Citation

The Body: Reconstructing Judith Butler’s Theory of Sex/Gender

Abstract | Word Stems | Keywords | Association | Citation | Get this Document | Similar Titles




STOP!

You can now view the document associated with this citation by clicking on the "View Document as HTML" link below.

View Document as HTML:
Click here to view the document

Abstract:

Butler refuses to fix the body as primary, as antecedent to discourse. ‘The body posited as prior to the sign is always posited or signified as prior’ (1993: 30). We cannot have any access to the body except through discourse. Yet, this does not mean that the body can be reduced to discourse. Indeed, the body exceeds discourse, and reworks the very norms that would constrain it. Butler has as little patience for an idealism that would reduce all matter to signs as she does with a materialism that would reductively separate matter from signs. The former ignores the fact that matter cannot be created by discourse; the latter ignores the fact that matter is always and only materialised through discourse. Both remain blind to the simple truth that all signs are themselves material (1993: 15, 30).
For Butler, therefore, the body can never serve as an ontological foundation (Stone 2005: 11). The body cannot ground a theory of feminist politics any more than it can ground a theory of gender. Nonetheless, to say this is not to dismiss the body, nor is it to ignore the critics’ constant question, ‘what about the body?’ (1993: ix). While Butler rejects any theory grounded in an ontology of the body, she still finds something fundamental about bodies: bodies, for Butler, are vulnerable. A body is both dependent upon others and subject to violation by another, by others. Through our bodies we always remain exposed to others, and our very vulnerability ties us to others (2004b: 20, 22). In this sense, and only in this sense, we find something primary about the body, something fundamental, undeniable. This paper will demonstrate that Butler takes the body just as seriously – and, at times, perhaps much more seriously – than her critics.
The problem is not the body per se. What is lacking in Butler’s politico-theoretic project is not an attentiveness to the potential pain and suffering of bodies: Butler has been centrally concerned with this issue from the very beginning of her work. Rather, Butler’s critics ask after the materiality of the body, I think, because they are concerned about what Butler’s theory of gender does with/to sex. Butler’s critics, both implicitly and explicitly, worry most about the primacy and materiality of sex, and the epistemological grounding that it provides. More to the point: if sex is really gender ‘all the way down’, then is there no such thing as sex? And if everything is gender, then does the body no longer matter? I will try to reconstruct this implicit logic of the critics, to illustrate that the criticisms about ‘the body’ stem from a much deeper concern about the place of sex in Butler’s radical theory of gender.
As an answer to her critics, the title Bodies that Matter contains within it the straightforward assertion that bodies do matter. But the word ‘matter’ in the title also clearly carries a double meaning. In the text, Butler articulates a theory of materialisation: she shows how bodies matter in the sense of becoming materialised through discourse. Perhaps, however, what her critics want most of all is to know how, within a radical constructivist theory of gender, the body matters in the sense of being important, proving significant for both theory and politics. Butler was undoubtedly cognisant of the two senses of matter within the title that she herself chose. And yet, to answer this question concerning the second sense of matter requires a further exploration than Butler has explicitly provided of the role of ‘sex’ within a theory that proves sex to be subject to gender norms. If sex no longer serves as the ontological ground that gives rise to gender, then does sex simply disappear? And if it does not, then what role will it play?
Working with both the resources supplied by Butler herself (her writings) and those called on by her (the writings of Foucault and Beauvoir), this essay will theorise the body by way of reconstructing a Butlerian theory of sex/gender. The key to such a reconstruction will lie in insisting on two points simultaneously: 1) always stressed by Butler, sex is itself gendered and thus sex does not lie outside of gender norms, nor causally produce them, but is instead a product of those norms, and 2) not often emphasised or made clear by Butler, sex cannot be reduced to gender. The category of sex has a crucial role to play even within a radical theory of sex/gender that takes sex itself to be gendered. To gender sex is not to do away with sex. This point can be elaborated and explained within the frame of Butler’s project, even if she herself has not always been careful to stress it.

Most Common Document Word Stems:

butler (255), bodi (239), sex (216), gender (214), foucault (109), polit (84), theori (60), one (60), new (52), beauvoir (52), read (50), j (46), press (45), critic (45), univers (43), york (42), argument (41), cool (41), claim (37), way (37), norm (35),

Author's Keywords:

Butler, Political Theory, Sex, Gender, The Body
Convention
Need a solution for abstract management? All Academic can help! Contact us today to find out how our system can help your annual meeting.
Submission - Custom fields, multiple submission types, tracks, audio visual, multiple upload formats, automatic conversion to pdf.Review - Peer Review, Bulk reviewer assignment, bulk emails, ranking, z-score statistics, and multiple worksheets!
Reports - Many standard and custom reports generated while you wait. Print programs with participant indexes, event grids, and more!Scheduling - Flexible and convenient grid scheduling within rooms and buildings. Conflict checking and advanced filtering.
Communication - Bulk email tools to help your administrators send reminders and responses. Use form letters, a message center, and much more!Management - Search tools, duplicate people management, editing tools, submission transfers, many tools to manage a variety of conference management headaches!
Click here for more information.

