To have or to be one’s sexual practices: Discourse, performance and sexuality in Judith Butler’s gender theory

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To Have or to Be One’s Sexual Practices: Discourse, Performance and Sexuality in Judith Butler’s Gender Theory

Being marked by discursive practices

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While she defines gender identity as performative, Judith Butler gives it the form of a discourse through which it finds itself identified and affirmed. [1]  This study will only take into account the first three...[1] It is about an group of signifying elements that are organized according to some structure into a group or a composition that in itself draws its signification just as much from these elements as from their organization. Gender identity is thus the outcome of distinctive elements being structured according to a certain grammar and a certain usage. They take the form of an group of laws that is, at the same time, a repertoire, and that differentiates each individual from those adopting another gender. These elements do not only have a language form: they are words, but are as much gestures, postures or attitudes that take meaning in referring to, more precisely, in signaling toward a gender identity. In much the same way as the received proper name or as adjective and participle agreement, these types of conduct constitute marks that indicate and signify belonging to a gender. Gender is thus a stylization of language and body that identifies the subject in the capacity of the specificities of a given gender that are “marked and formed by discursive practices.” [2]  Bodies that Matter, p. 1.[2] Such a conception places gender identity on the side of representation or performance. It is a question of taking linguistic and physical postures that correspond to a certain identity. In order to understand what is at play, Judith Butler attributes a function to gendered uttering (énonciation) that is neither constative nor dissembling as is the case in theatrical performance, which carries out a role that is substituted for the identity of the actor for the time of the show. Gendered utterances (énoncés) are defined as performative inasmuch as they are speech acts, which signifies that uttering’s function is to produce an effect and that performance has a dynamic ritual. With this in mind, Judith Butler defines the nature of the gendered utterances taken on by individuals and, in particular, the gendered utterances of their sexual practices.

The performative uttering of gender

The history of gender put into words and gestures

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To define gender identity as performative means that the gendered utterance cannot content itself with signifying one thing, but actualizes that which it names, such that there is an apparent coincidence between signifying and acting. [3]  Judith Butler, Trouble dans le genre, op.cit., p. 259-271;...[3] Identity is indissociable from the utterances that mark it. The gendered subject has no ontological status independent from the acts that constitute its reality. It does not preexist as such in its action and is therefore an effect of its own discourse. It does not ontologically precede its different roles and functions by which its identity takes on meaning and is socially visible. To actualize this effect, the utterance must be produced according to a determined form. The uttered elements as well as the manner in which they are uttered must respect a constraining and regulated norm. These words and these gestures are inscribed in the frame of a normative definition of what gender identities must be and the proper way of expressing them.

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This situation is distinct from what a performance would be in the sense of a result or of a theatrical undertaking. On the one hand, the expression of gender fulfills an identity established in advance like when it comes to succeeding in attaining an objective. Judith Butler sets herself apart from any essentialist conception of identity. Gendered discourse that the subject carries on its body and in its language is not the explanation of a mental or bodily nature. [4]  Judith Butler, Trouble dans le genre, op.cit., p. 71,...[4]Without affirming that there would be neither a psyche nor a proper biological body prior to the acts marking one’s gender, Judith Butler considers that the latter not only define identity, but also make it effective. Gender does not express them, but constitutes another discursive reality that takes their place. Gender identity expressed in discourse is not therefore the expression or the more completed and optimized realization of the potentialities or the capacities of an individual identified in advance, like when one realizes a performance. [5]  Véronique Billat, Physiologie et méthodologie de l’entrainement...[5] On the other hand, it is not a about a mask worn by an actor for the time of a performance, above or in place of one’s true identity. Identity is not a masquerade, inasmuch as a false identity would be played without the subject truly taking it on. [6]  Judith Butler, Trouble dans le genre, op.cit., p. 131-133;...[6] Gendered discourse is not the equivalent of a piece of clothing that it would be possible to put on, without, for as much, the appearance thus taken truly expressing the hidden identity behind this mask. On the contrary, the appearance thus taken by the usage of gendered discourse truly and ontologically defines the subject who assumes it. It is not a theatrical role that would be added to pre-discursive sex as if to give it artificial supplementary properties instead of replacing them.

