“Queer Acknowledgments”

9783319646220“Queer Acknowledgments,” an essay I wrote with Branden Buehler, has been published in Mapping Queer Space(s) of Praxis and Pedagogy, edited by Elizabeth McNeil, James E. Wermers, and Joshua O. Lunn. In the essay, we use social network analysis software to map queer studies’ acknowledgments sections. Doing as much allows us to identify social bonds unrecognized by typical models of academic kinship and picture a queer alternative to the genealogical trees that dominate our scholarly imaginations.

American Studies Association

This week I am looking forward to attending the American Studies Association conference in Chicago. On Sunday, I will be presenting alongside Cáel M. Keegan, micha cárdenas, and Laura Horak on a panel on “Lana and Lilly Wachowski’s Cinematic Pedagogy of Dissent.” Susan Stryker will serve as our chair and respondent. Laura and I will be building off our contribution to the Sense8 roundtable” and exploring how the embodied, haptic, intersubjective connection between the sensates and the series and its viewers have expanded, strengthened, and become more complicated in season two, leading to the #WeAreTheGlobalCluster fan protest of the series’ cancellation.

WisCon 41

Anna-Marie McLemore and I after the WisCon 41 Award Ceremony

I am back in LA after yet another amazing WisCon. This was a big year for me. I presented on three panels (one on judging the Titpree, a second on Sense8, and a third in response to the vids that premiered at the vid party). The Sense8 panel, which included brilliant papers by micha cárdenas and Cáel Keegan and extended our discussion about the series’ utopianism from the Spectator roundtable, was especially well received. I also premiered my Hidden Figures  vid at the vid party and my student Nina Lamaria premiered “Meeting of Two (Space) Queens,” the Barbarella femslash vid she made for my “Sexuality and Science Fiction” course. The audience loved the latter and discussed it fervently at the panel the next day. I felt extremely proud to be her teacher. Finally, as a member of the 2016 James Tiptree, Jr. Literary Award jury, I was given the incredible opportunity of introducing Anna-Marie McLemore and giving her the award for When the Moon Was Ours. I am sharing my speech about the novel below as well as the vid I made, which played for the 1000-person audience before Anna-Marie came on stage.

A few weeks after we selected When the Moon Was Ours as the Tiptree winner, I assigned the book to a small class of USC undergraduates. The seminar was “Sexuality and Science Fiction,” and I begged the forgiveness of those more fastidious students invested in the differences between science fiction and fantasy for sneaking in this work of magical realism. This stake in genre specificity was partially a result of my having assigned Joanna Russ’ “Speculations: The Subjunctivity of Science Fiction” on the first day of class. In that 1973 essay, she made the argument that what provides science fiction its dynamism is that “science fiction must neither be impossible nor possible.” By this she meant readers must judge the science-fictional-ness of any given story by what they themselves know of the actual world. In comparison, fantasy, she wrote, carries its own frame with it. “Actuality is the frame, fantasy (what could not have happened) exists inside the frame.” However, my last-minute choice to assign When the Moon Was Ours in a science fiction seminar was quickly forgiven.

True, in this novel my students encountered impossible characters, objects, and events quite unlike those we had read in any other text across the semester: a girl who grows roses from her wrist, their changing colors exposing her most intimate desires; pumpkins that turn to glass, only shattering and rising to the stars when long silenced truths are finally spoken; a river with the potential to either change one’s body, as one had always wished, or take it away, as one had also sometimes wished. However, to my students, many of whom were queer and at least one of whom was trans, When the Moon Was Ours and its impossible characters and events articulated the very possibility of their own lives. Too often rendered impossible by those who would wish them so, my queer and trans students found in the magic of Sam and Miel’s love (and that of Miel’s sister and Sam’s mother and even the Bonner sisters who learn to let go) the magic they experience every day. In speaking her and her husband’s truths, Anna-Marie McLemore shattered the frame that tells queer youth that their love could not or ought not to exist. She created imagery that made the forms of intimacy and kinship so familiar to me, my students, and thousands of others like us as palpable as a pollination brush on a flower petal. She gave us the moon and made it ours.

