New Forms of Subjectivity: Theorizing the Relational Self with Foucault and Alcoff


  • Erin C. Tarver


Taking seriously Linda Martín Alcoff's suggestion that we reevaluate the extent to which poststructuralist articulations of the subject are truly socially constituted, as well as the centrality of Latina identity to her own account of such constitution, I argue that the discussion Alcoff and other Latina feminists offer of the experience of being Latina in North America is illustrative of the extent to which the relational and globally situated constitution of subjects needs further development in many social-constructionist accounts of selfhood. I argue, however—contra Alcoff—that Michel Foucault's mode of investigating subjectivation, particularly as it is articulated in his later work, has room for just such an account, especially when it is supplemented by postcolonial theory. With this end in mind, I take as a case study the public discourse surrounding Sonia Sotomayor prior to her confirmation as the first Latina woman to serve on the United States Supreme Court, suggesting that an analysis of this discourse (including its position within and contribution to wider discourses of ethnicity, race, gender, and class) shows why the accounts of relational subject-constitution offered by both Foucault and Alcoff are indispensable.