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If gender identity is, in this way, not a performance, it is insofar as the gendered discourse assumed by the subject is the condition of possibility for one’s identity. It is neither the subject’s actualization nor its mask. It is not a tool used by a subject defined in advance. If she is speaking about discursive practice or discourse, these words and these gestures, by which the gendered subject exists as such, appear then to instead be about story as it is defined by the linguist Émile Benveniste. [7]  Émile Benveniste, Problèmes de linguistique générale,...[7] He opposes story (histoire), which does not imply the narrator’s engagement, with discourse (discours) which is personal. Insofar as there is no preexisting subject who assumes a gender, then properly speaking it is a question of story. The subject is not in a relationship of exteriority with the usage that it makes of this repertoire and this grammar, such that the subject cannot be defined independently from it. The grammar of the “discourse” that bears the gender identity of a subject is set apart, in this way, from the grammar used in ordinary language, in which a subject produces a complement by means of an active verb, as if these subjects preceded and activated their varied identifications. It is here a question of a “grammatical fiction” [8]  Judith Butler, Ces Corps qui comptent, op.cit., p....[8] that assumes a subject anterior to the subject’s action. Identified as such, the event described and the authority of the discourse that describes it is an artifice. It is not possible to define a present of story since, for Émile Benveniste, [9]  Émile Benveniste, Problèmes de linguistique générale,...[9] this coincidence defines the present. The uttering by which the subject assumes its gender is, from this point of view, outside of the subject’s temporality since it establishes the point of view from which this identity is produced. If the description or the record of a person’s identity assumes the usage of ordinary grammar, one must be conscious of the fact that ordinary grammar leads to a misunderstanding of the logic at work. [10]  Nathanel Wadbled, “Dire quelque chose de soi : la théorie...[10] It is only once the subject retroactively assumes its gendered story that it can implement a discourse in which it recognizes its words and gestures as being those of the man or of the woman that it is. Identity is always suspended while it is being expressed. [11]  Nathanel Wadbled, “Exergue: la fiction de soi et l’archive...[11]

Reiterating the uttering of oneself

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Performatively producing a gendered identity is, however, not enough; it still has to continue defining the individual that assumes it. This action must be disseminated like its own echo. It is not about a singular act, not only insofar as all subjects assuming the same gender make that gender, but also inasmuch as a gendered subject must continue to repeat it in order to remain as such. Its existence in time, and not only as instant, is inseparable from this reiterated construction, which assures its persistence and its stability.

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This reiteration implies that, as Émile Benveniste observes, the separation between story and discourse is, in practice, not perfectly clear: it is possible to instantly pass from one to the other without appearing to do so and for one plane to take charge of the other. [12]  Émile Benveniste, 1966, Problèmes de linguistique générale,...[12] As soon as one utters something new, the already identified subject is put back into play. It comes back to the plane of the story in order to constitute a new narrative, [13]  Here, I understand the term narrative in the common...[13] but this story itself is assumed by the subject of the first narrative. Judith Butler does not seem then to describe a temporal process wherein these three moments would succeed each other in the space of an instant, but rather a dialectic wherein the planes of uttering overlap and actually become indiscernible. She clarifies that the subject constituted in advance is attached to its identity and that it only puts its identity back into play in order to better attempt to persevere at doing so. The subject appears as the author of the quotation, pro-actively while reiterating, and retroactively while it is reiterated, even though its very uttering reconstitutes the subject as it is. There is not only a coincidence, both between the described event and the instance of the discourse that it describes, but also between this present and the story that comes out of it. This coincidence between the action of uttering and the uttered act, noted by Émile Benveniste in the case of performatives, [14]  Émile Benveniste, Problèmes de linguistique générale,...[14] allows one to define the possibility of a historical present. The consciousness that the subject has of the continuity of its existence is allowed for by this situation.

