Art and History of Transforming

Clovis Maillet

“For millennia, the patriarchy has had history ; for a few years, in the 1970’s, some white feminists had herstory ; but now, transgender people finally have a gender neutral hirstory all their own”. (Chris E. Vargas, Museum Of Trans History and Art, 2017)

This seminar aims at thinking from the trans perspective and the transgender gaze (Halberstam), a history of artistic transformations over the long term, from the premodern world to its most recent mutations. The interest of going back to pre-modernity is to be able to abstract from the nature/culture dichotomy that determines sex/gender issues. The entry of trans studies into the history of art is the legacy of decades of activism initially focused on the forensic field. Some of its methodologies are common to feminist and postcolonial theory, but some of the studies have been opposed by certain strands of radical and differentialist feminism. The relationship of trans studies to queer theory is also complex and sometimes divergent depending on historical contexts.

The seminar will focus on the study of early works, from the medieval period, to the work of contemporary artists such as Chris E. Vargas, Wu Tsang, Nicki Green.


  • Halberstam Jack, In a Queer Time and Space, Transgender Bodies, Subcultural Lives, New York, 2005
  • Kiss My Genders, exhibition catalogue, Hayward Gallery, London, 2019 (with Jack Halberstam and Susan Stryker)
  • Maillet Clovis, Les genres Fluides, de Jeanne d’arc aux saintes trans, Paris, 2020
  • Riley Snorton, C. Black on Both Sides, A Racial History of Trans Identities, Mineapolis, 2017