Issue 13.3 - 14.1 | 2016 / Guest edited by Patrick Keilty and Leslie Regan Shade

Trans of Color Poetics: Stitching Bodies, Concepts, and Algorithms

On October 6, 2015, Keisha Jenkins was shot and killed in Philadelphia, becoming the twenty-first trans woman killed in the US that year.[1] 2014 saw trans women of color gaining unprecedented visibility in the mainstream media, an increase in visibility that coincided with a dramatic increase in the number of murders, up from fourteen in 2014.[2] While marginalized communities have often struggled for visibility, for trans women increased visibility may mean increased violence and increased surveillance. How can strategies for social change build safety and solidarity for those communities, such as trans women of color, who often desire invisibility? This essay looks to media art to develop a trans of color poetics that can open possibilities of life for trans people of color in movement, where movement includes urban mobility, transnational migration, performance, and social movement. Discussing media made by contemporary artists as well as my own practice-based research project Local Autonomy Networks (Autonets), I engage in a hybrid theory/practice approach, informed by media studies, transgender studies, and performance studies.

There are three registers in this essay: a philosophical consideration of material/conceptual operators, a consideration of the methods of practice-based research, and a discussion of material experiments in a technological artistic milieu. I propose two operations in a trans of color poetics, the stitch and the shift, to add to the ideas of the cut and fold as elaborated by Gilles Deleuze, Joanna Zylinska, and Sarah Kember. I describe the shift in detail in the essay “Shifting Futures: Digital Trans of Color Praxis.” The stitch is an operation of trans of color poetics that can be used to create algorithmic methods for challenging surveillance technologies and contributing to the survival of trans people of color.[3]

Laverne Cox has described the present moment as a “state of emergency for trans people,” a description that invites further consideration of necropolitics.[4] In his 2003 essay “Necropolitics,” Achille Mbembe offers a response to biopolitics from a global South context, stating that “contemporary experiences of human destruction suggest that it is possible to develop a reading of politics, sovereignty, and the subject different from the one we inherited from the philosophical discourse of modernity. Instead of considering reason as the truth of the subject, we can look to other foundational categories that are less abstract and more tactile, such as life and death.”[5] Mbembe argues that contemporary governance gains authority not only through the promise of life, but also through the guarantee of death for those populations deemed undesirable. I propose trans of color poetics as a poetics of media and movement that works to increase the chances of life for trans people of color and reduce the likelihood of death. Mbembe describes invisible killings as one way necropolitics operates today: the fact that only ten of the twenty-one murders of trans women this year have been investigated makes clear that this is a useful theoretical framework.[6]

Queer of color, trans of color, and transgender studies have long been concerned with issues of invisibility and visibility. I agree with Kara Keeling’s claim that academic studies that seek to make queer and trans people visible are often problematic. As Keeling says, “a ‘looking’ for M— that begins by asking where s/he is now inevitably operates by harnessing the capacity of those temporal structures and epistemological enterprises of policing and surveillance inherent in any framing of questions of representation and visibility.”[7] In writing about trans people of color, specifically trans Chican@s, Frank Galarte points out the need for “exploring what is unannounced, listening for the iterations of silences,” which resonates with my approach to understanding modes of invisibility and imperceptibility.[8] This article takes inspiration from Aren Aizura’s claim that “invocations of invisibility and dehumanization don’t quite tell the whole story… we cannot theorize a trans necropolitics without exploring the mobility of gender variant bodies and the circuits of capital they/we exploit and are exploited by.”[9] Similarly, I claim that one cannot theorize a trans necropolitics without considering, and in this case centering, the forms of movement that constitute the survival strategies of trans people of color and allow them to escape death every day.

My intention here is not to imagine trans people of color as a metaphor for flexibility, which Viviane Namaste has critiqued as an erasure of the lives of actual trans people.[10] Instead, I am looking to the politico-aesthetic strategies of trans and gender nonconforming people of color, and to artists who use similar strategies, to better understand methods of modulating perceptibility that may aid in the project of reducing violence against trans people of color. The stitch is one such method, at work in a trans of color poetics when artists stitch clothing, social bonds, codes, and concepts together with the aim of reducing violence.

