Performativity and Becoming Academic Article uri icon


  • In her recent work, the Deleuzian feminist critic Rosi Braidotti suggests that, because of a reduction of flesh to discourse and psychic foreclosure to social repression (Metamorphoses, 42), Judith Butlers work not only loses sight of the embodied nature of the subject (43) but also, more important, is unable to theorize the kinds of radical metamorphoses that Braidotti seeks to think. Such inability to conceptualize transformation is noteworthy in a project whose central concern, according to Braidotti, is to identify how effective change can be achieved (42). While affirming the differences in their intellectual trajectories, Butler, in a brief response to Braidotti in Undoing Gender (2004), also carefully notes their compatibilities: I am also looking for the new, she reminds her colleague, for possibilities that emerge from failed dialectics and that exceed the dialectic itself (198).1 With this argumentthat newness can be conceptualized through a reworked or resignified dialecticButler exhibits her theoretical and political projects remarkable consistency. It returns us to the culmination of the narrative of her first book, Subjects of Desire: Hegelian Reflections in Twentieth-Century France (1987), where she discovers in the Foucauldian understanding of power and production a dialectic gone awry, unmoored from both the subject and its teleological conclusion (222). Instead of leading to the sublated whole of a synthesis, in Foucault binary oppositions . . . tend to create effects that are thoroughly unforeseen, to multiply and proliferate into new forms of power that cannot be adequately explained within the terms of binary oppositions (224). Butlers subsequent work can be seen as an effort to trace such unforeseeable futural imaginings (Bodies, 228). For her, a dialectic at once operative and derailed allows this unknown future to emerge (Undoing Gender, 180).

published proceedings

  • Cultural Critique: an international journal of cultural studies

author list (cited authors)

  • Tuhkanen, M. J.

citation count

  • 5

complete list of authors

  • Tuhkanen, MJ