The Limits of Performativity: A Critique of Hegemony in Gender Theory


  • Dennis Schep


Recently, Judith Butler refused to accept an award for civil courage at the Berlin Christopher Street Day, because she felt the event had become too commercial, and the event's organization had failed to distance itself from certain discriminatory statements. This, as well as many of her works, suggests that more than any other contemporary feminist author, Butler is aware of the risk of implication in exclusionary politics; a risk she might therefore successfully avoid. However, in this essay I argue that to the extent her theory of performativity has become a hegemonic framework within the field of gender studies, it leads to the foreclosure of certain possible gendered identities. Using Nancy's notion of finite thinking, I argue that a different approach to universality may lead to a less exclusionary way of conceptualizing gender.