The Stitch

Physical bodies in the contemporary world are tracked through networks, biometrically analyzed and electronically surveilled, and often the results of these forms of observation is violence. I propose that an understanding of bodies as networked, and racialized gender as algorithmic, is useful for developing strategies for ending violence against trans women of color. In their book Life after New Media, Sarah Kember and Joanna Zylinska look at the relationship between bodies and their surroundings in order to “make a case for a shift from thinking about ‘new media’ as a set of discrete objects to understanding media, old and new, in terms of the interlocked and dynamic processes of mediation.”[11] Here I understand processes of mediation to include digital communication networks, electronic surveillance, and medical surveillance, among others. Kember and Zylinska ask what an ethical act is in a field of mediation, and look to the cut as such an act that is both material and conceptual, arguing that “the practice of cutting is crucial not just to our being in and relating to the world, but also to our becoming-with-the-world, as well as becoming-different-from-the-world.”[12] Yet they are careful to state that “one must be careful not to impose moral equivalence between all practices of cutting—for example, slicing someone’s face with a knife in a street attack, remodeling someone’s face in a cosmetic surgery situation or metaphorically ‘cutting’ an aspect of reality with a still or film camera… cutting inevitably entails some degree of violence.”[13] Zylinska and Kember’s reference to the possible violence of the operation of the cut justifies the creation of a new operation for conceptualizing a poetics of anti-violence.

The stitch is a material and conceptual operation, similar to the cut as discussed by Kember and Zylinska and to the fold as discussed by Gilles Deleuze. In The Fold, Deleuze considers the work of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, which combines both calculus and philosophy, to elaborate the operation of the fold in ontology, art, and media. Deleuze states that “the world must be placed in the subject in order that the subject can be for the world. This is the torsion that constitutes the fold of the world and of the soul.”[14] Deleuze considers baroque art through Leibnizian terms such as the monad, the soul, and God in order to elaborate elements of his own process ontology, such as the multiplicity and the assemblage, building on the mathematics of objects in motion in calculus. The stitch is an operation that involves using one entity to connect two formerly separate entities. While the stitch still can contain an element of violence—penetration of the skin by a needle, for example—I imagine it as less violent than the cut, and intending to join, in the service of healing and creation, rather than in the service of destruction.

Informed by a material practice of making objects by sewing, the stitch describes a poetics of object making as well as a process of making new concepts, as described by Deleuze and Guattari in What is Philosophy? They state that “philosophy is not a simple art of forming, inventing, or fabricating concepts, because concepts are not necessarily forms, discoveries, or products. More rigorously, philosophy is the discipline that involves creating concepts… To create concepts is, at the very least, to make something.”[15] As sewing is a technique of making that has been used primarily by women throughout history, and continues to be primarily the task of women in sweatshops in the global South, my proposal of the stitch as a material and conceptual operation can be seen as feminist, a way of generating new concepts by learning from people who have been subject to material inequalities because of their gender, their race, and their geographic location. The stitch can be thought of as the basis for a theory of feminist making, which values the forms of knowledge practiced daily by oppressed people as they make their lives in the face of violence. This places the stitch in the repertoire of strategies including the methodology of the oppressed, as described by Chela Sandoval, and the science of the oppressed, as proposed by Monique Wittig and elaborated by the art collectives *particle group* and the Electronic Disturbance Theater (with which I collaborate).[16] The operation of creating relations through the stitch, of finding means to connect groups of people who had been separated, can be seen as an abstraction of the work of women of color feminism, which sought to bring together women across racial lines. The stitch can be a way of imagining the community building necessary to create community-based responses to violence, as demonstrated in my project Autonets and in other prison abolitionist and transformative justice projects around the world. The project of developing a trans of color poetics can be understood as an example of science of the oppressed—and, as such, a contribution to queer and feminist approaches to technoscience, in that it seeks to use various technologies for transfeminist ends.

