Judith Butler and Luce Irigaray Feminist resources for overcoming oppressive exclusions

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Description: Feminist philosophers Judith Butler and Luce Irigaray are often read as diametrically opposed. I address the prevailing interpretation of Butler as a radical social construction theorist who cannot account for either a body or a subject, and Irigaray as an essentialist who cannot escape the body. I argue against these polarizing descriptions, and offer interpretations of these authors that place them in a productive dialogue. While detailing the philosophical and psychoanalytic backgrounds that divide Butler and Irigaray, I identify areas of consonance in their respective critiques of the self/other logic of subject formation in Western philosophical and psychoanalytic theory. I argue that Butler's appropriation of key psychoanalytic concepts allows for a viable--albeit fluid--theory of subjectivity. Irigaray similarly maintains a critical, but productive relationship to psychoanalytic views of the self. Implicit in their criticisms is a deconstruction of naturalizing views of the body. Both authors discuss a non-dualistic view of the mind/body relationship, and reject the binary materialism/idealism. On my reading, these authors critique dualism, but do not definitively prescribe an alternative--their focus is on employing strategy to undermine traditional views. Butler privileges parody as a strategy and Irigaray deploys mimesis. I demonstrate both the power and limitation of these strategies. I conclude with a discussion of Butler's and Irigaray's rethinking of ethics, subjectivity, embodiment, and the law. While Butler and Irigaray offer resources for challenging traditional views of subjects and bodies, and begin to develop new legal and ethical theories, their work indicates that exclusionary structures must be challenged from more than one locus. The dialogue is thus opened to other perspectives on overcoming exclusion.
Language: English
Format: Degree Work