Shifting Futures: Digital Trans of Color Praxis

"Post", Algorithmic Time

Considering Zylinska and Kember’s writing, I propose that shifting is a form of cut relevant to contemporary digital media and that shifting exemplifies Zylinska and Kember’s take on Heidegger’s concept of originary technicity when they say “we are media… what is important for us is… the acknowledgement of the mutual co-constitution of ‘media’ and ‘us’ along both cultural and neural lines, that is, the intertwined process of media coproduction. Shifting is a form of communication, of media, as anything that can change state can carry information, and further, the transformation of bodies is often facilitated by the addition of technologies to a body, such as administered hormones or lipstick. Any emerging politic must account for more than visibility, but for the forms of communication made possible by the politic, including movement, shapeshifting as well as aurality, tactility and texture. Zylinska and Kember write “a bio/ethics that remains attuned to the temporal fluidity of media calls on us to envelop interventions from the midst of the field of life forces, so to speak. It can also equip us with a series of techniques and strategies for enacting what Karen Barad has termed ‘agential cuts,’ which ‘enact a resolution within the phenomenon of the inherent ontological (and semantic) indeterminacy’”. The “temporal fluidity of media” and the “ontological (and semantic) indeterminacy” are both made evident in the moment of shifting seen in Monae’s “Many Moons” video, and the difference in before and after states allows the viewer to see the effect of the cut, an ethical cut in this case that allows for the potential of safety for a gender-non conforming black woman.

How can a trans of color feminism, a form of praxis that includes theory, activism and cultural production, be created today to account for the historical absence of trans women in women of color feminism and the continuing fact that trans women of color are the number one target of violence among LGBTQ people in the US? bell hooks describes feminism as “a commitment to eradicating the ideology of domination that permeates Western culture on various levels— sex, race and class to name a few— and a commitment to reorganizing U.S. Society so that the self-development of people can take precedence over imperialism, economic expansion and material desires”. In that way the formulation trans of color feminism can be seen as not only a project for trans women of color, but for all people to continue the project of feminism by ending the violence that persists against trans women of color by accounting for feminism’s historical blindspots. How can this movement be built in a post-identity, post-racial, post-feminist moment? Any claims of “post” rely on an imposition of temporality, in which these categories might be able to be described as “over”: identity is over, race is in the past, feminism is over. Yet Kara Keeling calls attention to the multiple temporalities of possibilities of queer and trans of color lives without violence when she asks, 

“undisciplined and vulnerable, firmly rooted in our time, might we nevertheless feel, even without recognition, the rhythms of the poetry from a future in which M — might be? Might we allow those rhythms to move us to repel the quotidian violence through which we currently are defined without demanding of the future from which they come that it redeem our movements now or then?”

To account for some of these claims of “post”, one can look to Keeling’s work to reconcile older models of identity politics, such as women of color feminism with the contemporary regime of the digital image through the equation “I = Another”. Advocating a digital identity politics, Keeling states “‘I = Another’ does not jettison identification as a political strategy but introduces difference into the equation,” and “this formulation of identity as difference captures the sense of transformation, rather than rupture, that characterizes many liberation movements in their contemporary configurations and describes the processes of identity and identification facilitated through the media that sustain, educate, challenge, and recollect those movements”. 

To add to this formulation of identity in difference that Keeling uses to reconcile Audre Lorde’s “house of difference” with digital media, I look to Tara McPherson’s claim that analyses of the visual representations of digital media are incomplete as long as they do not account for the code that produces them. This claim extends queer of color critique’s claims that analyses that are do not account for the intersectionality of race, gender and sexuality are incomplete. Considering Jasbir Puar’s critiques of intersectionality that replaces the concept with assemblage in order to account for “forces that merge and dissipate time, space and body against linearity, coherency and permanency”, one can see the moment of shifting as crucial to a contemporary logic of identity that can exceed neoliberalism’s attempts to manage categories, while still being limited by logics offered by digital technologies that are themselves the product of western logic and neoliberal economies. 

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