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IRWG LGQ Research Initiative: Eric Plemons - "To Build a Better Vulva: Knowledge and Practice in American Genital Sex Reassignment Surgery"

Wednesday, January 29, 2014
12:00 AM
2239 Lane Hall

In this talk Prof. Plemons examines how contested forms of knowledge about the female genitals are negotiated in the practice of one American surgeon.

LESBIAN, GAY, QUEER RESEARCH INITIATIVE

TODD MEYERS,  RESPONDENT, MEDICAL ANTHROPOLOGY, WAYNE STATE UNIVERSITY

ERIC PLEMON, SANTHROPOLOGY, MICHIGAN SOCIETY OF FELLOWS

Following the closure of university-based gender clinics in the early 1980s, American surgeons who performed transsexual genital sex reassignment surgery (GSRS) became isolated by geography, the ethical contentiousness of their work, and the demands of a competitive market. There is no consensus, surgical or otherwise, as to the proper form and function of the genitals produced in GSRS. As such, surgeons have developed their own stylistic and technical approaches to these procedures, resulting in distinctly different outcomes for patients.  In this talk Prof. Plemons examines how contested forms of knowledge about the female genitals are negotiated in the practice of one American surgeon. Trans- patients negotiate these forms of
knowledge—which are situated awkwardly between medical and feminist claims to know and represent “natural genitals”—in order to generate the “realistic expectations” that are a condition of receiving GSRS.

Eric Plemons is Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Postdoctoral Fellow in the Michigan Society of Fellows. He completed his Ph.D. at University of California, Berkeley, in 2012, where his interest in gender and medicine focused on surgeons who perform and patients who undergo Facial Feminization Surgery, a set of bone and soft tissue procedures intended to feminize the faces of trans- women. Since coming to Michigan he has turned his attention to the practice and politics of genital sex reassignment surgery in the U.S. and abroad.

Institute for Research on Women and Gender

Lane Hall, 204 S. State St,
Ann Arbor, MI 48109