Futures of Sexual Difference: Rethinking Femininity and Queerness with Psychoanalysis

deadline for submissions: 
February 5, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
Department of Comparative Literature, State University of New York at Buffalo
contact email: 

Futures of Sexual Difference: Rethinking Femininity and Queerness with Psychoanalysis 

In recent years, the widely-discussed “bathroom bill” has served as a nexus for conversations surrounding the rights of transgender and non-binary individuals and communities. Although some states, including North Carolina, have ruled in favor of allowing transgender persons to access bathrooms based on their chosen gender identities, it has become increasingly clear that the issue is pointing to an aspect of sexuality that cannot simply be resolved by prohibition, as conservatives would have it, or by the claiming of one gender pronoun instead of another, which liberal discourse would consider an answer to the dilemma of sexual difference. 

What can psychoanalysis contribute to this evidently socially and politically polarizing question of sexuality? Is there anything it can contribute to the discussion of sexual difference amongst feminist and queer theorists/activists? After all, many of them have criticized psychoanalysis for reproducing normative social/power structures in its phallocentric and oedipal agendas. A number of scholars and clinicians working on the intersections of psychoananlysis and feminist/queer theory, such as Joan Copjec, Patricia Gherovici and Parveen Adams, have addressed these criticisms, noting that sexual difference is determined “neither by sex (anatomy) nor by gender (social construction)”; it is rather “a subjective, unconscious choice” that has to do with one’s specific position vis-à-vis language (Gherovichi).  Jacques Lacan, in his later work, suggested that femininityis the position that marks a certain excess that is “not-all” limited by the signifier and by phallic function.

The repression of femininity, somewhat analogous to the repression of queerness, has to do with the repression of difference. We consider femininity a radical position insofar as it points to an irreducible rupture at the heart of subjectivity. Therefore, it is continually repressed to ensure the stability of individual, social and political identities. We wonder: how can we think of femininity as a political force? How does femininity problematize the liberal and conservative reliance upon identity politics? How can its rethinking of subjectivity and language help reconsider current political and social stakes? Can we think of femininity and queerness as being in some sort of productive tension with one another? Further, can we posit a conversation between psychoanalysis and feminist/queer theories in order to address the stakes and impasses of identity politics, especially if, in the psychoanalytic clinic, “the subject emerges exactly there where identity fails” (Gherovichi)? 

Submissions are open to not only academics, but also clinicians, social workers and activists. We welcome papers from the following areas, but not limited to those:

Disability Studies

Feminist Studies

Critical Race Theory

Queer Theory

Gender Studies

Environmental Studies

Postcolonial Studies

Psychoanalysis 

Literary Theory

Film and Media Studies

We welcome you to participate in our Annual Graduate Conference hosted by the Department of Comparative Literature, State University of New York, Buffalo (27th March 2020). To read a paper at this conference, please email a 250-300 word abstract and a 100-word bio to bothmeganhir@buffalo.edu and martaale@buffalo.edu by 5th February 2020.  

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