A decolonial study of gender and sexuality: analyzing queer, Chicana, feminist, and trans theory, and pedagogy




Gardin, Michael Lee

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This dissertation argues for activating a decolonial study of gender and sexuality through analyses of select literature, criticism, theory, and teaching practices. The chapters explore queerness from a number of different disciplinary and political angles, and the explorations begin with my crafting of a new perspective in the study of gender and sexuality, what I call activating. I define activating to mean recognition and examination the simultaneous and dialectic relationships between academic and non-academic environments. It is my argument that an activating of the study of gender and sexuality entails a grappling with coloniality. Drawing on and extending queer of color theory, women of color feminisms, and theorizations of the decolonial turn, I assert it is impossible to think about the material conditions of queer sexuality and gender without considering the particularities of race, class, nationalism, and legacies of colonialism. Engaging with transgender studies, a portion of my effort in activating gender and sexuality studies is to refuse to privilege sexuality over gender, race, or class, thus leading to my emphasis on a decolonial study of gender and sexuality. Overall, activating a decolonial study of gender and sexuality contributes to the ongoing dialogues and debates surrounding the relationship of queer theory, feminism, and the nascent field of transgender studies, and it takes up the challenge urged by many women of color and third world feminists of truly grappling with gender and sexuality, colonization, modernity, and their relationships. I focus my decolonial study of gender and sexuality on the theories of decolonization and queerness that arise in US women of color feminist, queer, and trans texts. In terms of my analyses, I theorize the epistemological registers of queer strategy in the political essays of Cherríe Moraga, I begin to craft a reading strategy, reading for butch and femme, in an analysis of two novels, Rubyfruit Jungle and Margins, and I examine queer visions for alternative worlds, mainly that of Moraga's queer nation-building. I also propose new horizons in teaching feminist, queer, and trans studies, and I conclude by asserting the university's and theory-making's simultaneous roles as potential paths to liberation and as sites of and support of coloniality, suggesting a decolonization of Westernized universities and disciplines. Ultimately, this dissertation demonstrates how the practice of activating a decolonial study of gender and sexuality enables us to see how cultural productions, radical visions, and lived experiences relate and affect one another.


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Chicana, Feminist, Queer, Trans, Language, literature and linguistics