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If the gender norm was being precisely reproduced, this present would take the form of eternity. Insofar as the reiteration is actually never perfectly identically actualized, it allows one, at the same time, to sui-referentially identify the different present moments of this existence in which the subject assumes, at each instance of discourse, a different story. Gaps are ineluctably produced upon each repetition or citation. [15]  Judith Butler, Trouble dans le genre, op.cit., p. 263-265;...[15] The uttering of gender is reproduced at every instant, such that, each time, its iteration takes place in a new enunciative context and according to a new interpretation. This modifies both the content of what is uttered and the modalities of uttering. The conventions that authorize the exercise of the performative are not actually perfectly in place, in such a way that utterings “break off” from their context. The reiteration is never precise and the gender is thus an ideal that it is impossible to perfectly incarnate. It is on this level that Judith Butler situates not only the possibility, but also the necessity of subversion. This subversion is ineluctably produced and what is at stake is assuming and amplifying the subversion more than voluntarily provoking it. The performative dynamic is one of re-elaboration and subversion of the norm and not one of its exit. Changes and alterations are produced at the site where new forms, which demand to be recognized, appear, and these forms can be recognized by renouncing the ideal of a norm that is perfectly actualized. If the performatives fail, they do not fail completely. In a general way, Judith defines performativity by distancing herself from a double illusion: just as much the illusion of the uttering of gender that would succeed and would produce an ideal gender as that of an uttering that would necessarily fail. [16]  Nathanel Wadbled, “Pour un conservatisme progressiste....[16] She makes them play together in order to think about a performative uttering that would succeed in constituting a norm while failing to perfectly actualize it.

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The consequence is that the subject’s identity exceeds both that which the uttering of the gender norm authorizes and the image in which it was recognized at the moment of the performative reiteration. Gender identity is made from discontinuities in which the norms are reinvested and materialized at odds with what would be their ideal realization. Gender dissonances are thus not secondary accidents. There is a proliferation of identities that are displacements of the incorrectly cited norm. Consistency is only an appearance, which Judith Butler qualifies as playacting. [17]  Judith Butler, Trouble dans le genre, op.cit., p. 239;...[17] If identification has a lasting and desired substance, it can only ever be completed in a phanstasmatic and fictitious staging. It is what allows one to understand the definition of the function of uttering as performative rather than as constative or theatrical. If it summarizes the way in which the subject is produced, it also allows for the consideration of this subject as always being out of phase with what one expects. On the contrary, realizing an objective or putting oneself in the skin of a character implies a reproduction of a predefined role.

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The definition of a stable gender identity, just as much prior to its uttering as upon its reemergence through a new uttering, cannot be anything but retroactive and, in a sense, is always anachronistic, since it assumes the existence of an essence before its conditions of existence have been realized. The way in which the subject can be recognized in its acts is thus not in itself an apparatus by which the subject is constituted, but one by which it takes consciousness of the continuity of its existence. It produces this retroactive consciousness that, even if it is an illusion, constitutes it. Judith Butler thus displaces the subjectivizing function that Michel Foucault names avowal [l’aveu]: it is not what the subject establishes, but what the subject’s perseverance establishes. Having become, by one’s actions, someone other than oneself, the individual reconstitutes the narrative of its identity in order to recognize itself therein once again. The individual now recognizes itself in what had previously constituted it. If the stability of its identity is mined from the interior by the way that it must be repeated and by the fact that this repetition is the narrativization of gaps, on each occasion it reconstitutes a coherent narrative of itself in a presentist fashion: the coherence is reconstituted from one’s present identity more than from the assessment of what it truly was. Everyone constantly remakes their experience of themselves by telling a new story. It is in this way that Judith Butler opposes theatrical performance, consisting in the imitation of an original, to performativity defined as a citation without original, acting as though there were, however, an original to reproduce. [18]  Judith Butler, ibid., p. 261.[18]

