Gendered Performative and Material Culture in the Age of Trump: Image, Resemblance, and Dissemblance

Panel organizers:
Sally Campbell Galman (U-Mass-Amherst)
Christine Kray (Rochester Institute of Technology)

Session Abstract:
In the era of “fake news,” social media trolls, and Photoshopped gifs, the relationship between intended and interpreted meanings is ever more slippery. This panel explores how imagery in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaigns and the first year of the Trump era, and how shifts in culture problematize, play with, and terrorize gender. Casting himself as rogue politic and theatrically anti-establishment, Donald Trump is a self-conscious iconoclast and cultural disrupter. While conventional behaviors and gestures are rejected, so, too, are conventional methods of establishing and representing truth, and the very relationship between sign and significance is macerated. Between sign and significance lies vast potential, both liberating and violent. This panel focuses on such signs by critically examining performative and material culture with gendered political meaning—such as suffragist clothing, pussy hats, pantsuits, wrestling ring gifs, memes of transgender soldiers, U.S. flag hijabs, rainbow flags, and wedding cakes. At a time in which political imagery is crafted and performed with an eye on dissemination, how do actors frame and repackage their gender political imagery and performances? How are images staged, ripped out, riffed on, mashed up—and where is the line between generative witchcraft and malicious sorcery? This panel explores both fractious and utopian gendered visions—how imagery inspires, lifts up, and creates a space for hope, while simultaneously antagonizing, inflaming, and inciting. In the swirl of gendered images, what is the relationship between image and self? Do people feel they can “be themselves” with a correspondence of self and self-presentation, or does gender itself feel dangerous and actors don masks while authentic selves retreat to safe spaces? Finally, we consider the outcomes of Donald Trump’s hapless misogyny and Trumpian masculinity. Is Trump the constituent outside against which we all understand and situate ourselves?

If you are interested in being a part of this session, please send your abstract to Sally at no later than April 9, 2018. Presenters accepted for the panel will be notified by April 11, and panel participants will need to register for the conference by April 16. Thank you!

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