ICI Edition

What is the future of sexual difference — long considered to constitute a perfect whole, then deemed a limited, even a masculine conception? Insofar as ‘two sexes’ ever stood for oppositionality and complementarity, the alternatives appeared to be sexual sameness, identity, or equality. If these options once seemed to saturate the field of conceptual possibilities, new challenges to the imagination of sex have more recently emerged in the languages of différance, queer, trans, assemblage and plasticity. Among these, this lecture reflected on a curiously persistent interest in sexual difference in the emergent field of new materialisms. In fact, these become contexts in which the qualities of a maximal plasticity are attributed to sexual difference. Even Luce Irigaray finds herself reconfigured, and to surprising ends — now seen as offering the resources for going beyond sexual difference. The lecture asked to what extent this form of looking back can be seen as a transformative strategy available for a broader deployment.

Penelope Deutscher is Professor in the Department of Philosophy at Northwestern University. Her publications include The Philosophy of Simone de Beauvoir: Ambiguity, Conversion, Resistance (2008), How to Read Derrida (2005), A Politics of Impossible Difference: The Later Work of Luce Irigaray (2002) and Yielding Gender: Feminism, Deconstruction and the History of Philosophy (1997). She co-edited (with Françoise Collin) Repenser le  politique: l’apport du féminisme (2004) and (with Kelly Oliver) Enigmas: Essays on Sarah Kofman, (1999). She is currently working on two projects: From Analogy, on the historical grounding of women’s rights claims in analogical proximities with  animals, slaves  and sovereigns; and Foucault’s Children: Thanatopolitics and Reproductive Futurism – elements of which currently appear in South Atlantic Quarterly, Journal of Bioethical Inquiry, Theory, Culture and Society, and Telos.

In English
Organized by

ICI Berlin

The lecture is part of the ICI Lecture Series Constituting Wholes. After the disenchantments of the postmodern post-cold-war period and in the face of global crises – be they financial, economic, political, or ecological – the critical need to include a holistic perspective is felt with renewed urgency, as is the concern that the situatedness of any such perspective and the multiple, incommensurable ways of constituting wholes may be forgotten.

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