Taking the controversial pairing of “transgender” and “transracial” as his starting point, Rogers Brubaker shows how gender and race, long understood as stable, inborn, and unambiguous, have in the past few decades opened up—in different ways and to different degrees—to the forces of change and choice. Transgender identities have moved from the margins to the mainstream with dizzying speed, and ethnoracial boundaries have blurred. Paradoxically, while sex has a much deeper biological basis than race, choosing or changing one's sex or gender is more widely accepted than choosing or changing one’s race. Yet while few accepted Dolezal’s claim to be black, racial identities are becoming more fluid as ancestry—increasingly understood as mixed—loses its authority over identity, and as race and ethnicity, like gender, come to be understood as something we do, not just something we have. By rethinking race and ethnicity through the multifaceted lens of the transgender experience—encompassing not just a movement from one category to another but positions between and beyond existing categories—Brubaker underscores the malleability, contingency, and arbitrariness of racial categories.
At a critical time when gender and race are being reimagined and reconstructed, Trans explores fruitful new paths for thinking about identity.
Based on seven years of field research, this book examines not only the sharply polarized fields of nationalist politics--in Cluj, Transylvania, and the wider region--but also the more fluid terrain on which ethnicity and nationhood are experienced, enacted, and understood in everyday life. In doing so the book addresses fundamental questions about ethnicity: where it is, when it matters, and how it works. Bridging conventional divisions of academic labor, Rogers Brubaker and his collaborators employ perspectives seldom found together: historical and ethnographic, institutional and interactional, political and experiential. Further developing the argument of Brubaker's groundbreaking Ethnicity without Groups, the book demonstrates that it is ultimately in and through everyday experience--as much as in political contestation or cultural articulation--that ethnicity and nationhood are produced and reproduced as basic categories of social and political life.