Mobile Subjects

Transnational Imaginaries of Gender Reassignment

Mobile Subjects

Perverse Modernities: A Series Edited by Jack Halberstam and Lisa Lowe

More about this series

Book Pages: 296 Illustrations: 5 illustrations Published: November 2018

Author: Aren Z. Aizura

Critical Ethnic Studies, Cultural Studies, Gender and Sexuality > Trans Studies

The first famous transgender person in the United States, Christine Jorgensen, traveled to Denmark for gender reassignment surgery in 1952. Jorgensen became famous during the ascent of postwar dreams about the possibilities for technology to transform humanity and the world. In Mobile Subjects Aren Z. Aizura examines transgender narratives within global health and tourism economies from 1952 to the present. Drawing on an archive of trans memoirs and documentaries as well as ethnographic fieldwork with trans people obtaining gender reassignment surgery in Thailand, Aizura maps the uneven use of medical protocols to show how national and regional health care systems and labor economies contribute to and limit transnational mobility. Aizura positions transgender travel as a form of biomedical tourism, examining how understandings of race, gender, and aesthetics shape global cosmetic surgery cultures and how economic and racially stratified marketing and care work create the ideal transgender subject as an implicitly white, global citizen. In so doing, he shows how understandings of travel and mobility depend on the historical architectures of colonialism and contemporary patterns of global consumption and labor.


"Recommended. Advanced undergraduates through faculty and professionals." — N. B. Rosenthal, Choice

"Destabilizing formulaic transnational mobility stories that rely on an epic departure-and-return script, Aizura offers a powerful challenge to consider the wild movements of minor mobilities and the potentiality of staying in place." — Emmanuel David, TSQ

"[This] book evokes a pondering of how Transgender Studies as a field will move itself forward. Aizura’s own urging to give a voice to transgender people who straddle the margins of privileged trans-normativity reiterates the field’s mission of breaking new paths for inclusivity, intersectionality, and independence from myopic visions of what being transgender means today." — Muriel Vernon, Medical Anthropology Quarterly

"Mobile Subjects is intentional and thoughtful in its application of interdisciplinary research. . . . Through his multi-method and intersectional approach, Aizura brings forth a conversation that simultaneously accounts for the impact of gender, race, and class on seeking out and obtaining gender reassignment technologies, as well as the varying policies, practices, and vernacular inherent to transnational study." — Jacob Barry, Journal of Critical Race Inquiry

"Mobile Subjects is a multifaceted, ambitious, and careful analysis of trans people's lived experiences and responses to the monolith of the medical and consumerist models of trans identity. ... [This book] is an important and refreshing contribution to trans and gender-nonconforming studies and activism. It is an inclusive and descriptively deep project that responsibly introduces the broader community to the social realities and struggles of diverse and particular folks in the trans and gender-nonconforming community." — Alex Gruenewald, Hypatia

“Aizura’s Mobile Subjects models trans research that affirms the gender self-determination of trans people at the same time as it critiques the imaginary that surrounds gender reassignment.... Aizura posits transness as integral, rather than external, to national and transnational circuits of exploitation and oppression.” — Jean-Thomas Tremblay, American Literature

"'Trans-.' The prefix itself denotes movement and boundary-crossing, and in this provocative new book Aren Z. Aizura deploys the rich metaphorics of mobility to interrogate how ‘transgender,’ as both critical concept and lived identity, moves across scales and locations, from the individual to the geopolitical. In discussing such varied topics as the trope of travel in narratives of gender transition, the persistence of geographical metaphors and Orientalist fantasies in transgender autobiographies, and the racialized global division of affective labor in Thai gender reassignment clinics that cater to white Westerners, Aizura activates all the politically freighted implications of analogizing gender change as immigration, tourism, settlement, or colonization." — Susan Stryker, author of Transgender History: The Roots of Today's Revolution

Mobile Subjects is a trenchantly argued, elegantly written, and deftly analyzed cultural study of the discursive and material practices of gender reassignment within a transnational frame. Mapping the political, affective, economic, and geocultural topographies that produce the various notions of ‘trans,’ Aren Z. Aizura offers a major work that will expand trans studies in an energized and provocative manner.” — Martin F. Manalansan IV, author of Global Divas: Filipino Gay Men in the Diaspora


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Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Aren Z. Aizura is Assistant Professor of Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies at the University of Minnesota and coeditor of The Transgender Studies Reader 2.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  ix
Introduction: Provincializing Trans  1
Part I
1. The Persistence of Trans Travel Narratives  29
2. On Location: Transsexual Autobiographies, Whiteness, and Travel  59
3. Documentary and the Metronormative Trans Migration Plot  03
Part II
Interlude  135
4. Gender Reassignment and Transnational Entrepreneurialisms of the Self  137
5. The Romance of the Amazing Scalpel: Race, Labor, and Affect in Thai Gender Reassignment Clinics  174
Epilogue: Visions of Trans Worlding  207
Notes  221
Bibliography  245
Index  269
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing

2019 Lambda Literary Award Finalist in the Transgender Nonfiction Category

Winner of the Sylvia Rivera Award in Transgender Studies, presented by CLAGS: The Center for LGBTQ Studies (City University of New York)

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-0156-0 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-0121-8
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