The stitch is intended to resonate for transgender people who choose to undergo surgery. Many trans people choose, for many different reasons, to surgically modify their bodies, and all of these surgeries involve the cut, the fold, and the stitch. The stitch, in the case of surgery, is a necessary part of healing, a temporary object that holds parts of the body together in order to allow the body to find its own sustenance in a new form. The stitch brings the affect of pain into this consideration of creation and facilitates a change in shape, a shift. Often stitches received by transgender people today are temporary augmentations, dissolvable stitches, which hold the body together during a time of healing and then fall out when they are no longer needed.

Stitches may be used to augment a form such as a body or to create forms out of fabric. The basis for the idea of the stitch is an experience of stitching wearable electronic garments, yet the idea aptly describes many creative practices, including science fiction and speculative writing, media, and art.

Can artists and designers work for social justice by creating objects? Art and design overlap here. While one stream of the history of art has valued artistic autonomy, other artists have been motivated by a desire to change social relations. Design as a discipline has been primarily concerned with creating objects and forms intended for use. In contrast, art movements since the 1990s, including tactical media, new media, and relational aesthetics, have sought to create objects that could change social conditions. Recent movements in design such as speculative design, contestational design, and social justice design share these goals. Yet some theorists question the viability of creating objects in order to change social relations; Rita Raley employs the term “tactical gizmology” to deemphasize objects and instead emphasize tactical media as performance.[17] This article considers artists’ attempts to create objects that embody ideas about how to transform social relations, including work by Adam Harvey, Zach Blas, and Electronic Disturbance Theater, as well as my own work. These artists explore the possibilities for escaping surveillance through clothing, masks, and mobile phone applications.

Algorithmic Analysis

Electronic objects, which are a combination of matter and logic, provide a useful model for theorizing racialized gender. The intersectional model of structural oppression, as described by Kimberlé Crenshaw, is based on an analogy with a material intersection of streets, a location identified by intersecting lines.[18] The assemblage model was proposed by Jasbir Puar to extend the intersectional model to include a concept of identities such as race and gender in transition over time, variable according to location, and destabilized by digital technologies. Puar’s usage of assemblage is based on Deleuze and Guattari’s readings of advanced mathematics, specifically calculus and complex systems, which provide a way to visualize systems in motion.[19] I propose an algorithmic model for thinking through the experiences of trans people of color. Consider an algorithm written in the C programming language. Such an algorithm commonly begins with the declaration of variables, followed by a set of instructions. These characteristics allow us to model the ways that race and gender operate in the contemporary world based on specific forms, such as an algorithm written to describe a specific curve with specific slopes at defined points of inflection based on a complex understanding of specific interactions of race, gender, sexuality, ability, and nationality, in specific places, over time. Algorithms allow one to visualize and articulate multiple locations of intersection and combinations of elements in movement, which would add depth to analyses based on intersectional and assemblage theories. One can create an algorithm to model particular elements of a given scenario or examine the algorithms identifiable within the scenario. For example, one can analyze the algorithms used in media art, digital media platforms, and informatic systems such as biometric surveillance tools in order to make visible the ways that racialized gender violence may be challenged or reproduced in these systems.

