Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: https://scholarbank.nus.edu.sg/handle/10635/212983
Title: HOW DOES IT MATTER? PLASTIC PARADIGMS AND THE MATERIAL ENTANGLEMENTS OF GENDER
Authors: SNEHA SUDHA SANJAY
Issue Date: 8-Nov-2021
Citation: SNEHA SUDHA SANJAY (2021-11-08). HOW DOES IT MATTER? PLASTIC PARADIGMS AND THE MATERIAL ENTANGLEMENTS OF GENDER. ScholarBank@NUS Repository.
Abstract: This paper uses the case of Bruce/Brenda/David Reimer to unpack the material entanglements of gender as embodied performance, in light of plasticity as a complex bio-cultural phenomenon. Drawing primarily on Schechner’s performance studies frameworks, Butler’s theory of performativity, and Barad’s post-humanist reworking of it, I extend Pitts-Taylor’s insights into neuroplasticity and theorize the notion of “material plasticity” as a way of studying matter “as” performance “in” performance. I critique the causal assumptions behind Butler’s view that gender identity is primarily produced through discursive re-iteration, and instead argue that gender is the apparatus through which matter reconfigures itself and intraactively negotiates discursive boundaries. More specifically, in light of material plasticity, I examine the ways in which bodily matter simultaneously performs and is the performance itself. With a closer look at Reimer’s case, I first consider plasticity as proto-performance with a keen focus on surgical alterations. I interpret Reimer’s surgical procedures as proto-performative plasticity, asserting that it allegorizes the transformative potential of bodily matter and intraacts with the discursive boundaries of masculinity and femininity. I then explore the notion of ‘make belief’ performance vis-à-vis gender identity while drawing parallels between the reconfiguration of neural pathways and re-assignment of gender in Reimer’s life. I cite Norman Doidge’s account of a “neuroplastic miracle” as a brief case study of how neural pathways can be re-wired, critically comparing it to John Money’s attempt to re-configure Reimer’s materialdiscursive gender identity through make-belief Brenda. Finally, I consider the concept of restored behavior, arguing that Reimer’s gender performance is a meta-restoration of not only behavior, but also materiality. I extend my analysis of material restoration and propound that Reimer’s body intra-acts with a broader corpus of trans individuals, making it a significant and meaningful case study in gender discourse. Finally, I conclude with a reflection of my interdisciplinary approach in theorizing material plasticity, elucidating its broader significance.
URI: https://scholarbank.nus.edu.sg/handle/10635/212983
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