This article explores various early modern figurations of the eunuch as a part of trans history as they featured prominently in the Ottoman court and on the English stage. It specifically focuses on the figure of the black eunuch within the gender and racial economy of the Mediterranean world in which not all eunuchs were marked as the same. The Ottomans maintained and promoted the visibility of eunuchs, and contributed to the proliferation of the eunuch imagery in early modern Europe. The Ottomans also separated eunuchs racially as black and white. In parallel to this separation emerged an essentializing anti-black racism in the Ottoman elite's writing that relegated black Africans to the bottom of an established racial hierarchy while marking whiteness as the ideal. These figures further circulated within a racialized hierarchy throughout Europe via chronicles, travelogues, and stories, and eventually appeared on the English stage as well-known oriental theatrical figures. This essay shows that eunuchs of the past not only denaturalize dichotomous gender models and upset phallocentric gender signification, they also illustrate how gender and race are mutually constitutive in the making of normative bodies on a global scale.


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pp. 116-136
Launched on MUSE
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