24 Pages Posted: 29 Mar 2010 Last revised: 7 Apr 2010
Date Written: March 29, 2010
Controversies over the status of the subject have been at the forefront of debates in political theory, feminism, and nearly every aspect of critical thought. Is the subject wholly constituted or an essential entity? How do we account for the bodily materiality of subjects? Or their raced identity? Answers to these questions determine how we define citizens, women and identity. Judith Butler has been a major influence in this controversy since her definition of the radically constructed subject in Gender Trouble. In this paper I argue that in her recent work Butler has turned away from a strictly constructionist position on the subject and developed a theory that both avoids the essentialist/constructed dichotomy and accounts for the material existence of subjects in a social world. I argue that it is a conception of the subject that defines the subject as both legitimately constituted and materially located. This conception provides an approach to the subject that successfully addresses the issues in our contemporary debates.
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