The performative constitution of sexuality: Gendered utterances and sexual utterances

Subsuming sexuality under gender

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Gendered identity thus defined is, among other things, “a practical definitio” [19]  Judith Butler, Le Pouvoir des mots, op.cit., p. 24...[19] of the body and of desire. If Judith Butler does not thematize as such the question of sexuality, the way that she evokes the body enters it into the general perspective of her theory of the performativity of gender identity. The body has a central place there, since the performative uttering of gender takes place through gestures. Sexual activities are one example of such gestures. Judith Butler makes practically no mention of sexuality and very rarely mentions the erogenous body. If the question of the erogenous body and sexual practices does not have proper theoretical autonomy it is that it does not reflect upon acts that have a particular essence. In an era in which the philosopher Michael Foucault has given sexuality a central place in defining identity, this situation can be surprising. [20]  Michel Foucault, Histoire de la sexualité. Tome 1,...[20] Judith Butler actually marks a movement toward the question of gender that is due to two relatively independent causes. It is not a question of moving into this new era whose coming was predicted by Michel Foucault and in which sexuality would no longer be sexual, but instead a question of moving and reformulating this centrality within the theoretical and political frame of feminism.

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From a theoretical point of view, gender is a more general question which engages with the subject’s actions beyond one’s sexual practices and encompasses them. This explanation appears implicitly in the way that Judith Butler treats sexuality as one uttering of gender among others. She is not unaware of the importance that sexual practices take, but what is habitually considered within the scope of sexuality takes its place in a broader frame. [21]  Judith Butler, Trouble dans le genre, op.cit., p. 224-226;...[21] This conception is part of the heritage of a feminism that, for that matter, she cites abundantly: when Monique Wittig declares that lesbians are not women, she folds sexuality back into gender. From a political point of view, the emphasis of gender over sexuality comes from Judith Butler’s will to enter herself into the field of feminism. It is not a question, as it is for Monique Witting, of declaring in this way that it is possible to be something other than a woman or a man, but to show that it is possible to be a woman in some way besides having a heteronormative sexuality. The issue is one of freeing feminism from the idea of a necessary, coherent and unique base, rather than multiplying the sexual identities that justify specific commitments. [22]  Judith Butler, Trouble dans le genre, op.cit., p. 66,...[22] This signifies that a subject can utter itself performatively as a woman in a plurality of ways, so as to add a descriptive or a predicate to this feminine quality without, for all that, transforming it substantially. The different acts that are then put in place are of the order of differences that are produced at the moment of citation of the gender norm.

The performative effectiveness of sexual practices

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Sexual identities are thus considered as variants of gender identity. They fit into a dual logic: both an effect of produced gendered identity and an act that produces it. If Judith Butler does not explicitly link them, she describes two dynamics that play together. They are articulated logically in a dialectic as two modalities of the same dynamic.