Algorithmic analysis is not intended to replace intersectionality. Taking heed of the concerns of Black feminists such as Brittney Cooper who write on intersectionality, my intention is not to move on from intersectionality nor to displace Black women’s academic contributions.[20] Instead, I propose this model to contribute to the ongoing dialogue about the relationships between digital technologies, race, and feminism developed in the work of Black feminist scholars such as Simone Browne, Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Jessica Marie Johnson, and Kara Keeling.[21] One can stitch together multiple acts of shifting into an algorithm, extending Kara Keeling’s proposal for digital identity based in difference with her formula “I = another.”[22] An algorithmic method of analysis can extend the intersectional and assemblage models by offering the possibility of numerous structures, temporalities, and logics that may be identified in a moment of violence against trans people of color, based on the model of source code. Algorithmic analysis is inspired by trans women of color’s usage of digital media, such as Mattie Brice’s digital game “Mainichi,” which allows the player to experience the repetitiveness of racialized transphobic violence. Brice’s game is repetitive in a way that is both algorithmic and performative.[23] Using algorithms to model experiences of violence is a way to take into account the harmful ways that algorithms increasingly define race and class through surveillance and databases; I see this as all the more reason to understand and develop resistant algorithms. Additionally, algorithms can have a wider range of application by considering the abstract form of an algorithm, which is similar to a recipe, a ritual or a game. Algorithms do not need digital technology to exist. Algorithms can be useful ways of imagining and performing possibilities for trans of color life in contemporary mediated environments. Later in this essay, I will provide an example of algorithmic analysis.

Surveillance and Counter-Surveillance in Media Art

In Audre Lorde’s widely influential essay “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House,” she refers to “those of us who stand outside the circle of this society’s definition of acceptable women,” which, in her writing, includes “those of us who are poor, who are lesbians, who are Black, who are older,” but I propose may also provide a space for trans women of color in women of color feminism, or may foreshadow a trans of color feminism.[24] She is referring here to the tools of language and academic institutions used to isolate people from one another, yet her formulation is deeply important for anyone setting out to make technological tools in the service of social justice. The artists and designers I discuss in this section create objects with the intention of transforming oppressive social relations.

Many artists and designers today are responding to the news about widespread NSA surveillance with tactical responses aimed at countering and stopping that surveillance. Adam Harvey and Zach Blas have created artworks that specifically respond to these issues. I see these projects as related to projects I have worked on that take a similar political approach to changing social relations by creating new technological objects, such as the Transborder Immigrant Tool (TBT) by the Electronic Disturbance Theater, an art group of which I am a member, as well as my project Autonets.

One may see Adam Harvey’s project Stealth Wear as an act of stitching that enacts a cut in the field of surveillance by drones. Harvey, in collaboration with a number of fashion designers, uses fabrics with metal woven into them to disrupt the thermal imaging used by unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly known as drones. The anti-drone garments—a hoodie, hijab, and burqa—are priced between $475 and $2,500. Harvey has stated in interviews that these projects are intended to generate conversation more than to be practically functional. Stealth Wear makes visible the ways that bodies are increasingly monitored by algorithms, such as the algorithms that control a drone, that determine who is to be the target of surveillance or violence. Harvey’s project demonstrates the work of an artist imagining an object to solve a social problem, apparently without any discussion with affected groups or any social effort made to facilitate the usage of the tools.

Another artwork with the intent of disrupting surveillance is Facial Weaponization Suite by Zach Blas. The project, exhibited from 2011 to 2014, consists of a series of masks designed to disrupt biometric surveillance by digitally scanning the faces of multiple workshop participants and stitching them together in a three-dimensional modeling software. Blas’s website describes the collective aspect of the project as “making ‘collective masks’ in community-based workshops that are modeled from the aggregated facial data of participants, resulting in amorphous masks that cannot be detected as human faces by biometric facial recognition technologies.”[25] In an interview with Newsweek, Blas points to the ways that biometric tools such as facial recognition software “are being developed by police and the military to criminalize large chunks of the population.”[26] In another article, Blas describes his particular concern for “queer people, people of color, transgender people, broad sets of minoritarian populations.”[27] The project eschews visibility as a political strategy for queer people, people of color, and feminists and focuses instead on a politics of opacity, informed by the writing of Édouard Glissant. Blas sees Facial Weaponization Suite as “speculative proposition and practical experimentation,” “an opaque practice, producing variations on how to become informatically opaque.”[28] Again, the act of stitching is used to create an object that enacts a cut in a field of mediation: in this case, the algorithmic stitching of data is used to create masks that disrupt the mediation of bodies through biometric surveillance. Blas’s project operates in the practice-based research mode of speculative design, since only a few masks were designed, as prototypes, and are sold for practical use. While speculative design has been critiqued by Brazilian theorists Luiza Prado and Pedro Oliviera for “willingly ignor[ing] struggles other than those that concern the intellectual white middle classes,” Blas’s work does not reproduce this limitation.[29] Similarly, the Electronic Disturbance Theater 2.0 / b.a.n.g. lab (EDT) describes its work as speculative, but keeps its distance from speculative design.

