PhD Candidate Eliza Steinbock proposes in her study that transgender embodiment and cinematic images can be understood as related on the basis of their shimmering quality. She mobilizes the notion of “shimmering” to move back and forth between, on the one hand, trans corporeality and, on the other, the medium of cinema, as well as between the related disciplines of transgender studies and cinema studies.
"The interdisciplinarity of the project is inspired by the shimmering visual status of specific cinematic images that emphasize movement within the frame or between frames; hence, my project explores how this visuality might relate to particular gender states-of-becoming.
Transgender embodiments challenge sex and gender alignment, which one can supposedly identify through visual evidence. Each chapter addresses the difficulty in seeing and knowing the experiences that waver in a largely uncharted “transitioning” state by outlining an alternative theoretical paradigm. I draw on Michel Foucault, Karl Marx, Walter Benjamin, Jacques Lacan, and feminist theories such as from Kaja Silverman, Laura Mulvey, Linda Williams, as well as transgender theories from Sandy Stone and Susan Stryker, amongst others. In this way, the study seeks to create analytical and theoretical leeway for transitionally gendered embodiments located in the field of image-making. It does so through a heuristic dialogue between a set of relevant concepts and a select corpus of mainstream and alternative erotic film and video.
Although I try to trace a specific modality of trans subjectivity, shimmering images also form and inform a contested field of knowability that bears on subjectivity more broadly. Though focusing on different concepts, each chapter works through a similar method. It takes into consideration one to three case studies of film, video, or other artistic works in order to identify the theoretical limitations and aesthetic conventions that render specific embodiments difficult to perceive.
To see is to know
My chapters also reflect on the broader framework of Enlightenment empiricism invested in the idea of ‘to see is to know,’ a contentious issue in film studies as well. By pairing transgender with film practices, I pinpoint the ways in which both ‘aesthetic’ practices undermine scientific knowledge."
Guest blogger Eliza Steinbock is PhD Candidate at The Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (ASCA). Her interests are in embodiment, somatechnics, feminist film theory, critical theory, visual culture, transgender studies, queer theory and (post-)pornography.
Sex is a part of everyone’s life. Aletta, Institute for Women’s History, has chosen 2011 as the year to shine a spotlight on sexuality – drawing from the Aletta collections, of course.