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On a first level, sexual practices are the effect of some erogenous body constituted by identification and nomination even before the bodily act. [23]  Judith Butler, Trouble dans le genre, op.cit., p. 168-168,...[23] Before engaging in sexual practices, the subject is drawn into a group of gendered utterances. The subject is identified by gender and constitutes its desires and its body as a function of this identification insofar as some sexuality is normatively associated to some gender. [24]  Nathanel Wadbled, “Subjectivation et organisation des...[24] The erogenous body is thus the effect of a projection more than the effect of an action. It is not a sexual utterance that produces sexuality but a non-sexual gendered utterance that produces a gender identity that implies a certain sexuality. The erogenous body’s meaning is acquired in advance of all sexual practice. Judith Butler thus reformulates the Foucauldian idea according to which the sexuated body is the effect of a conceptual utterance which gives a body and not the effect of a gestural utterance. If it is indeed a question of a performative effect of gendered utterances, then sexuality is thus not performatively constituted in the sense that Judith Butler defines it because its uttering is not sexual. To take up the categories of John Austin, it functions according to a perlocutionary logic: what it ultimately produces is not immediately that which is uttered but rather the consequence of that which is uttered. On the contrary, the performative logical of identity corresponds to that of the illocutionary wherein the effect of the utterance becomes confused with its uttering. From this point on, when the subject is engaged in sexual practices, it realizes its gender identity constatively and not performatively. However, these acts are, at the same time, performative, insofar as the utterance through which the subject perseveres in its being is both a personal discourse and a history without referential subject. Sexual practices illocutionarily reproduce the gender identity that the subject is attached to. Sexual acts thus produce a sexual identity. [25]  Judith Butler, Ces Corps qui comptent, op.cit., p....[25] Identity and sexual practices are not the consequence of a gender identity, but rather they constitute it. The body appropriates the gender norm on its own. Judith Butler positions herself within this point of view when she maintains that one must again draw into question the insistence on consent as preceding sexuality in every case as though it were constitutive of the person. [26]  Judith Butler, Le Pouvoir des mots, op.cit., p. 15...[26] Consent is thus the effect of the retroactive illusion of the consistency of an always already present identity. Then again, it takes on meaning in the definition of sexuality as the consequence of a subjective identity defined and identified in advance. The ambiguity comes from the fact that the two logics actually always function together: the consciousness that the subject has of its identity then appears as the conjugated effect of its attachment to its gender identity and to the bodily reiteration of sexual utterances.

Troubling and not contesting genders

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These actions can only produce gaps, and cannot contest gendered identity. Unlike Michel Foucault, she fits all sexual practice back into this frame. For the philosopher, certain non-normative practices are more than occasions for subverting normatively established identities by opening up signification. They question their very existence and the possibility of defining an identity. If the heart of his work is to analyze the effect of the norm, again and again, in this way, he opens up the possibility of seeing something else emerge. Judith Butler, on the contrary, is attentive to showing that it is about a fantasy or an illusion whose nature is similar to and symmetrical with the nature of the perfect consistency of an identity produced by an always identical utterance: she considers that it is never possible to free oneself from the norm. In that case, she plays Foucauldian thought against herself: against Michel Foucault, evoking possibilities of counter-attacks where a multiplicity of pleasures exceeding every norm are produced; it is about asking the Foucauldian question of normative regulation of these practices without allowing for the existence of exteriority to the norm. [27]  Judith Butler, Trouble dans le genre, op.cit., p. ...[27] Judith Butler considers the possibility of a failure of the performative makeup of gender through sexual practices insofar as the body would be a site that would constitutively escape from any attempt at sexual formatting. She especially picks up on the way in which Michel Foucault considers Herculine Barbin’s sexuality as existing outside of all identity, in a situation where categories of sex and gender have disappeared. [28]  Judith Butler, ibid., p. 202.[28] On other occasions, she evokes the possibility that the body would always be other, insofar as its erogenousness is unpredictable and can be radically recomposed with each sexual experience. [29]  Judith Butler, Ces Corps qui comptent, op.cit., p....[29] The body is then beyond what it utters. The site of erogenization becomes multiple and new unpredictable utterances appear, so that identity comes to be taken into a dynamic of proliferation. This transfer is not a reformulation, it is instead a substitution implying the possibility of other gender identities. [30]  Nathanel Wadbled, “Subjectivation et organisation des...[30]

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Something resists that is neither a role nor a norm.

