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Critique Essay Humanities Law/Legal Nonfiction Social Sciences Theory

Anti-Trans Optics: Recognition, Opacity, and the Image of Force

By Eric A. Stanley, 2017

This essay opens with a reading of a closed-circuit television scene of Duanna Johnson, a black transgender woman who was brutally beaten by Mississippi police while in their custody in 2009. Through this video, I center the question of representation’s form, not just its content, as constituted by anti-trans and anti-black optics. Against this scene stands Time magazine naming 2014 as the “Trans Tipping Point.” I trace how positive representation, which is to say the methodology of assimilation, is offered as the primary, and perhaps exclusive, space of struggle. In contrast, through Édouard Glissant, I develop the idea of trans opacity that knows the constitutive power of the image while attending to its foreclosing violence.

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