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Spotlight on Julian Kevon Glover: PhD Candidate in African American Studies

Created: June 10, 2019

Julian Kevon Glover is a PhD candidate in the Department of African American Studies at the Weinberg College of Arts & Sciences. Their dissertation is a performance ethnography of the experiences of transgender women in the ballroom scene across Chicago, London, Paris, and Amsterdam. Glover is currently a Franke Fellow at the Kaplan Institute for the Humanities and was recently inducted into the Edward Alexander Bouchet Graduate Honor Society. Their work appears in various publications, including Harvard Kennedy School’s LGBTQ Policy Journal, American Quarterly, Souls: A Critical Journal of Black Politics, Culture and Society, and Text & Performance Quarterly.

How would you describe your research and/or work to a non-academic audience?
My work investigates how Black, Latinx, and Afrolatinx queer people, specifically transwomen, respond to social, economic, cultural, and political marginalization through the deployment of specific strategies, tactics, and tools designed to enable them to acquire the human and material resources to survive/thrive in a world hellbent on their annihilation.

What have been some of the most memorable twists and turns of your career?
The most memorable twists and turns of my career exist in the fact that, despite being 28 years old, I've had three distinct career paths as a public relations manager, nonprofit practitioner, and now as an academic. I left public relations because I wanted to do work that had meaning to me beyond exerting influence over the media, services, and products that people consume. While working with queer organizations in the nonprofit sector enabled me to do meaningful work, I was not able to ask the type of questions that were most pressing to me–namely, why do queer Black, Latinx and Afrolatinx people, especially those who are non-binary femmes, transgender, and gender non-conforming, continually experience myriad forms of marginalization and antiblack (psychic, physiological, physical and spiritual) violence despite purported legislative, educational, and cultural advances? This type of question led me to black studies which I necessarily understand as a critique of western modernity writ large. 

Tell us what inspired your research and/or work.
Upon discovering my queer sexuality, my Pentecostal parents forced me out of their home. At age 14, I found myself without a home and wandering the streets of Chicago where I met three transgender women who provided me with food, shelter, and an introduction to the ballroom scene. While these women had few material resources, they generously shared what they had and provided abundant emotional support through an emphasis on community. Indeed, it was their fervent support that instilled in me a sense of family which ultimately saved my life. Despite the premature deaths of two of these women, their care, love, and intention remain transformative and directly influence how I approach teaching, service, and research. 

What is a mistake you have learned from in your career?
I've learned that while it is great to be brilliant, it means very little if the brilliance is not undergirded by kindness. I know far too many brilliant people who are unkind to themselves and thus, nearly everyone around them–especially those who reflect unresolved issues related to sexuality, race, class, and gender embodiment/expression. 

What is the biggest potential impact or implication of your work?
My work seeks to provide a corrective to existing scholarship about Black, Latinx, and Afrolatinx transwomen who are routinely theorized through their proximity to death. While my interlocutors are keenly aware of their proximity to death and violence, they also continue to live and thrive using many ingenious strategies, tactics, and tools. By highlighting these strategic negotiations and the importance of reflexive methodologies, I hope to encourage scholars and non-academics alike to rigorously challenge themselves with regard to their own understandings of race, sexuality, class, and gender. 

How do you unwind after a long day?
I've learned that it's best to stop working after 8:00 PM most evenings (shout out to Dr. Celeste Watkins-Hayes for the brilliant advice!), which is when I usually listen to music (I'm a classically trained cellist and my musical palate is very wide to say the least), chill with friends, plan outfits for upcoming events, enjoy a delicious meal (I'm a huge fan of Caribbean, Indian, and Ethiopian foods), and travel as much as I can.

What did you originally want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be both a dermatologist by day and a drag queen at night as I've always been fascinated by the skin and aesthetics in general. While RuPaul has the drag queen job totally covered, I still wish that I had more role models who bridged the gap between professional fields that have no purported overlap or similarity.

What advice would you give your younger self or someone considering a similar path?
I would tell myself that sometimes the only voice that matters is your own and that while my life will not be easy, the path that I pave for myself and my chosen family will give me all of the strength, wisdom, kindness, courage and patience that I need to succeed.