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Nevertheless, Judith Butler explains that it is only an illusion of unrealizable exteriority. These practices are invariably taken charge of by a discourse that produces sexuality then conceals this production by designating it as untamable and outside of any norm. [31]  Judith Butler, Trouble dans le genre, op.cit., p. 165,...[31] What counts as exteriority is always relative to a domain of uttering that authorizes and produces this exteriority. It actualizes this by producing and controlling an ensemble of constitutive exclusions. Sexual practices that exceed the norm are therefore not the emergence of something impossible. They are understood by the norm as being abnormal. The erogenous body is never materialized outside of the norm, so that sexual practices in particular cannot redeploy it and cannot suspend it or transcend it. Practices that do not match with the norm are named and then reintroduced into the norm. Judith Butler first in with Foucauldian heritage in maintaining, in different way, that saying yes to sex is not saying no to power, it is following the norm. [32]  Michel Foucault, Histoire de la sexualité. Tome I....[32] She reformulates this in order to produce the effect of a construction of gender identity and to explain it with the performative nature of this identity. The consequence is that the political issue is not to recognize a proliferation of gender identities defined by their sexual practices, it is rather to affirm that the multiple ways of being a man or woman, that are more or less socially refused, are all legitimate. On this point, Judith Butler is opposed to the perspective that seeks to found new sexual identities outside of all reference to gender, but that are established in the name of a sexual enjoyment. It is particularly the case for queer theory which seeks to reformulate the very structure that produces these exclusions, whereas Judith Butler is attentive to making this structure dynamic.

Being alone faced with the norm

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One consequence of this modeling of sexual practices as performative utterances is the particular place that Judith Butler grants to other individuals to whom the subject is related whenever uttering its gender. They are in a relative position defined by a restrictive situation of observation. A performative utterance indeed cannot be effective unless it takes place in a discursive situation where the form of the uttering as well as the one who utters it are socially recognized by a public. [33]  Judith Butler, Trouble dans le genre, op.cit., p. 60,...[33] The uttering of gender is not only a performative act, but also a relational act by which the subject is represented in front of others and becomes visible. The subject is called upon by this public, even if the subject is not always directly present: the imperative is of being virtually recognized is always topical. The possibility of recognizing oneself as being called upon is constitutive since it determines the success of the performative utterance. In a sense, this is always the response to a virtual calling upon. Subjects are thus all taken into a two-part relation: they address one another and receive the addresses of one another. When Judith Butler considers the relationship with others, it is therefore always inasmuch as these others are agents of power through which power exercises its constraint. They demand that the subject be recognized according to rigid gender norms. Possible social relations are defined by this function and not by the possibility of an exchange: everyone comprises the instrument that updates the norm as faithfully as possible in its capacity of addressing others with the demand of being recognized itself. This instrument does not discuss nor does it negotiate the content of this norm, but it does impose it. The subject is alone, faced with its own image, the image that it constituted in order to recognize itself and in order to be recognized.

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In this frame, sexual practices are not considered by Judith Butler as relations between individuals whom, as a whole, construct their bodies and their desires. Everyone is, as it were, alone, faced with the norm and is performatively subjectified in a negotiation with the norm rather than in an exchange with one’s sexual partners. The uttering of the norm is the cause of the erogenous body and the cause of desire. In opposition, pleasures are not something that is produced in a body-to-body woven from desires, but something that is revealed in an identity that is uttered. The other, with whom sexual practices take place, is thus reduced to whatever defines it in a structural and functional relation, without its own characteristics being drawn into question. It could be a question of any other without particularized interest for a certain body or a certain psyche, as though sexuality were independent from its object. From this point of view, Judith Butler is in line with a structuralist heritage whose logic she does not draw into question. There is therefore no sexual relation, in the Lacanian sense of the term which states that, if there is sex, it is not tied to an actual relation. It is, on this subject, emblematic that Judith Butler mentions neither the orgasm nor love, [34]  She only mentions these questions in two works that...[34] which are two forms of this relation that she does not have in view. She remains limited to what happens in a performance that is not a performative repetition of the norm, but is rather a relationship of exchange and of interpenetration between bodies and desires. Perhaps then, the subject appears according to another modality that one would have to define. [35]  It would, for example, be possible to start from the...[35]This would be a way of thinking about sexual relationships as communication and no longer thinking about them as pragmatic: a form of discourse that is not focused on the self in order to address others, but offered to them, shared and constructed with them in an attention more than in an intention. [36]  Rather than John Austin’s discursive model, the one...[36]