Association:
Name: American Political Science Association
URL:
http://www.apsanet.org


Citation:
URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p150566_index.html
Direct Link:
HTML Code:

MLA Citation:

Chambers, Samuel. "The Body: Reconstructing Judith Butler’s Theory of Sex/Gender" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Marriott, Loews Philadelphia, and the Pennsylvania Convention Center, Philadelphia, PA, Aug 31, 2006 <Not Available>. 2013-12-16 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p150566_index.html>

APA Citation:

Chambers, S. A. , 2006-08-31 "The Body: Reconstructing Judith Butler’s Theory of Sex/Gender" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Marriott, Loews Philadelphia, and the Pennsylvania Convention Center, Philadelphia, PA Online <APPLICATION/PDF>. 2013-12-16 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p150566_index.html

Publication Type: Proceeding
Abstract: Butler refuses to fix the body as primary, as antecedent to discourse. ‘The body posited as prior to the sign is always posited or signified as prior’ (1993: 30). We cannot have any access to the body except through discourse. Yet, this does not mean that the body can be reduced to discourse. Indeed, the body exceeds discourse, and reworks the very norms that would constrain it. Butler has as little patience for an idealism that would reduce all matter to signs as she does with a materialism that would reductively separate matter from signs. The former ignores the fact that matter cannot be created by discourse; the latter ignores the fact that matter is always and only materialised through discourse. Both remain blind to the simple truth that all signs are themselves material (1993: 15, 30).
For Butler, therefore, the body can never serve as an ontological foundation (Stone 2005: 11). The body cannot ground a theory of feminist politics any more than it can ground a theory of gender. Nonetheless, to say this is not to dismiss the body, nor is it to ignore the critics’ constant question, ‘what about the body?’ (1993: ix). While Butler rejects any theory grounded in an ontology of the body, she still finds something fundamental about bodies: bodies, for Butler, are vulnerable. A body is both dependent upon others and subject to violation by another, by others. Through our bodies we always remain exposed to others, and our very vulnerability ties us to others (2004b: 20, 22). In this sense, and only in this sense, we find something primary about the body, something fundamental, undeniable. This paper will demonstrate that Butler takes the body just as seriously – and, at times, perhaps much more seriously – than her critics.
The problem is not the body per se. What is lacking in Butler’s politico-theoretic project is not an attentiveness to the potential pain and suffering of bodies: Butler has been centrally concerned with this issue from the very beginning of her work. Rather, Butler’s critics ask after the materiality of the body, I think, because they are concerned about what Butler’s theory of gender does with/to sex. Butler’s critics, both implicitly and explicitly, worry most about the primacy and materiality of sex, and the epistemological grounding that it provides. More to the point: if sex is really gender ‘all the way down’, then is there no such thing as sex? And if everything is gender, then does the body no longer matter? I will try to reconstruct this implicit logic of the critics, to illustrate that the criticisms about ‘the body’ stem from a much deeper concern about the place of sex in Butler’s radical theory of gender.
As an answer to her critics, the title Bodies that Matter contains within it the straightforward assertion that bodies do matter. But the word ‘matter’ in the title also clearly carries a double meaning. In the text, Butler articulates a theory of materialisation: she shows how bodies matter in the sense of becoming materialised through discourse. Perhaps, however, what her critics want most of all is to know how, within a radical constructivist theory of gender, the body matters in the sense of being important, proving significant for both theory and politics. Butler was undoubtedly cognisant of the two senses of matter within the title that she herself chose. And yet, to answer this question concerning the second sense of matter requires a further exploration than Butler has explicitly provided of the role of ‘sex’ within a theory that proves sex to be subject to gender norms. If sex no longer serves as the ontological ground that gives rise to gender, then does sex simply disappear? And if it does not, then what role will it play?
Working with both the resources supplied by Butler herself (her writings) and those called on by her (the writings of Foucault and Beauvoir), this essay will theorise the body by way of reconstructing a Butlerian theory of sex/gender. The key to such a reconstruction will lie in insisting on two points simultaneously: 1) always stressed by Butler, sex is itself gendered and thus sex does not lie outside of gender norms, nor causally produce them, but is instead a product of those norms, and 2) not often emphasised or made clear by Butler, sex cannot be reduced to gender. The category of sex has a crucial role to play even within a radical theory of sex/gender that takes sex itself to be gendered. To gender sex is not to do away with sex. This point can be elaborated and explained within the frame of Butler’s project, even if she herself has not always been careful to stress it.

Get this Document:

Find this citation or document at one or all of these locations below. The links below may have the citation or the entire document for free or you may purchase access to the document. Clicking on these links will change the site you're on and empty your shopping cart.

Associated Document Available Political Research Online
Abstract Only All Academic Inc.
Associated Document Available American Political Science Association

Document Type: application/pdf
Page count: 35
Word count: 15202
Text sample:
T HE B ODY Reconstructing Judith Butler’s Theory of Sex/Gender Samuel A. Chambers Department of Politics and IR Swansea University Singleton Park Swansea SA2 8PP UK Paper prepared for delivery at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association Philadelphia PA 30 August – 3 September 2006. Please do not cite without permission of the author. Feedback welcomed. Dr. Samuel A. Chambers Swansea University 5 July 2006 The Body 1: Reconstructing Judith Butler’s Theory of Sex/Gender I confess
Families of Choice and other Life Experiments. New York: Routledge. Weir A. (1996) Sacrificial Logics: Feminist Theory and The Critique of Identity. London: Routledge. Wittgenstein L. (1958) Philosophical Investigations trans. G.E.M. Anscombe. Oxford: Blackwell. Wittig M. (1992) The Straight Mind and Other Essays. Boston: Beacon Press. Wittig Monique. (1973) Le corps lesbien. Paris: Editions de Minuit. Young I. (1990) Justice and the Politics of Difference. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Young I. (2002) Inclusion and Democracy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Similar Titles:
The Political Interests of Gender: Reconstructing Feminist Theories of Politics and Political Capacity

Do Gender Quotas Work? An Exploratory Study of Gender Quotas and Political Efficacy in sub-Saharan Africa

How Much Do You Learn About Politics at Work? Exploring the Gender Gap in Political Knowledge


 
All Academic, Inc. is your premier source for research and conference management. Visit our website, www.allacademic.com, to see how we can help you today.