Precarity and Elemental Difference: On Butler’s Re-writing of Irigarayan Difference

Political Theory 45 (3):319-341 (2017)
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It is widely accepted that Judith Butler’s work represents a fundamental departure from that of Luce Irigaray. However, in a 2001 essay, Butler suggests that Irigaray’s work plays a formative role in her own, and that the problematization of the biological and cultural distinction that Irigaray’s notion of sexual difference accomplishes must be rethought and multiplied rather than simply rejected. In this essay, I place the notion of precarity in the work of Butler alongside that of sexual difference in Irigaray, to show how together they seek to address violence to certain bodies through an approach that is at once ecological and political. I show that Butler’s concept of precarity has deep, largely unappreciated, roots in the work of Irigaray. Butler explores precarity as bodily multiplicity in ways that pluralize Irigaray’s own ethics and politics of difference. Butler is, in other words, rewriting sexual difference as precarity.



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Emily Anne Parker
Towson University

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