VISIBLY QUEER: Body Technologies and Sexual Politics


Direct all correspondence to Victoria Pitts, Department of Sociology, Queens College, City University of New York, 65-30 Kissena Boulevard, Flushing, New York 11367-1597; e-mail:


Queer body modification is a site for investigating the possibilities and limitations of agency in body practices. This article considers the use of new and recirculated body modification technologies—many of them modeled after practices of indigenous, non-Western groups—by members of gay, lesbian, and trasngendered communities. Through presenting and interpreting the interview-gathered narratives of six body modifiers, I describe body modification as a practice imbued with agency by subjects. By creating anomalous bodies that provoke shock and consternation, body modifiers not only underscore the body's symbolic significance as a site of public identity but also conceive it as a resource for opposing (hetero) dominant culture. Body modification, even though it tests social tolerance, is not guaranteed in its subversive effects. I approach the narratives from a perspective informed poststructuralism, and I understand body modifiers' agency as limited by and constituted within regulatory regimes of power, such as heteronormativity, pathologization, and colonialism. I describe how such deployments engage symbols embedded in historic systems of representation and thus raise important questions regarding agency.