A Name of One’s Own: Formations of Difference and the Semiotics of Liminality

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 16:15
Oral Presentation
Sofia ABOIM, University of Lisbon,Institute of Social Sciences, Portugal
The expansion of plural gender identities is one of the most challenging forms of resistance to the limits of binary systems. However, even if gendered in-betweenness can be conceptualized, in the Foulcautian sense (1969), as a discursive formation, that is, as systems of dispersion or units of discourse not linearly connected and thereby, as plural statements that, ultimately, fit into a single system of formation, such plurality of discourses cannot be reduced to a textual signifier stripped from bodies and embodiments. The difference affirmed as a gender singularity against the dominant must not only be viewed through its materiality (whether bodies, institutions and historical processes), but also as a ‘one’s own’ that summons, often, hidden meanings, which, as in Derrida’s, can only be understood through additional words, from which they differ and gain meaning. Hence, the words and bodies of ‘one’s own’ can be seen as an inversion of the slogan ‘the personal is political’ as new words and performances challenge the Cartesian division between mind and body. In opposition to the truths of the body or subjective self-authentication, processes of naming are grounded in political programmes for the affirmation of an identity that accommodates the self. Against a rhetoric of authenticity (as in Taylor, such entanglements will be discussed by examining three contrasting narratives: trans as transition (a journey between poles of normalcy), trans as confirmation (pre-existence of an identity before performative becoming), trans as transgression (exaggeration of difference to create the possibilities of difference itself). On the basis of this reflection drawn from the discourses of a wide diversity of trans people in the global north and south, I address the onto-performative character of language as the basis f liminality, both as semiotic and material spaces for the multiple, and often contradictory, naming of gendered personhood(s).