Before Anna-Marie comes on stage to accept her prize, I would like to play a vid I made of the book, which celebrates the queer love story at its core.

“Transgender Media” Spectator Issue

The special issue of Spectator on transgender media that I edited is off to the printer and should be available to readers in a matter of weeks. It includes essays by Laura Horak, Tom Sapsford, Quinlan Miller and Erica Rand, Lucy J. Miller, Eliza Steinbock, Rachel Reinke, and John Musser as well as a Sense8 roundtable featuring Moya Bailey, micha cárdenas, Laura Horak, Lokeilani Kaimana, Cáel M. Keegan, Geneveive Newman, Roxanne Samer, and Raffi Sarkissian. Check with your university library for a copy!

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Spectatorship: Shifting Theories of Gender, Sexuality, and Media

The book I edited withWilliam Whittington, Spectatorship: Shifting Theories of Gender, Sexuality, and Media, is available for pre-order with UT Press. It is designed for feminist and queer media studies classrooms and features contributions by Amy Lawrence, Gaylyn Studlar, Anna Everett, Stephen Tropiano, Mary Celeste Kearney, Christie Milliken, Sean Griffin, Hollis Griffin, Raffi Sarkissian, Jennifer DeClue, Harry Benshoff, Suzanne Scott, and others from across 25 years of the journal Spectator’s history.

Spectator CFP: Transgender Media

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As the 2016-17 Postdoctoral Scholar–Teaching Fellow in Cinema & Media Studies at USC, I will be editing an issue of Spectator on transgender media. Below you will find the CFP. Please email me if you have any questions about contributing.

Call For Papers

Transgender Media
Spectator 37.2

Between Laverne Cox appearing on the cover of Time and Caitlyn Jenner starring in her own E! reality series, the debut of Transparent on Amazon and the release of the first season of Lana and Lilly Wachowski’s Sense8 on Netflix, the last two years have witnessed an unprecedented eruption of transgender characters and stories. Few corners of U.S. popular culture, news, and media have remained untouched by these media events. This issue of Spectator is devoted to critically examining and contextualizing these events within contemporary feminist, LGBT, and anti-racist political movements; the changing media landscape; and the history of transgender media. How have race, sexuality, and class informed the materialization of these representations and their circulation? What are their genealogies and how has transgender media changed over the course of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries? This issue is also particularly interested in contributions devoted to the study of the work of lesser-known transgender media artists. It is curious about the spaces that have been created within media or media cultures for genderqueer folks who live outside of the binary as well as how the stakes of visibility politics differ for trans women and trans men. Finally, the editor would like to organize a roundtable on Sense8. If you would like to participate in such a contribution, please specify your approach to and interest in the series.

Deadline for Submission: November 15th, 2016

Spectator is a biannual publication and submissions that address the above topics in the following areas are now invited for submission:

  • Transgender representation in media (historical or contemporary)
  • Transgender cultural production (the work of transgender filmmakers, showrunners, etc.)
  • Theories of transgender spectatorship or transgender audience studies
  • Transgender celebrities and the popular press
  • Transgender aesthetics or poetics
  • Transgender temporalities and media
  • Book reviews of recent scholarship in transgender media or related studies

Manuscripts to be considered for publication should be sent to:

Roxanne Samer, Issue Editor
The Bryan Singer Division of Cinema & Media Studies
School of Cinematic Arts, Room 320
University of Southern California
Los Angeles, CA 90089-2211

Email: samer@usc.edu

Submissions should be emailed directly to the issue editor. Manuscripts should include the title of the contribution and the name (s) of authors. As well as the postal address, email address, and phone numbers for author who will work with the editor on any revisions. All pages should be numbered consecutively. Contributions should not be more than 5,000 words. Please include a brief abstract for publicity. Authors should also include a brief biographic entry.

Articles submitted to the Spectator should not be under consideration by any other journal.

Book Reviews may vary in length from 300 to 1,000 words. Please include title of book, retail price and ISBN at the beginning of the review.

