Undoing Gender

Undoing Gender

Undoing Gender

Undoing Gender

Synopsis

Undoing Gender constitutes Judith Butler's recent reflections on gender and sexuality, focusing on new kinship, psychoanalysis and the incest taboo, transgender, intersex, diagnostic categories, social violence, and the tasks of social transformation. In terms that draw from feminist and queer theory, Butler considers the norms that govern--and fail to govern--gender and sexuality as they relate to the constraints on recognizable personhood. The book constitutes a reconsideration of her earlier view on gender performativity from Gender Trouble. In this work, the critique of gender norms is clearly situated within the framework of human persistence and survival. And to "do" one's gender in certain ways sometimes implies "undoing" dominant notions of personhood. She writes about the "New Gender Politics" that has emerged in recent years, a combination of movements concerned with transgender, transsexuality, intersex, and their complex relations to feminist and queer theory.

Excerpt

The essays included here represent some of my most recent work on gender and sexuality focusing on the question of what it might mean to undo restrictively normative conceptions of sexual and gendered life. Equally, however, the essays are about the experience of becoming undone in both good and bad ways. Sometimes a normative conception of gender can undo one's personhood, undermining the capacity to persevere in a livable life. Other times, the experience of a normative restriction becoming undone can undo a prior conception of who one is only to inaugurate a relatively newer one that has greater livability as its aim.

If gender is a kind of a doing, an incessant activity performed, in part, without one's knowing and without one's willing, it is not for that reason automatic or mechanical. On the contrary, it is a practice of improvisation within a scene of constraint. Moreover, one does not "do" one's gender alone. One is always "doing" with or for another, even if the other is only imaginary. What I call my "own" gender appears perhaps at times as something that I author or, indeed, own. But the terms that make up one's own gender are, from the start, outside oneself, beyond oneself in a sociality that has no single author (and that radically contests the notion of authorship itself).

Although being a certain gender does not imply that one will desire a certain way, there is nevertheless a desire that is constitutive of gender

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