Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: Association for Feminist Anthropology
Of interest to: Teachers of Anthropology in Community Colleges, Students
Primary Theme: The Political
Secondary Theme: Race
This panel considers the swirl of gender and terror in the 2016 presidential campaigns and the first year of the Trump presidency. Casting himself as rogue politic and theatrically anti-establishment, Donald Trump is a self-conscious iconoclast and cultural disrupter who seems hardly conscious of the vulnerabilities left in the wake of his caprice. While conventional behaviors and gestures are rejected, so, too, are conventional methods of establishing and representing truth, and the very relationship between sign and significance is macerated. Between sign and significance lies vast constructive potential, both liberating and violent. While eschewing “political correctness,” Trump unleashed buried gender and racial prejudices. As performances of gender often entail racial implications, spectres have been conjured up, retrenching lines of division and inequalities. This panel focuses on the terror of signs by critically examining performance, material culture, and imaginings of the past with gendered meaning in the Trump era. At a time in which political imagery is crafted and performed with an eye on both perturbation and dissemination, how do actors frame and repackage their gendered political imagery and performances? How are images staged, ripped out, riffed on, mashed up---and where is the line between generative witchcraft and malicious sorcery? This panel explores both fractious and utopian gendered visions—how imagery inspires, lifts up, and creates a space for hope, while simultaneously antagonizing, inflaming, and inciting-- and how images become powerful, iterative tools. Finally, we consider the outcomes of Donald Trump’s seemingly targeted misogyny and Trumpian masculinity. Is Trump the constituent outside against which we all understand and situate ourselves?
The papers in this session consider the affective dimensions of these critiques and contortions of culture. Sally Galman examines shifting perceptions of the transgender rights movements’ historical trajectory in the immediate aftermath of Trump’s victory. For transgender children and their families, an emphasis on pride and visibility quickly was replaced, as terrified parents connected their experience with early victims of Nazism, perceiving a great shift in vulnerability. Christine Kray examines the terror hidden within Susan B. Anthony’s silhouette. Thousands visited her grave on Election Day, seeing her as a symbol of bravery and women’s rights; after Trump’s victory, to many African-American women, Anthony's image recalled other historical instances in which white women retreated to the safety of benevolent patriarchy rather than shoulder the risks of gender solidarity. Uli Linke’s paper considers the phantasms of blood, sex, and violence in Donald Trump’s speech as spectacles of phallocentric masculinity; she takes up, as well, how tropes of phallocentric masculinity have been transformed into critical countercultural projects. Tamar Carroll’s paper considers how, in 2016, Donald Trump and many of his supporters relied upon false public memories with gendered and racial themes to promote his candidacy. Such memories, which include the myth of the Mexican rapist as well as the “pro-life” feminist, frame white women as victims in need of protection by a patriarchal state.