Forum or Additional Section contributions can include works on new archival or research facilities or methods as well as other relevant works related to the field.

Electronic Submissions and Formatting. Authors should send copies of their work via email as electronic attachments. Please keep backup files. Files should be Microsoft Word in PC or Mac format, depending on the editor’s preference. Endnotes should conform to the Chicago Manual of Style.

Upon acceptance, a format guideline will be forwarded to all contributors as to image and text requirements.

Download the PDF: SpectatorCFP_TransgenderMedia_Samer


On April 12th I defended my dissertation. As I prepare to file with the university, I would like to share my acknowledgments publicly, because the people named below are nothing less than incredible and deserve recognition as such. Writing a dissertation can be an isolating experience. I feel very fortunate that I was never alone for long.


This dissertation owes its completion and any intelligence or poetics it demonstrates to Kara Keeling. For six years she has served as my greatest mentor, role model, and advocate. She has pushed me in my thinking and writing and done so with untold patience and an incredible sense of humor. My hope is that I have met her partway.

I am grateful for the support, feedback, and encouragement of an incredible committee. Henry Jenkins has read countless drafts and offered tireless comments on each. He is either in possession of the best time turner or the kindest heart. Probably both. Aniko Imre has also served as a careful reader, and her comments and questions have challenged my thinking about the project’s methods and scope. Jack Halberstam has repeatedly surprised me with the enthusiasm he brings to my research and writing. His feedback will sustain my thinking as the project grows.

At USC, I have also benefitted from the less formal mentorship of David E. James, Bill Whittington, and Laura Serna. David welcomed me to USC and has continued to encourage my research on women’s experimental cinema through support and example. Bill soon became a great friend in the department, helping me navigate graduate school when I needed it most. Laura directed the Visual Studies writing group. Her insightful feedback made me a better writer.

Over the course of this journey, I have also had the pleasure of finding mentorship among friends. I have learned more than I could ever hope to convey from Alex Juhasz, Alexis Lothian, micha cárdenas, and Lokeilani Kaimana. I admired Alex’s research long before I met her, and by working with her as a teaching assistant I was able to witness her put her feminist methodologies into practice as a teacher. She brings out the best in her students, and whenever we meet she brings out the best in me. This project quite simply would not be what it is without Alexis’ friendship and mentorship. Alexis introduced me to WisCon. She inspired me to vid. At times I have followed closely in her footsteps. She in turn has often held up a mirror for me and championed my work. micha has been my sister in the fullest sense of the word. So many of my ideas grew in discussions with her at the beach, over tacos, and stuck in LA traffic. She has cheered for me and given me hope every step of the way. Without Lokeilani I would not have made it through one of the roughest periods of writing. Isolated in rural Massachusetts, the queer world we made together in conversation gave me life. I continue to feel that warmth whenever we are together, in person and online. I aspire to their gracefulness and consideration.

Umayyah Cable, Tisha Dejmanee, and Branden Buehler have been my comrades on this journey. Each of them has nurtured my work through feedback or collaboration. However, they have also done much more in their friendship—in talking about anything but work and in their kindness and humor when doing so. The cats of the Kitty Bungalow Charm School for Wayward Cats have been my and Tisha’s great conspirators. Rosanne Sia got me dancing again. My mind and body thank her. I also like to believe that the project owes a levity to her influence.

This project grew through the feedback of countless individuals in writing groups and at conferences. I would like to thank everyone in the Visual Studies writing group. Umayyah Cable, Luci Marzola, Joshua Mitchell, Feng-Mei Heberer, Lara Bradshaw, Alison Kozberg, Kevin Driscoll, and Kate Page-Lippsmeyer were always generous with their comments. Jennifer DeClue read much of this dissertation is early draft form and asked questions that were necessary to answer in moving forward. While I was in Northampton, Michelle Maydanchik, Alex Seggerman, and Yael Rice kindly welcomed me into their writing group and helped me give structure to my third chapter. I presented much of this work at the Society of Cinema and Media Studies and the National Women’s Studies Association, and the project has benefited from fellow panelists and audience members’ questions and suggestions. Thank you especially to Julia Lesage, Chuck Kleinhans, Patty White, Lisa Henderson, Robin Blaetz, Shira Segal, Jackie Stacey, Ingrid Ryberg, Greg Youmans, Carol Stabile, Vicki Callahan, and Amanda Phillips. Thank you also to the SCMS Queer Caucus and to Jen Malkowski, my Queer Caucus mentor.

