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CFP: The Arts of Trans, Gender Diverse and Two-Spirit Lives (Deadline: January 31, 2018)

The Arts of Trans, Gender Diverse and Two-Spirit Lives Institute for Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies, McGill University, April 5-7, 2018

With the participation of: DJ Elle Barbara; Alexandre Baril, Maxime Faddoul, Kama La Mackeral, Zack Marshall, Lindsey Nixon,Charlie Lucas Rose; Trish Salah, Fallon Simard; Syrus Marcus Ware

This conference is part of a series of events organized by the Institute for Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies at McGill University, Montreal, dedicated to exploring tactics of survival, resistance and resilience in the lives of trans, gender diverse and Two-Spirit people. This three-day conference will examine creative living through engagement with art, media and culture, as well as the creativity of survival tactics that make life more liveable for trans people. We seeks papers and propositions that situate themselves within the frequent overlap of the work of art with the work of well being, across political, artistic, relational, medical, colonial, carceral and social ecologies of existence. Art isn’t just objects or content, but a way to think about how to reanimate and open material, sensory and perceptual conditions of existence to more sustaining ends. It names the creative ways that trans, gender diverse and Two-Spirit people navigate the art of living. Rooted in the local, this event also aims to share international (and intergenerational) perspectives.

At a moment where trans, gender diverse and Two-Spirit lives lives are, in some ways, more visible than ever, silencing, erasures, circumscription and marginalization continues and even intensifies. In Trap Doors: Trans Cultural Production and the Politics of Visibility, editors Gossett, Stanley and Burton describe the trap of visibility as politically and existentially problematic, a lure that promises social legitimacy but only within pre-scribed positions that fail to accommodate the multiple experiences of trans, gender diverse and Two-Spirit lives. How have trans people, through artistic, critical and activist practices, articulated non-hegemonic ways to talk about, practice, research, engage and value art, media and representation, in ways that can both address this bind, and acknowledge the world-making challenges such work can propose? What needs to change in critical discourse, pedagogy, curation and criticism to be in conversation with these questions? How might work not simply be invested in a politics of visibility, but in the claims of lived experiences of precarity, danger, colonization, fragility alongside forms of resourcefulness, support, imagination and survival that trans, gender-diverse and Two-Spirit people employ to endure and thrive, in art practice, but also in everyday life? Paul Preciado, author of Testo Junkie, described his recent curatorial work around performance and media arts at Documenta 2017 in terms of a move away from representative politics towards a “Parliament of Bodies”, noting that “the world is transitioning, but our institutions resist this transition. The museum, the school, the hospital need to transition.” What kind of work is already happening and yet to be done to take up this challenge?

We invite proposals for papers or other presentation formats that addresses these questions. Some key areas of interest for the conference include:

  1. Archives: the legacies of trans/gender diverse and Two-Spirit artists, people and cultural communities are often precarious and difficult to access. What practices of research, artistic engagement, curation, distribution and audience participation actively contribute to sustaining and re-animating, rather than appropriating or marginalizing, these archives?

  2. Access: Who has access to resources that sustain lives, art and culture, to move these from conditions of precarity to resilience, well-being and creative modes of existence? What would it take to “transition institutions” and what kind of durational practices are required for this to happen? How are trans communities and activists already doing this work in daily practice, and how can their voices be amplified and engaged in transformative ways?

  3. Authority: how do arts practitioners and researchers facilitate new, more democratic modes of expertise that speak back to and change traditional gate-keeping cultures of how we value and support knowledge? Who speaks and is heard?

  4. Action: How does centering trans, gender diverse and non-binary lives challenge categories and practices of action and activism?

Participants may present proposals for both academic talks (20 minutes) and non-traditional conference presentations. Submissions will be accepted in either English or French (though please note that the conference will only offer passive translation).


Interested persons should submit a 250-word abstract including a title, a short bio (50 words) and contact information to by January 31, 2018.

As the subject line of your email, please include your last name followed by:  IGSFConference (eg: “Name: IGSFConference”). All abstracts must be submitted electronically, in PDF format or in the body of your email.

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