Notes

[1] This study will only take into account the first three works of Judith Butler directly devoted to the modeling of gender as being performatively produced: Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, (New York: Routledge, 1990) [Trouble dans le genre. Le féminisme et la subversion de l’identité, (Paris: Éditions de la découverte, 2005]; Bodies that Matter: On The Discursive Limits of “Sex”, (New York: Routledge, 1993) [Ces Corps qui comptent. De la matérialité et des limites discursives du “sexe”, (Paris: Éditions Amsterdam, 2009)]; Excitable Speech: A Politics of the Performative, (New York: Routledge, 1997) [Le Pouvoir des mots. Politique du performatif, (Paris: Éditions Amsterdam, 2008].

[2] Bodies that Matter, p. 1.

[3] Judith Butler, Trouble dans le genre, op.cit., p. 259-271; Judith Butler, Ces Corps qui comptent, op.cit., p. 23-27, 117, 227-229; Judith Butler, Le Pouvoir des mots, op.cit., p. 82-83.

[4] Judith Butler, Trouble dans le genre, op.cit., p. 71, 270; Judith Butler, Ces Corps qui comptent, op.cit., p. 228, 14-19.

[5] Véronique Billat, Physiologie et méthodologie de l’entrainement de la théorie à la pratique, (Paris: Éditions De Boeck, 2012), p. 9.

[6] Judith Butler, Trouble dans le genre, op.cit., p. 131-133; Judith Butler, Ces Corps qui comptent, op.cit., p. 27, 233-236.

[7] Émile Benveniste, Problèmes de linguistique générale, (Paris: Éditions Gallimard, 1966), p. 242.

[8] Judith Butler, Ces Corps qui comptent, op.cit., p. 107.

[9] Émile Benveniste, Problèmes de linguistique générale, op.cit., p. 262-263; Michel Arrivé, “Histoire, discours: retour sur quelques difficultés de lecture”, in Linx, 9 | 1997, p. 159-168.

[10] Nathanel Wadbled, “Dire quelque chose de soi : la théorie du genre de Judith Butler comme autofiction philosophique,” in Arnaud Genon et Isabelle Grell (dir.), Lisières de l’autofiction. Enjeux géographiques, artistiques et politiques, (Lyon: Éditions des Presses Universitaires de Lyon, 2016), p. 259-276.

[11] Nathanel Wadbled, “Exergue: la fiction de soi et l’archive de la représentation,” in Les Représentations dans les fictions littéraires, Vol. 2, Par les pratiques fictionnelles, Jean-Marie Kouakou (dir.) (Paris: Éditions de l’Harmattan, 2010), p. 201-209.

[12] Émile Benveniste, 1966, Problèmes de linguistique générale, op.cit., p. 242.

[13] Here, I understand the term narrative in the common sense of putting facts into a specific order, and not as a synonym of the Benvenistian notion of story as Gérard Genette defines it. (“Frontières du récit” in Communications, N° 8, 1966, p. 159).

[14] Émile Benveniste, Problèmes de linguistique générale, op.cit., p. 273-274.

[15] Judith Butler, Trouble dans le genre, op.cit., p. 263-265; Judith Butler, Ces Corps qui comptent, op.cit., p. 131-134, 244; Judith Butler, Le Pouvoir des mots, op.cit., p. 226-237.

[16] Nathanel Wadbled, “Pour un conservatisme progressiste. Conditions et effectivité de l’action d’après Judith Butler,” op.cit.

[17] Judith Butler, Trouble dans le genre, op.cit., p. 239; Judith Butler, Ces Corps qui comptent, op.cit., p. 134.

