The Zinophile: Reading “Stereotype Threat” and Unraveling Intellectual Histories


Late last year, I read Imogen Binnie’s novel Nevada after reading an excellent interview with the author conducted by Sarah McCarry. From there, I ended up ordering several issues of Binnie‘s zine Stereotype Threat; its subtitle, “Trying to frame graduate school as a radical // queer // punk endeavor,” gives a pretty solid idea of what to expect from the words inside the cover.

The project, Binnie explains in an introductory passage in the beginning of each zine, emerged from her graduate work at Goddard College. She goes on to explain a bit more:

My background is in punk rock, radical queer and trans activism, being a dirtbag, not trusting authority, anarchism, and stuff like that, so especially when we’re talking about abnormality, I’m interested in critiquing the way we construct it- in asking: who gets to decide who’s normal?

There’s a decidedly formal structure to each of these issues, but there’s also an essential zineness to them all: images are pasted in, sometimes in sharp contrast to the themes discussed in the text. The Patrick Nagel images alluded to in issue four–“A History of Constructions of Transsexuality in the U.S. and Germany”–make for a particularly interesting juxtaposition.

There’s an irreverence here that itself contrasts with the academic roots of some of these pieces; Binnie writes of their evolution from academic work to something else. And looking at it from the standpoint of the overall project–of finding common ground between academic rigor and activism–the zine finds thse areas of overlap in interesting places.

The fourth issue, with its focus on a number of researchers (including Robert Stoller and Henry Benjamin), is both impressively researched and (speaking as someone who doesn’t know much about the issues at hand) incredibly informative. “[I]t’s the story of how The Authorities have constructed transsexuality,” Binnie writes early in that issue, and the series of profiles to come follow that route. For me, Stereotype Threat was informative, the histories of thought Binnie describes illuminating both in their findings and in their failings.

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