This project would be a faint shell of what it has become without the support of the Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America at Harvard University and the Sophia Smith Collection at Smith College. Grants from both of these institutions provided me with sustained access to materials now at the heart of this project. The archivists at each of these institutions introduced me to some of my most intimate interlocutors, in ephemera and in person. Joanne Donovan made it possible for me to view Songs, Skits, Poetry, and Prison Life and the Just Us videoletter. She also made them both available online, so that I could watch them again from Los Angeles. Maida Goodwin was an immense help while I was doing my research at Smith. She also put me in touch with Joan E. Biren, which in turn lead to interviews with the other members of the original Irises. Getting to speak to Joan E. Biren, Frances Reid, Mary Lee Farmer, Cathy Zheutlin, Ariel Dougherty, Jeanne Gomoll, and Amanda Bankier grounded this project and gave it pleasure. I feel privileged to be the one who gets to share these women’s work with the world, and it was an honor to discuss it with them. A deep thanks also to May Haduong and Cassie Blake at the Academy Film Archive.

In many ways this project began years ago during my earliest research as an undergraduate passionate about feminism and film. Monica McTighe did not blink when I wanted to write about film and video in an art history class. She also introduced me to the writing of Laura Mulvey. One of my fondest memories is of the two of us traipsing back to her office on a snowy day, so that I could borrow her copy of Visual and Other Pleasures over Thanksgiving weekend. Before I started my undergraduate thesis on Carolee Schneemann, Monica told me I needed to learn how to write. I took her feedback to heart, and this dissertation is evidence of my continued work to do just that. When I was a master’s student, Tom Gunning had a similar impact. He introduced me to the films of Marjorie Keller and helped me secure funding so I could travel to New York and watch prints of her films. He also instilled in me an enthusiasm for close reading. My undergraduate and master’s cohorts served as much needed friends and inspirations as I began this work, Laura Mitchell and Naomi Slipp especially.

Some of my strongest supports have been those friends who have known me since the time when becoming an academic was the furthest thing from my mind. Katie Cissel, Ari Chadwick-Saund, Kristina Moravec, Aaron Waechter, and Russell Shitabata have loved and believed in me since the era of collaged bedroom walls, chess tournaments, and crushes on dojo boys (and, before long, girls). They continue to serve as reminders that there are more important things in life than work. They also each inspire me with their own passions. It has been a joy to grow with and alongside each of them. When I was young my parents, Sally Marie and Yuri Samer, always encouraged me to follow my passion, and they have both been patient as it has lead to degree after degree after degree. As a media studies scholar, I wish they had let me watch more TV. However, I also know that my love for reading, which I learned from their example, has proven more than just useful, and I would not trade it for anything. My bio sister, Zoe Samer, has been my best friend in life. It is fun to see how similar our interests are in adulthood, even as they diverge from those of our parents. She is my favorite anti-racist, queer, feminist fan.

I am grateful for the partnership, love, and support of B. Bradburd during the crucial years of writing this dissertation. My chapter on Tiptree owes much to our thinking together.

Two fabulous creatures have sustained me through it all. I would not have survived graduate school without Raffi Sarkissian. We met on our first day at USC. Everything I have done since then, I have done with him (usually, literally) at my side. He read nearly every draft of every chapter, long before any committee member. He believed in me when I did not believe in myself. He is the brother-sestra I always wanted but have only recently come to realize I needed. I aspire to his kindness and generosity. Finally, I adopted my cat Amelie a few months before starting my undergraduate thesis. All of the ideas I have had since then may be but her own. Most of this dissertation was written with her on my lap, on the back of my chair, or at her perch immediately to my left. I will be eternally grateful for her companionship and love.