UChicago News: Black on Both Sides

 
Uncovering the overlapping histories of blackness and trans identity from the nineteenth century to the present day

Two black performers stand together, one in a tuxedo and the other in a flowing dress—their sex and gender uncertain. In choosing this century-old French postcard as the cover of his latest book, Prof. C. Riley Snorton wants to send a message: Trans identity is not new.

“If we look historically, we’re not only charting the lives of those who have existed in the past,” Snorton said. “We can also learn about what they were doing, and honor their lives and the survival strategies they employed.

“Our time is not so unique that we can’t learn from other times.”

A black and transgender cultural theorist who joined the University of Chicago faculty in 2018, Snorton belongs to the very communities he studies. His research draws from black studies, queer theory and trans theory—seeking to complicate and expand those histories through the creation of a new vocabulary.

 

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