António Custódio das Neves: a Trans* counter-archival practice for a potential history of Trans* persons in Portugal

Catarina Martins

Keywords: Trans* History; Trans* Archives; Counter-Archival Practices; Potential History; Gender

Participation: presential

‘Woman-Man’ or ‘Man-Woman’, António or Antónia this is how this person arrives at the present through a book from 1879. As a trans*, non-binary person, reading this book bothered me due to the almost absolute reduction of the experience of this life to a matter of cross- dressing. A woman who dressed ‘like a’ man and who, when was 'unmasked' by police interrogation on the 6th of March of 1879, due to gender transgression for more than ten years, had to return to female clothes.

Taking this story today is essential for us to be able to talk about a trans* history in Portugal. This implies, of course, referring to a trans* before the trans* (Mesch, 2020), to the recovery in the literature, judicial, medical archives, - among other colonial apparatuses of power that make the body enter as an object of knowledge -, of stories that are not the stories that these archives want to tell (Steedman, 2001). Thus, this presentation seeks to bring, from this literary text and two photographs that are reproduced in it, a counter-history that may constitute a future practice of a trans* archive (Edwards, 2015). The literary description, which is a site of violence, will be sabotaged (Spivak, 1999) here through a visual essay in which the experimentation of potential history (Azoulay, 2019) through visual representation allows for a reparative history of a trans* existence.


Azoulay, A. A. (2019). Potential History. Unlearning Imperialism. Verso.
Edwards, R. (2015). “This Is Not a Girl”. A Trans* Archival Reading. Transgender Studies Quarterly, 2(4), 650–665.
Mesch, R. (2020). Before Trans. Three Gender Stories from Nineteenth-Century. Stanford University Press.
Spivak, G. C. (1999). A Critique of Postcolonial Reason. Toward a History of the Vanishing Present. Harvard University Press.
Steedman, C. (2001). Dust. The Archive and Cultural History. Rutgers University Press.


Catarina Martins - Professor of Arts Education at the University of Porto (she*/they). Graduated in Fine Arts and PhD in Education. Their work focus on histories of arts education in Portugal, with an interest on counter-hegemonical practices in mobilizing archival materials in the present.