Eva Pensis

Eva Pensis Headshot
Cohort Year: 2016
Education: BM, University of Southern California


My research considers cultural performance and aesthetic self-fashioning cultivated by communities of trans artists, performers, and erotic laborers in relation to the material conditions of everyday life and historical shifts in socio-bio-medical understandings of gender, sexuality, and identity.  As a scholar of gender and sexuality who is also deeply engaged with music and dance communities as a performer myself, I conceive of trans feminine embodiment practices as an aesthetic-affective genre that includes all modalities of (trans feminine) cross-gender embodiment, regardless of the alignment or disjuncture of lived and performed gender identities. My dissertation, “Mighty Real”: Trans Femme Embodiment and the Cultural Politics of Transmisogyny, is part historical provocation and part multi-sited ethnography of queer nightlife performance scenes across Chicago, New York, Paris, and Berlin. The project addresses a persistent and disconcerting elision within scholarly discourse on nightlife and queer and trans performance that prioritizes the symbolic and theoretical concerns of spectacular production over the material concerns affecting the trans (feminine) and queer communities. Employing a methodology of co-performative ethnography, “Mighty Real” tracks two sacred embodiment practices cultivated by trans feminine sex-working people that, I argue, articulate alternative understandings of the erotic: lipsync performance (with street queens, or trans showgirls) and vogue femme (with femme queens, or Black and brown women of trans experience). The alternative epistemologies of the erotic offered by the trans femme artists, performers, and writers that form this dissertation’s archive offer radically embodied ways being and knowing beyond the erotophobic circumscription of trans and queer life in racial capitalism.


  • EthNoise
  • Theatre and Performance Studies Workshop
  • Gender Studies and Sexuality Workshop
  • Sound and Society
  • 20th/21st Century Workshop

Teaching Experience

  • Intro to World Music
  • Unsettling World Music and Performance
  • Eurovision Song Contest
  • The Promise of Nightlife: Queer Desires and the Marketing of the Erotic