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Death Drop: Becoming the Universe at the End of the World

Lecture | April 20 | 12-2 p.m. | 602 Barrows Hall


Eric Stanley, Assistant Professor in Gender and Sexuality Studies, University of California, Riverside

Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society


Please join us for a HIFIS Transgender Studies faculty job talk:

“I hope to become the universe.” These words announced the 2010 suicide of Seth Walsh, a Latinx, gender non-conforming youth. Sketching the quotidian brutality of their existence, Walsh’s manifesto, against the promise of modernity, offers a place to aggregate forms of trans life even more unlivable than death. Along with the ontological terror Walsh narrates, I extend this analysis through the non-space of solitary confinement. For Black trans activist Ashley Diamond, the temporality of capture repositions life, and not death, as the punitive limit. This structuring violence locates the human and its capacity for and prohibition against self-negation as the organizing principle of white civil society. Here, through Frantz Fanon’s provocation of a “time before life began” and the gestural congealment of the “death drop” I build an insurgent trans study that asks what becoming the universe might mean, in the wake of colonial universalism, for a world without escape.

Eric A. Stanley is an assistant professor in the Department of Gender and Sexuality Studies and cooperating faculty in the Department of Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Riverside. Eric is an editor, along with Reina Gossett and Johanna Burton, of "Trap Door: Trans Cultural Production and the Politics of Visibility" (MIT Press 2017); with Nat Smith they edited "Captive Genders: Trans Embodiment and the Prison Industrial Complex" (AK Press, 2011/2015). In collaboration with Chris Vargas, they directed the films "Homotopia" (2006) and "Criminal Queers" (2017).


gilliane@berkeley.edu