Published: April 25, 2022

Emmanuel David will use the fellowship to explore a little-known performance tour of Christine Jorgensen, a pioneer of the transgender movement, across Asia and the Pacific in the 1960s

A University of Colorado Boulder professor is one of this year’s National Humanities Center fellows, the organization recently announced.

Emmanuel David, an associate professor in the Department of Women and Gender Studies, is one of 33 fellows chosen. This opportunity provides scholars a chance to pursue an individual research project, which, for David, will be a book project, titled, “Trans-American Orientalism: The Asia-Pacific Encounters of Transgender Pioneer Christine Jorgensen, 1961–1969.”

Additionally, each fellow will have the opportunity to share ideas in seminars, lectures and conferences at the National Humanities Center.

Emmanuel David

At the top of the page: Emmanuel David’s book project will focus on Christine Jorgensen who was the first person widely known for having sex reassignment surgery (Photo courtesy Boston Public Library). Above: Emmanuel David is an associate professor of women and gender studies at CU Boulder.

"I was thrilled to have my research in queer and trans studies recognized and to have the opportunity to be part of the vibrant intellectual community at the National Humanities Center next year," said David, who is the co-director of the LGBTQ Certificate Program, and an affiliate professor in the Center for Asian Studies, the ethnic studies and sociology departments and the Natural Hazards Center.

David earned his PhD in sociology from CU Boulder in 2009 and spent time as an assistant professor at Villanova University and a Fulbright scholar in the Philippines before coming to CU Boulder as an assistant professor in 2013.

He researches gender, sexuality and globalization, with a specific focus on the Philippines. This book project continues that research by focusing on Christine Jorgensen (1926-1989), a WWII veteran and pioneer in the transgender movement, and her little-known performance tour across Asia and the Pacific in the early 1960s, which brought her to places like Hawaii, Australia, Hong Kong, Macau and the Philippines.

Drawing on multilingual sources from archives in Asia, Australia, Denmark and the United States, David’s project explores Jorgensen’s deep relationship to Asia and the Pacific and the trip's lasting effect on her imagination and self-reinvention. By chronicling this understudied chapter of Jorgensen’s life, David hopes this project will reassess her place in trans history through a global perspective.  

“We are delighted to support the exciting work of these outstanding scholars,” said Robert D. Newman, president and director of the National Humanities Center. “They are a remarkably diverse group whose scholarly expertise spans humanities disciplines. We look forward to welcoming them in the fall as they work on their individual projects and form a dynamic intellectual community.”

The National Humanities Center is the world’s only independent institute dedicated exclusively to advanced study in all areas of the humanities. Through its residential fellowship program, the center provides scholars with the resources necessary to generate new knowledge and to further understanding of all forms of cultural expression, social interaction and human thought.

Through its education programs, the center strengthens teaching on the collegiate and pre-collegiate levels. Through public engagement intimately linked to its scholarly and educational programs, the center promotes understanding of the humanities and advocates for their foundational role in a democratic society.

Funding for this fellowship was provided from the center’s endowment and by grants from The Duke Endowment, the Henry Luce Foundation, the UNCF/Mellon Programs and the National Endowment for the Humanities, as well as contributions from alumni and friends of the center.