Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Cole Rizki: Focusing the lens on Latinx trans resistance

Arts and CultureCole Rizki: Focusing the lens on Latinx trans resistance

BY JORDANNA GARLAND
Contributing Reporter





With an extensive educational background on women, gender and sexuality studies and Spanish and visual culture studies, Cole Rizki describes himself as a transgender studies scholar. He is interested in examining questions of history and time, narratives of the past and archival work pertaining to trans studies and feminist theory. 

Rizki, a professor of Latin American studies at the University of Virginia, uses image analysis as a form of research activism in response to the authoritarian structures of power that upholds systems of oppression for Latinx trans people across the Americas.

As a transgender man, Rizki stated that though his identity inspires his work as a researcher in trans studies, he mainly cites the activism coming out of Latin America as his main drive for studying trans politics.

“The global impact of legislative projects and activist movements coming out of Latin America, I cannot understate the importance in terms of the … way that activists articulate across what I think from the U.S. would be coded as seemingly disparate or unrelated movements,” Rizki said. “There’s a real energy and a massivity to protest, to protest culture and also to politics that I have not seen often in trans politics.”

In April, Rizki visited the university to host two events sponsored by the university Faculty Senate Committee on Cultural Activities and Public Events (CAPE): an academic publishing workshop focused on queer research and a lecture focused on photography capturing the resistance of incarcerated Latinx trans women. 

In the April 11 workshop, Rizki discussed success strategies for writing academic texts and advice on how to become a published researcher. Those who attended the workshop were graduate students of queer studies professor Davy Knittle’s ENGL884: Trans Method – Race, Gender, and Power in American Literature and Culture course.

“The second workshop that I ran was more of the nuts and bolts workshop about academic publication in scholarly journals,” Rizki said. “About how to identify journals, expectations around publication writing, writing as practice, writing as thinking practice [and] approaches to writing as daily practice.”

The April 12 public lecture titled “Aesthetics of Survival, Art of Repair: Anti-Authoritarian Trans Politics and Resistance” was taken from Rizki’s fourth chapter of his current monograph in progress called “Travesti Tide: Trans Politics Beyond Liberalism.” 

In the lecture, Rizki described the ways in which Latina trans women reframed the narrative of violence through how they presented themselves in their police photographs. 

“Thinking about the photographic encounter between the police camera, the captive sitter or the trans woman who has been arrested,” Rizki said. “Reframing that scene of carceral negotiation, the fight of resistance to photographic capture and carceral detention so thinking about the ways that the tactics that trans woman employed to derail that scene.”

When speaking about trans resistance, Rizki explained that it can look like many different things, from taking direct action to being slow moving. He described that resistance sometimes does not have to be action or words; it can also be a feeling.

“We’re often resisting every day in so many small, little interactions that we’re having with the world that there’s a constant friction,” Rizki said. “That is a mode of resistance.”

Along with currently working on his monograph, Rizki is also guest editing a magazine issue of The North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA) Report on the Americas. The issue that he is editing centers on queer and trans resistance and activisms across the hemisphere. He described that this kind of editorial work is vital to increasing diversity representation in the trans studies field. 

According to Rizki, the field of trans studies has primarily been U.S. centric, anglophone and monolingual, which leaves out many diverse perspectives. As described in one 2021 issue of Trans Studies Quarterly (TSQ), the Western worldview is inextricably linked to the rise of human sciences and social classification of human bodies, dating back to colonialism times.

“The way that trans studies has done trans national work has often been to take the U.S. as a nodal point of comparison,” Rizki said. “In my work, I’m much more interested in work from the global south, from Latin America, from other sites that are obviously deeply interrelated to the U.S., but that primary point of comparison is not the United States.”

Rizki was the co-editor of TSQ’s 2019 “Trans Studies en las Américas,” and also serves as TSQ’s Translation Section Editor. Additionally, Rizki is a 2024-2025 fellow for the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), which is an organization that supports research aimed to advance understandings of humanity and human experiences.

“[I’m] grateful to professor Davy Knittle in particular for organizing my visit and for prioritizing trans studies scholarship and creating the kinds of conversations that I think we really need to continue doing the work of our field.” Rizki said.

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