Imagine Otherwise: Jian Neo Chen on Trans of Color Art and Activism

Dec 20, 2018 | Podcast

This week for Imagine otherwise, I interview trans studies scholar Jian Neo Chen about why collaborations between artists, activists, and academics are so vital to transgender studies; how academic journals born in the digital age are reimagining what scholarship looks and reads like; and the revolutionary, worldmaking power of small-scale, community-based change for trans of color communities.

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You can also read the transcript and show notes on the Ideas on Fire website, which have links to Jian’s work and all the concepts, people, and events we discuss on the show (great for teaching!).

Guest: Jian Neo Chen

Jian Neo Chen is an associate professor of queer studies in the English department at the Ohio State University. Their research focuses on transgender and queer counter-cultures in literature, visual culture, and contemporary theory.

Jian’s first book, Trans Exploits: Trans of Color Cultures and Technologies in Movement (Duke University Press, 2019), explores the displaced emergences of trans of color cultural expression and activism through performance, film/video, literature, and digital media in the second decade of the twenty-first century, following fifty years of state-managed minimal civil rights reforms and two decades of white-dominated transgender movements.

Jian’s curated transmedia projects have screened with the 6–8 Months Project, hosted by Kara Walker Studios in New York City; the New York MIX 24 Queer Experimental Film Festival; the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus; and the NYU Asian/Pacific/ American Institute.

Before academia, Jian organized a popular literacy and workplace rights program for Asian immigrant women workers in Oakland, California and produced community events and raised funds to counter intimate and state violence against LGBTQQ communities in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Key quote

“A lot of the ways in which I started to imagine my work as a scholar had to do with how artists were creating and imagining their worlds and how community members and activists were actively participating to shaping those worlds. I think the first step in doing that is being in community with folks. It also holds me accountable and cues me in in terms of what is significant politically about what folks are doing.”

– Jian Neo Chen on episode 78 of the Imagine Otherwise podcast


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