I am a member of the EDT, and our project the Transborder Immigrant Tool (TBT) has been described by one of our group’s founders, Ricardo Dominguez, as a “speculative disturbance” and “contestational design.”[30] The TBT is a combination of cell phone and software that intends to provide both physical sustenance, in the form of water, and poetic sustenance, in the form of recorded audio of spoken poetry, to people attempting to cross the Mexico/US border. The project began with the research question “can sub $20 phones be made useful for emergency navigation?”[31]

While one goal of the project was to develop a way for people crossing the border to access GPS service without being tracked by cellular networks, enacting a cut, the project enacts the stitch in the form of collaboration, writing software and building solidarity. Collaboration was central to the project both within the EDT and without. The phone worked by mapping water caches placed in the desert by humanitarian organizations in San Diego: Border Angels and Water Stations, Inc. As such, creating the phone involved a collaborative process of accompanying members of those organizations into the desert to place water in the caches in order to create a GPS map. Additionally, the code, as a J2ME Java application, can be seen as an act of stitching that combines many code libraries in order to function. Lastly, my own writing on the TBT pointed to an affect shared by transgender people and migrant people, that of hope, the hope for being somewhere else, whether that place of inhabitation is another country or another body. Highlighting this shared affect is intended to build solidarity between immigrant justice movements and gender justice movements, which are often separate, despite the need for collaboration evidenced by the continued detention of transgender migrant people such as Marichuy Leal Gamino, a trans woman held in a detention center near Phoenix, Arizona, for over a year who was sexually assaulted while in custody.[32]

The TBT has been described by the EDT as transforming the Global Positioning System run by the US military, commonly known as GPS, into a global poetic system, using a term created by Laura Borras Castaner and Juan B. Gutiérrez.[33] Consider the following excerpts from the poem “net.walkingtools.Transformer,” which I wrote as part of the TBT project and which I will use to demonstrate algorithmic analysis.

/* Fields */
private java.lang.String lifeLine;
private boolean maleOrFemale;
private boolean citizenOrMigrant;
private java.lang.String genderDesired;
private java.lang.String genderGiven;
private java.lang.String oldName;
private java.lang.String newName;

publicAndPrivate TransCoder theSoftBody;

/* Constructors */
public Transformer(net.walkingtools.j2se.editor.HiperGpsTransformerShifting , java.lang.String) {

if(genderGiven != genderDesired || birthPlace != destination)
walking = true;

/* attempt to enter into a queer time and place via the
transcoder library */


dancing = joy;
transforming = hope && pain && fear && fantasies && uncertainty;

//is the assignment operator, that of identity, binary in itself?
//try some other methods like becoming serpent through poetry;
uploadMyBody &~& resistLogicsOfCapital!

The poem uses the actual code of the TBT and transforms it into a poetic meditation on the intersections of transborder and transgender, inspired by cyberfeminist poetry and codework. While following the format of Java source code, the poem exceeds the bounds of computational logic that would allow it to function, instead using the syntax of the algorithms that control the mobile phones that shape so much of our lives to express emotional experience. In the poem, I describe elements that may be considered to make up an identity, such as name and birthplace, with variable declarations, creating a place in memory for those elements. Then I place those variables into an algorithm in which one can see the specific ways different parts of an identity may move and operate within trans people of color and migrant people.

