- Transgender Studies ReaderEdited by Susan Stryker and Aren Z. Aizura
Sequels often disappoint, but this collection of fifty essays is an exception to that rule. The second volume in this series does more than simply pick up where the first volume left off—it catalogues the growth, vitality, and increasing necessity of transgender studies and activism inside and outside of the academy. In the first volume, the editors, then Susan Stryker and Stephen Whittle, archived foundational essays concerned primarily with establishing the legitimacy and value of trans voices and lives in public life. The second volume, edited by Stryker and Aren Aizura, builds upon this foundation, but not in as smooth or as linear of a way as my initial framing of it as a sequel might suggest. Indeed, many of the essays in the second volume revisit the work in its predecessor to revise and complicate these insights. As with any burgeoning field of academic inquiry, after the initial and often difficult fights for recognition have been waged, a second round of scholarship emerges to reimagine the content and aims of the discipline. As this volume attests, this next wave of transgender studies is announcing its presence as a force to be reckoned as it traverses and redefines its own boundaries and that of its academic kin. For scholars interested in genders, sexualities, bodies, and their regulation, this volume is well worth the cost.
The recent explosion of transgender studies, punctuated by the publication of Transgender Studies Quarterlyby Duke University Press (edited by Stryker and Paisley Currah) and the University of Arizona’s faculty cluster hire in transgender studies, takes place within a number of fluid contexts, and the assembled essays help us to make sense of where the field locates itself now and where it may be headed in the future. Excepting three essays, the contributions have publication dates of 2005 or later, and they demonstrate that transgender studies is not a trendy fad or simply an extension of queer studies. Although trans people themselves remain central to much of this work, many of the authors ask us to move beyond thinking of transgender studies as a field dependent upon a proper [End Page 162]object. Instead of limiting transgender studies as a field relevant only to those who self-identify or are recognized as gender-variant individuals, these essays often demand that we account for the complex intersections and inter-implications of the flows of all bodies, genders, and sexualities in public cultures. For readers who are less familiar with or unsure of their connection to transgender studies, this universalizing perspective adopted across the essays should help readers generate novel connections between the topics addressed in the volume and their own lives and research.
The editors’ contributions to and construction of the reader deserves praise. Without exception, the headnotes succinctly establish each essay’s interventions into existing scholarly conversations and provide crucial context for readers who do not have a background in transgender studies. Likewise, the editors’ choice of ten different sections, ranging in themes from transfeminisms to trans histories to biopolitical regulation, group together like essays in ways that would make it easy to assign them as complementary reading assignments and generate classroom discussions. For those readers who are more familiar with transgender studies and some of the previously published works, they will find value in the eleven essays commissioned by the editors specifically for this volume. Last, but not least, the editors’ introductory essay maps out one reading of the state of transgender studies without any attempt to impose their account of it as a definitive rendering of who or what should count as part of the field. Indeed, Stryker and Aizura’s prefatory sketch embodies a refreshing self-reflexivity about the Reader’s omissions and the absences more generally in transgender studies. In this way, the editors offer some guidance as to where scholars might take transgender studies in the future.
Space does not allow for a thorough review of each essay, but...