About the lecture

Low Theory, High Stakes: Trans* Bodies, Hapticality and Popular Culture”, examines the history of the representation of transgender, transsexual, and trans* bodies in popular culture over the last fifty years. While examining gender variability’s arc of representation, it will also consider new and evolving techniques for the visual capture of bodily ambiguity. Seeing trans* bodies differently – not simply as trans bodies that provide an image of the non-normative against which normative bodies can be discerned – but as bodies that are fragmentary and internally contradictory; bodies that remap gender and its relations to race, place, class and sexuality; bodies that are in pain or that represent a play of surfaces; bodies that sound different than they look; bodies that represent palimsestic relations to identity – means finding different visual, aural, and haptic codes and systems through which to figure the experience of being in a body.

Jack Halberstam

Jack Halberstam is Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity Gender Studies and Comparative Literature at USC. Halberstam works in the areas of popular, visual and queer culture with an emphasis on subcultures. Halberstam’s first book, Skin Shows: Gothic Horror and the Technology of Monsters (1995), was a study of popular gothic cultures of the 19th and 20th centuries and it stretched from Frankenstein to contemporary horror film. Her 1998 book, Female Masculinity (1998), made a ground breaking argument about non-male masculinity and tracked the impact of female masculinity upon hegemonic genders. Halberstam’s last book, In a Queer Time and Place: Transgender Bodies, Subcultural Lives (2005), described and theorized queer reconfigurations of time and space in relation to subcultural scenes and the emergence of transgender visibility. This book devotes several chapters to the topic of visual representation of gender ambiguity. Halberstam was also the co-author with Del LaGrace Volcano of a photo/essay book, The Drag King Book (1999), and with Ira Livingston of an anthology, Posthuman Bodies (1995). Halberstam regularly speaks on queer culture, gender studies and popular culture and publishes blogs at bullybloggers.com. Halberstam published a book in 2011 titled The Queer Art of Failure in August 2011 from Duke University Press and Gaga Feminism: Sex, Gender and the End of Normal from Beacon Press in 2012. Halberstam is currently working on a project about queer anarchy tentatively titled: The Wild.

The symposium is funded by Literature as a Leading Research Area at Stockholm University.


10.00 Welcome address by Tiina Rosenberg and Christer Johansson

10.15 Melanie Schiller: Pop Against Populism: Popular Music and Contemporary Discourses of National Identities in Europe

11.15 Jonas Eklund: Revealing the Popular: On Burlesque and the Popular

12.15 Lunch Break

14.00 Jack Halberstam: Low Theory, High Stakes: Trans* Bodies, Hapticality and Popular Culture

15.00 Fika

15.30 Per Israelson: Sympoiesis of Superheroes: A Media Ecological Approach to Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean's Black Orchid

16.30 Jacob Kimvall: Graffiti - (Graphic) Design or Vandalism?