Burning it in? Nietzsche, Gender, and Externalized Memory

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In this article, I extend the feminist use of Friedrich Nietzsche’s account of memory and forgetting to consider the contemporary externalization of memory foregrounded by transgender experience. Nietzsche’s On the Genealogy of Morals argues that memory is “burnt in” to the forgetful body as a necessary part of subject-formation and the requirements of a social order. Feminist philosophers have employed Nietzsche’s account to illuminate how gender, as memory, becomes embodied. While the account of the “burnt in” repetitions of gender allows us to theorize processes of embodied identity on an individual level, analyzing gender today requires also accounting for how gender is externalized. I take up this question through the specific examples of identity documents and sex-segregated bathrooms. Returning to Nietzsche’s call to practice a resistant forgetting, I conclude by exploring the distinct strategies required to disrupt externalized memory. These strategies include contesting the use of past gender assignments in data collection and rewriting architectural reminders of gender.
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Archival date: 2020-07-30
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