Teaching to Trans[_____]:

Writing Identity as Liberatory Practice

A Collaborative Syllabus

Spring 2017

The Graduate Center, CUNY

Sylvia Beltran

Damele Collier

Jesse Rice-Evans


Race & Gender Theory in the Undergraduate Humanities Classroom

In Teaching to Transgress, bell hooks posits, “To teach in a manner that respects and cares for the souls of our students is essential if we are to provide the necessary conditions where learning can most deeply and intimately begin” (13).

How do you envision that we as teachers can care for the souls of our students?

How, when, and in what ways is it possible for us to stand in formation against the treacherous legacies of capitalist patriarchal white supremacy?

What theories/politics do you currently do in your non-intellectual life and work?

Where could you enact/integrate your liberatory politics more?

What structural and/or ideological artifacts are holding you back from living these politics?


Ahmed, Sarah Living a Feminist Life 

bell hooks, Teaching to Transgress

Audre Lorde, “Poetry is Not a Luxury”

#BlackLivesMatter Syllabus

Talia Bettcher, “Gender, Identity, Theory, and Action”

“The Body Adaptive: An Interview with Sara Hendren,” Guernica

“How to Tame a Wild Tongue” by Gloria Anzaldúa, from Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza

“The Master’s Tools” by Audre Lorde, from Sister Outsider

 “Hearing Voices” by Sokunthary Svay, from WSQ: Women’s Studies Quarterly

“How I Learned to be Both Nigerian and British” by Tobi Oredein

When Home Is Between Different Countries And Genders” by Meredith Talusan

“The Danger of a Single Story” (video) by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
“Asking For Help In A System That Doesn’t Speak Your Language” by Jenny Chen

Sharpe, Christina, In the Wake


For me literature is a way of knowing that I am not hallucinating, that whatever I feel/know is.

In literature I sensed the possibility of the integration of feeling/knowledge, rather than the split between the abstract and the emotional in which Western philosophy inevitably indulged.

Maybe you don’t need theory if you come to a text with a certain level of sincerity

It’s not enough to include Black authors on the syllabus, but you have to tell them ‘these are Black authors,’ you have to include their biographies

It’s like drinking water

Chy - meditation, reflection, how-do-you-feel cards, transparency, surrender, boundary-setting, snacks!, “safer” space, reading pedagogy, (self-actualization), being generous, talking too much!

Nicky - nurturing!, exposing them to different issues, expand the talents they already have, develop what they already have, getting them to express themselves; writing as a form of recovery or trauma

Damele - excavation!, being visibly disabled as vulnerability, as opening the richness, “I believe in you,” some things sound better in the classroom than they do in real life, “I have to get in there and figure out what they need each day”

Erica - observation text!; (find this link?); structuring equality; felt resistance to that emotional response (post-election); similar responses to horrible current events (Trayvon Martin, etc.),

Michael - Emory, Angela Davis; handed audience member her legal pad to “start the revolution,” student’s response to Tr*mp election: “can we talk about this?”, how do we bring these events into the classroom? look at data together!,

Katie - share a part of yourself, embrace vulnerability, “a place where people care about the souls of each other,” low face-time, how do we work with limited interaction?, “share more personal stuff!”, it’s maybe ok to break administrative rules?

Anna - institutional boundaries as limitations, observations as pressure, imposter syndrome, validate students’ lived experiences!; vulnerability v. “making it about you”

Maxine - trusting the repetition of temporal/spatial stability, writing the agenda the same way every week,

Darren - page 56; teaching milieu, as though you bring a candle into a room, i am not the sole caretaker of their souls, but rather that their souls are being cared for

Video response:

Nicki & Erica: rewrite the script, same message

Mike & Katie: freewrite to begin class, open the door to something more theoretical, focusing on difference, how does the commercial change if the flight attendant is Black, for example?

Darren & Sara: putting yourself in the shoes of the characters, experiences that it might remind students of; bystander roles; how does race get constructed/represented in global contexts?

Cathy & Michael: compose thought process for each character; low-stakes writing! (kairos); socialization (what is shocking here?); “if you see something, say something” doesn’t apply to attacks on Muslims

Anna, Maxine, & Chy: role of flight attendant; role-playing possible outcomes; “who is this ad for?”, how might we contextualize this video inside of a larger context; treating it as an artistic object; SPLITS (syntax, POV, language, imagery, tone/theme, sound/phraseology); ignore the impulse to “what this means”

Teaching to Transgress collaborative notetaking exercise

Social Identity Profile