Professor Lesta-García’s Lecture, “Paul B Preciado y Elizabeth Duval: Teoría Trans en España pasando por París”
By Oliva O’Brien
On November 18th, Assistant Professor of Luso-Hispanic Studies, Lesta-García came to speak to Professor Feldman’s 0490 Spanish seminar course, “Latin America en Paris.” In her lecture, “Paul B. Preciado y Elizabeth Duval: Teoría Trans en España pasando por París,” Lesta-Garcia placed the trans theory of the two Spanish philosophers and writers Paul B. Preciado and Elizabeth Duval in conversation. Both Preciado and Duval studied at the Sorbonne in Paris, and their slight generational difference offers a window into the evolution of trans theory.
In Testo Yonqui, written in 2008, Preciado produces what he calls “un ensayo corporal” or a “body-essay”. In his book, Preciado writes about his experience receiving testosterone, and places his experience in a larger history of gender and sexuality formation. Preciado argues that historically, gender theory has changed in order to fit the desired political and economic configuration of those in power. Apart from Testo Yonqui being a “body-essay” in the textual sense, Preciado explains how this work is a manifestation of the experimentation on his own body. In reference to Foucault’s idea of biopower, Preciado explores the way disciplines, institutions, categories serve as vehicles for controlling populations, with a particular focus on the medicalization of trans individuals. According to Preciado, “trans” as a category developed in meaning alongside the emergence of medical interventions and pharmaceuticals. Lesta-García contextualized Preciado’s theory in the legislation in Spain concerning trans individuals at the time of his writing. The Gender Identity Law of 2007 enabled legal sex and name change for trans people in the Civil Registry, but with the requirement that those individuals have some form of medical diagnosis.
In the second part of her lecture, Lesta-García focuses on the theory of Elizabeth Duval and her 2021 work, “Después de lo trans.” Duval’s work is largely in dialogue with the slightly older trans theory of Preciado. Although rooted in Preciado’s theory, Duval critiques certain elements of his work, and explores the evolution of trans theory since Testo Yonki. Part of Duval’s criticism is the androcentrism inherent to Preciado’s work. She argues that Preciado does not make distinction between the different ways of inhabiting and experiencing trans identity. She also explores the lack of inclusive language that recognized non-binary individuals at the time of Preciado’s earlier writing.
The trans theory of Preciado and Duval provides a critical dimension to my own investigation of birth control projects in Puerto Rico. In my piece, “In the Name of Modernization: Racial Erasure, Biopower, and Systems of US Control in 20th Century Puerto Rico” I explore how modernization projects in Puerto Rico served as tools of biopower to maintain the extractive economic relationship. More specifically, I look at how US birth control projects emerging from this moment of “modernization” sought to exert control of the Puerto Rican labor pool. Preciado’s Testo Yonki addresses the processes that underlie this dynamic: “The objective of these pharmacorpornographic technologies is the production of a living political prosthesis: a body that is compliant enough to put its potentia gaudendi, its total and abstract capacity for creating pleasure, at the service of the production of capital and the reproduction of the species” (Testo Yonki, 119). While in this context Preciado focuses on the trans experience in relation to pharmaceuticals, his theory is easily applicable to the birth control experiments in Puerto Rico. Both arenas demonstrate systems of control that police identity and notions of citizenship, specifically during the pharmaceutical era, with the goal of creating a productive, reproducing workforce.
Preciado, Beatriz. Testo Yonki. Pozuelo de Alarcón (Madrid): Espasa Calpe, 2008.
By Oliva O’Brien On November 18th, Assistant Professor of Luso-Hispanic Studies, Lesta-García came to speak to Professor Feldman’s 0490 Spanish seminar course, “Latin America en Paris.” In her lecture, “Paul B. Preciado y Elizabeth Duval: Teoría Trans en España pasando por París,” Lesta-Garcia placed the trans theory of the two Spanish philosophers and writers Paul…