There are multiple levels of meaning at play in this algorithmic poetics. The poem opens with a long list of declarations of variables, which is standard in code, yet when read as a poem, particularly when read aloud, involves so much repetition that it hints at the ritual space of performance, or becomes poetic. The poem uses standard Java keywords such as “private” or “public,” yet to describe the body invents a new category of publicAndPrivate. Some variables here refer to aspects of an identity, such as genderDesired, that may reproduce a problematic modularity, as Tara McPherson has described is an element of racial logics.[34] Yet variables are dynamic processes in memory, maintained by electrical charges, performative in that they only exist at run time. If one imagines algorithms to be open source, they are available in a public repository, and can be modified to suit one’s particular uses. Perhaps the danger of modularity of code can be offset by its mutability and potential for collaborative editing. This example is presented here to show that there can be both precision and poetic ambiguity in an algorithm.

Flow-control statements in the poem are used to express commonalities between transgender and migrant experience. The line

if(genderGiven != genderDesired || birthPlace != destination)

reads, to readers who know Java or C derivative languages, as “if gender given is not equal to gender desired, or birthplace is not equal to destination” and the code that follows inside the { brackets is executed if this statement evaluates to true for the subject in question. This line imagines elements of my life experience as a trans person encoded into Java language. One could also imagine such an algorithm being used within a video game about transgender migration, or in a Transportation Safety Administration algorithm for deciding outcomes for airline passengers. Other lines in the poem depart from coding conventions and imagine code libraries that execute the functions of Chicana feminism, taking inspiration from Zach Blas’s transcoder library. Lines such as;

indicate an object that is not described here but is left to the imagination of the reader. The “nepantla object” refers to Gloria Anzaldúa’s usage of the Nahuatl word nepantla, referring to a space in between worlds, a space of transformation, a liminal space often accessed through ritual.[35] Yet in this imagining, the space is part of a code library that can be accessed when needed by a function call. One may read this as a decolonial usage of code, attempting to stitch together Aztec traditions, Anzaldúa’s queer, disabled, trans of color feminist poetry, and contemporary trans experience, through Java code on mobile devices.

Local Autonomy Networks / Autonets

Autonets was motivated by a desire to create autonomous communication networks for trans of color safety that do not rely on prisons, police, or corporations, inspired by the prison abolitionist movement. I originally built prototypes of these networks in the form of a line of clothing and accessories with conductive thread and wireless transmitters capable of forming autonomous mesh networks. Mesh networks may offer one of the few ways of avoiding the NSA’s surveillance nets that capture all internet traffic at the DNS level of communication because they route traffic between devices locally, instead of sending all data through phone companies and international DNS backbones. Using these prototypes, I held workshops and presented performances in thirteen cities in the US, Canada, Brazil, and Germany. I focused my attention on three cities: Toronto, Detroit, and Los Angeles.

One performance of Autonets titled ‘Local Autonomy Networks: Find Each Other’ at the Zero1 Biennial in San Jose, California, used speculative design prototypes in performance in public space with participants from Gender Justice LA (GJLA). GJLA is an organization of trans and genderqueer people of color who I collaborated with on Autonets for one year. The performance built on months of Theater of the Oppressed workshops in which participants looked at prototypes of networked Autonets garments I had produced and discussed how they might use them. In these workshops, people used both verbal dialogue and embodied gestures to express how safety and violence felt in their bodies. In this case, practice-based research intersects with transgender studies as described by Susan Stryker, who states that “transgender studies considers the embodied experience of the speaking subject, who claims constative knowledge of the referent topic, to be a proper—indeed essential—component of the analysis of transgender phenomena.”[36] In this performance, trans people of color are not the objects of study, but the subjects of knowledge creation. Together we created the gestures in this performance: a visual, embodied, affective research outcome of the question of how to use technology to reduce violence against trans people.

For the public performance, we collectively decided to do an evening performance in which participants would practice the skill of dispersing and coming together when signaled by the electronic garments. At a busy outdoor art festival, with hundreds of audience members, loud music from other installations, roving police, and spontaneous performances, our performance group was made up of cis and trans people, white and people of color, straight and queer, and we all wore Autonets hoodies or bracelets. After blending into the crowd, one member of the group would turn on their garment and they would do a physical gesture, developed in the workshops, which expressed either “protection’ or “resistance.” Upon seeing the hoodies enabled, and the gestures beginning, other members of the group would join, mirror the gesture currently being performed, and then perform their own gesture for others to mirror. This technique, borrowed from dance, is called flocking.

