Eric Disbro is a dual-title Ph.D. candidate in French and Francophone Studies and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. His research focuses on contemporary francophone island literatures of the Indian Ocean and Oceania, their innovative representations of queer and trans embodiment, and networks of care. Moving through the world as queer or trans often necessitates constant negotiations with the idea of inhabiting a gendered body, combating cisgender and heteronormative forms of medical, emotional, and social policing that attempt to shock bodies into normative trajectories and curb feelings of dis-ease from within the gender binary. Resistance against these modes of normative thinking and policing often takes the form of innovative care work, where individuals choose to have a radical stake in the happiness of those around them. He maintains that knowledges about queer and trans communities and experiences are constructed communally, and by looking to the Indian Ocean and Oceanian regions, one can find writers whose conceptions of care are inspired by the symbiotic relationships in coastal ecosystems. His work is forthcoming in Women in French Studies and Verge: Studies in Global Asias.
Dissertation: “Terraqueous Encounters: Queer and Trans Embodiment and Care in Francophone Literatures of the Indian Ocean and Oceania”
Project Description: Eric Disbro’s dissertation project, “Terraqueous Encounters: Queer and Trans Embodiment and Care in Francophone Literatures of the Indian Ocean and Oceania,” argues that Indian Ocean and Oceanian literary representations of queer and trans embodiment and care practices decenter European and North American systems of medically-assisted gender transition and privatized industrial forms of care. He examines these textual interventions in tandem with maritime knowledges of convergence that take the shape of terraqueous allegories of encounter (i.e., coral reefs, tributaries, sandbars, tidepools, and undertow). This comparative approach allows for a humanities-based intervention in ecocriticism and studies of the Anthropocene that valorizes the imaginaries of island writers that have continuously engaged with issues of normative genders, sexualities, and ecological devastation born of empire. He demonstrates how queer and trans characters actively synthesize on one hand the colonial models of normative gendered embodiment and family care, and on the other hand local, autochthonous, and creolized knowledges of socially constructed gender expression and webs of communal, interethnic, intergenerational, and interfaith care. His conclusions offer new insights into constructing more livable futures for those most at stake during the present moment of planetary crisis.