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Unthought nature : reply to Penelope Deutscher and Mary Beth Mader.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


Journal publication date2008
Journaldifferences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies
Number of pages8
Original languageEnglish


In response to Mader's and Deutscher's questions, the author defends her approach to reading Irigaray and Butler, which entails extending the ideas of these thinkers into areas of thought with which they do not engage directly themselves. This involves relating Irigaray's ideas to the tradition of the philosophy of nature and interpreting Butler as offering, in spite of her focus on the genealogy of claims about sex, also a theory of sex itself, a theory of sex as an effect entirely of gender. This approach to reading differs from Irigaray's own reading method of expanding and transforming philosophies in light of their constitutive exclusions. An example of this, explored here, is Irigaray's expansion and transformation of Merleau-Ponty's late ontology of flesh in light of its constitutive exclusion, the "maternal sojourn." This article also asks whether rhythmic sexual difference, which the author has attempted to differentiate from biological sex difference, ultimately remains tied to biological sex difference. This commentary suggests that it does but that reference to biological sex difference need not be politically problematic. Finally, the author asks whether the metaphysics of potentials and tendencies that she attributes to Irigaray impedes social change by inevitably reinstalling the actual as the horizon of possibility. Irigaray's strategy of reading texts and cultures for their constitutive exclusions offers a solution to this problem.