts? The panels will be organised along two thematic strands. The first, Affect, Space and Temporality, is concerned with the ethical and political potential of queer and the different political conceptions of queer that arise as a result. The second strand, Limits and Boundary Crossings, takes up current theoretical debates with regard to boundaries and crossings of these boundaries. Which limits and/or transgressions of these limits occur when different theoretical fields collide (e.g. queer theory and transgender theory or postcolonial theory or crip theory/ disability studies)? In addition, we want to critically examine the limitations of queer and the concurrent inclusions and exclusions with regard to privileges that queer produces in specific contexts and that demand new critical/queer interventions.
Following an introduction to her Fellowship research at the ‘Transgenders: New Identities and Visibilities’ exhibition and conference in Paris 2009, Sara Davidmann was invited by Prof Eveline Kilian to give a paper on her work at the 'Queer Again? Power, Politics and Ethics' international conference. This conference was hosted by the Department of English and American Studies and the Gender as a Category of Knowledge Research Training Group at Humboldt University of Berlin in September 2010.
This paper will be published. I am currently revising it in collaboration with the world-leading Australian Queer Studies academic Nikki Sullivan for a co-authored peer reviewed journal article. Following the conference, I have been invited to exhibit the photographs in my paper in an exhibition on trans identities at The Gay Museum in Berlin 2012, which will include internationally-recognised photographer Del LaGrace Volcano and performance artist Diane Torr.
|Keywords/subjects not otherwise listed:||photography, transgender, human rights, identity|
|Your affiliations with UAL:||Colleges > London College of Communication
Research Centres/Networks > Photography & the Archive Research Centre (PARC)
|Date:||23 September 2010|
|Funders:||Arts and Humanities Research Council, AHRC Fellowship|
|Event Location:||Berlin, Germany|
|Projects or Series:||Research Outputs Review (April 2010 - April 2011), AHRC Fellowship Research|
|Date Deposited:||02 Nov 2011 14:44|
|Last Modified:||12 Aug 2014 05:10|
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