Subtle Bodies and the Other Jouissance


In her conclusion to Gender Trouble (1990) , Judith Butler proposes to move from parody to politics through a deconstruction of identity and re-description of identities which, while they already exist, are deemed unintelligible and impossible by the hegemonic order of society and culture. “If identities were no longer fixed as the premises of a political syllogism, and politics no longer understood as a set of practices derived from the alleged interests that belong to a set of ready-made subjects,” Butler writes, “a new configuration of politics would surely emerge from the ruins of the old” (149). Arguably, Butler has tried to make good on this gambit in much of what she has written since the publication of this first major work. This is most clearly so in The Psychic Life of Power (1997), which concludes with a description of the ego as a melancholic response to power imposing on a subject a choice of objects she must lose (even if she never had them) in order to find her self,and the same line appears to turn up in her latest works, Undoing Gender (2004) and Giving an Account of Oneself (2005). With attention to the ethics of responsibility, Butler closes the latter with a discussion of the formation of the self out of a relation with itself occasioned by a risky encounter with what is not itself, by a “willingness to become undone in relation to others” that “constitutes our chance of becoming human” (136).

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