The performance had multiple levels of intention, including mine and those of the participants. One shared goal was to bring some of the affective violence felt by the participants into the space of an international art biennial, to exceed what was expected by a comfortable, affluent audience looking for entertainment. The participants were highly aware of the power differential between them and the art audience and curators, and of the multiple levels of mediation into which they were entering, as trans people, as people of color, and as gender-nonconforming people, who are already hyper-visible to the surveillance networks of the state. Another goal was to develop concrete skills for the participants, practicing ways of coming together at a moment’s notice to respond to violence. While the speculative design prototypes made visible possibilities for communication, participants had discussed the difficult realities of building responses to violence that, consistent with the aims of prison abolition, do not rely on police or prisons for safety. Ultimately, these performances were still performative, speculative gestures, as the strength of bonds needed to rely on others to protect them from violence cannot be built through a handful of workshops and performances. While I knew that stitching those affective bonds was of central importance to the project, I underestimated the multiyear commitment required to build fully functioning community-based responses to violence.

Autonets started with wearable electronics as speculative design prototypes, but continued as a research creation project over four years in which I discussed the prototypes with different groups experiencing violence in many different cities, and we collectively envisioned possible futures of building networks of communication. The project centered on the research question: can I, as an artist, build networks of communication that can reduce the violence that queer and trans people of color experience? Ultimately, the wearable electronics approach proved to have too many problems to be useful with the current state of the technology. The wearable transmitters were too expensive, and circuits sewn by hand were not reliable enough in the long term. Additionally, as with the Transborder Immigrant Tool, battery life was another limiting factor. These concerns, raised by participants in workshops, led me to shift the focus of the project to the possibilities of building communications networks that do not rely on digital technologies, such as embodied forms of communication and movement that can be used for safety, including signaling methods and practices of dispersing and converging.


I propose here that in order to work to end violence against trans people of color, the strategies that trans people of color use to survive should be centered and valued as knowledge and artistic production. Trans of color poetics offers new operations of thought and action. Using the operator of the stitch, I have elaborated algorithmic methods made perceptible through art, design, and media by contemporary artists, as well as through my own practice-based research and art projects. Trans of color poetics learns from the movement of trans people of color in digital media, in order to build new models for thinking race, gender, and sexuality in digitally mediated, networked environments, with the goal of reducing violence.

