The shape of Selves to Come: Selfhood without Sexual Difference

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 5:00 PM
Room: F206
Oral Presentation
Lucy NICHOLAS , Swinburne University, Australia
What can the historical persistence of gender tell us about possibilities for future selfhood not defined by gender? Is a more purposive way of being possible that is not reliant on the restrictions of binary sex/gender and if so, how?  This paper continues work that proposes that a particular dominant mode of thought (or ethos) about the self and others maintains compulsory sex/gender.  This is an ethos of oppositional difference and closure. I extend this theoretical work here to the practical consideration of what a post-gender and queer mode of thought and being, not premised on difference and closure, might look like.

Drawing on a combination of Simone de Beauvoir’s existentialist ethics and Judith Butler’s ontological and normative impulses, I propose that a non-oppositional, non-gendered alternative mode of thought and being is ontologically possible or potential (although not inevitable).

I sketch the ontological justification for this, and then move on to more practical implications for social life.  This considers what this ontological picture means practically for attempting to re-form identity or selfhood according to more reciprocal and open-ended ethos.  I argue that it would entail a particular ‘queer’ subjective mindset, an inexhaustibly reciprocal approach to relationships and the identity of others and sexuality, and enabling social contexts that foster these.

I demonstrate how some of these are already apparent in certain queer social practices. I consider how such social practices may ensure efficacy in their intended aim of fostering more intentionalality in the collective project of selfhood and evade closure or imposition of identity.