[18] Judith Butler, ibid., p. 261.

[19] Judith Butler, Le Pouvoir des mots, op.cit., p. 247.

[20] Michel Foucault, Histoire de la sexualité. Tome 1, La Volonté de savoir, (Paris: Éditions Gallimard, Coll. “Tel”, 1994).

[21] Judith Butler, Trouble dans le genre, op.cit., p. 224-226; Anne-Emmanuelle Berger, Le Grand Théâtre du genre. Identité, sexualité et féminisme en “Amérique”, (Paris: Éditions Belin, 2013), p. 78, 151-154.

[22] Judith Butler, Trouble dans le genre, op.cit., p. 66, 274-275; Judith Butler, Ces Corps qui comptent, op.cit., p. 241-234.

[23] Judith Butler, Trouble dans le genre, op.cit., p. 168-168, 223-228; Judith Butler, Ces Corps qui comptent, op.cit., p. 16, 87-93.

[24] Nathanel Wadbled, “Subjectivation et organisation des corps,” op.cit., p. 43-59.

[25] Judith Butler, Ces Corps qui comptent, op.cit., p. 30 ; Judith Butler, Le Pouvoir des mots, op.cit., p. 222, 236-240.

[26] Judith Butler, Le Pouvoir des mots, op.cit., p. 154.

[27] Judith Butler, Trouble dans le genre, op.cit., p. 203.

[28] Judith Butler, ibid., p. 202.

[29] Judith Butler, Ces Corps qui comptent, op.cit., p. 72-114, 192; Judith Butler, Le Pouvoir des mots, op.cit., p. 33-35, 240-241.

[30] Nathanel Wadbled, “Subjectivation et organisation des corps,” op.cit.

[31] Judith Butler, Trouble dans le genre, op.cit., p. 165, 206, 214-215, 242; Judith Butler, Ces Corps qui comptent, op.cit., p. 30, 207-210, 119-124,130-131, 239-240.

[32] Michel Foucault, Histoire de la sexualité. Tome I. Volonté de savoir, op.cit., p. 126, 208.

[33] Judith Butler, Trouble dans le genre, op.cit., p. 60, 84; Judith Butler, Ces Corps qui comptent, op.cit., p. 228; Judith Butler, Le Pouvoir des mots, op.cit., p. 55-56, 64–68.

[34] She only mentions these questions in two works that do not directly concern gender identity: when she comments upon the Hegelian dialectic of unhappy consciousness (Judith Butler, “Attachement obstiné, assujettissement corporel. Une relecture de la conscience malheureuse de Hegel,” in La Vie psychique du pouvoir. L’assujettissement en théories, (Paris: Éditions Léo Scheer, 2002) and when she endeavors to define the possibility of an ethics [Judith Butler, Le Récit de soi, (Paris: Éditions des Presses Universitaires de France, 2007)]. These works open up a reconsideration of the relationships between discourse, performance and sexuality that she does not follow in works that directly deal with the question of gender.

[35] It would, for example, be possible to start from the relational definition that Lynda Hart gives for both performance and for sexuality in order to define that kind of discourse that is at play in that case (Lynda Hart, La Performance sadomasochiste. Entre corps et chair, (Paris: Éditions EPEL, 2003).

[36] Rather than John Austin’s discursive model, the one that is called upon in that case could be the discursive model of reception developed by Wolfgang Iser (Wolfgang Iser, L’Acte de lecture : théorie de l’effet esthétique, (Bruxelles: Éditions Mardaga, 1985).

Outline

  1. Being marked by discursive practices
  2. The performative uttering of gender
    1. The history of gender put into words and gestures
  3. Reiterating the uttering of oneself
  4. The performative constitution of sexuality: Gendered utterances and sexual utterances
    1. Subsuming sexuality under gender
    2. The performative effectiveness of sexual practices
    3. Troubling and not contesting genders
    4. Being alone faced with the norm