Pages: 1 2 All Pages

Next page

  1. Tanveer Mann, “Transgender Woman Becomes 21st Murdered in US This Year,” Metro, October 15, 2015. [Return to text]
  2. Jorge Rivas, “20 Trans People Were Murdered This Year. This Is What Happened,” Fusion, August 20, 2015. [Return to text]
  3. micha cárdenas, “Shifting Futures: Digital Trans of Color Praxis,” Ada: A Journal of Gender, New Media, and Technology, January 4, 2015. [Return to text]
  4. Sarah Hughes, “Laverne Cox: ‘We Live in a Binary World: It Can Change,’” Independent, May 31, 2014. [Return to text]
  5. Achille Mbembé, “Necropolitics,” trans. Libby Meintjes, Public Culture 15, no. 1 (2003): 11–40, at 14. [Return to text]
  6. Tanveer Mann, “Transgender Woman Becomes 21st Murdered in US This Year,” Metro, October 15, 2015. [Return to text]
  7. Kara Keeling, “Looking for M—: Queer Temporality, Black Political Possibility, and Poetry from the Future,” GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 15, no. 4 (2009): 565–582. [Return to text]
  8. Francisco J. Galarte, “On Trans* Chican@s,” Aztlan: A Journal of Chicano Studies 39, no. 1 (2014): 229–236, at 233. [Return to text]
  9. Aren Aizura, “Death, Necropolitics and Ethnographic Method.” In Adi Kuntsman, Silvia Posocco, and Jin Haritaworn (eds), Queer Necropolitics (London: Routledge), 129-48. [Return to text]
  10. Viviane Namaste, Invisible Lives: The Erasure of Transsexual and Transgendered People (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000). [Return to text]
  11. Sarah Kember and Joanna Zylinska, Life after New Media (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2012), 1. [Return to text]
  12. Ibid., 75. [Return to text]
  13. Ibid., 89. [Return to text]
  14. Gilles Deleuze, The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque, trans. Tom Conley (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1992), 26. [Return to text]
  15. Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, What Is Philosophy?, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Graham Burchell (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994), 5, 8. [Return to text]
  16. Chela Sandoval and Angela Y. Davis, Methodology of the Oppressed (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000); particle group, “Nano-Garages,” E-Misférica, August 29, 2012. [Return to text]
  17. Rita Raley, Tactical Media (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009), 8. [Return to text]
  18. Kimberlé Crenshaw, “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics,” University of Chicago Legal Forum 140 (1989): 139–67. [Return to text]
  19. Jasbir K. Puar, Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times (Durham: Duke University Press, 2007). [Return to text]
  20. Brittany Cooper, “Intersectionality,” The Oxford Handbook of Feminist Theory, eds. Mary Hawkesworth and Lisa Ditsch (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015). And see also [Return to text]
  21. Simone Browne, Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness, (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2015); Alexis Pauline Gumbs,; Jessica Marie Johnson, [Return to text]
  22. Kara Keeling, “1 = ANOTHER: DIGITAL IDENTITY POLITICS.” Strange Affinities: The Gender and Sexual Politics of Comparative Racialization. Eds. Roderick A. Ferguson and Grace Kyungwon Hong. (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011). [Return to text]
  23. Mattie Brice, Mainichi, November 6, 2012. [Return to text]
  24. Audre Lorde, “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House,” in Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches (1984; Berkeley: Crossing Press, 2007), 112. [Return to text]
  25. Zach Blas, “Facial Weaponization Suite” (October 2013), Eyebeam website. [Return to text]
  26. Kyle Chayka, “Biometric Surveillance Means Someone Is Always Watching,” Newsweek, April 17, 2014. [Return to text]
  27. Tosten Burks, “An Artist’s Pioneering Masks Shield Us from Future Surveillance,” GOOD, January 26, 2015. [Return to text]
  28. Blas, “Informatic Opacity,” Journal of Aesthetics and Protest 9 (2014). [Return to text]
  29. Luiza Prado and Pedro Oliviera, “Questioning the ‘Critical’ in Speculative and Critical Design,” Medium, February 4, 2014. [Return to text]
  30. Lawrence Bird, “Global Positioning: An Interview with Ricardo Dominguez,” Furtherfield, October 15, 2011. [Return to text]
  31. Electronic Disturbance Theater 2.0 / b.a.n.g. lab, Sustenance: A Play for All Trans [] Borders (New York: Printed Matter, 2010), 4. [Return to text]
  32. David Schwartz, “Activists Say Transgender Woman Raped at Arizona Immigrant Center,” Reuters, July 31, 2014. [Return to text]
  33. “The Global Poetic System: A System of Poetic Positioning,” in Beyond the Screen: Transformations of Literary Structures, Interfaces, and Genres, edited by Jörgen Schäfer, Peter Gendolla. (pp. 345—364. transcript Verlag, Bielefeld. (note transcript is not capped.) [Return to text]
  34. Tara McPherson, “U.S. Operating Systems at Mid-Century: The Intertwining of Race and UNIX,” Race after the Internet, ed. Lisa Nakamura and Peter Chow-White (New York: Routledge, 2012). [Return to text]
  35. Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, Fourth ed. Aunt Lute Books, 2012. [Return to text]
  36. Susan Stryker, “(De)Subjugated Knowledges: An Introduction to Transgender Studies,” in The Transgender Studies Reader, ed. Stryker and Stephen Whittle (New York: Routledge, 2006), 12. [Return to text]