Post-identity politics and the social weightlessness of radical gender theory

Thesis Eleven 134 (1):73-88 (2016)
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This paper examines recent forms of post-identity thought within contemporary gender theory, specifically the works of Rosi Braidotti, Elizabeth Grosz and Bobby Noble. Despite the many insights that these theories offer, I argue that they suffer from what Lois McNay has labelled ‘social weightlessness’ insofar as their models of subjectivity and agency are disconnected from the everyday realities of social subjects. I identify two ways in which this social weightlessness is manifested in radical gender theories that endorse a post-identity politics: they overlook the social and political importance to many individuals of establishing stable, coherent identities; they are unable to offer a satisfactory account of agency. I suggest that these issues arise, at least in part, from the anti-recognition stance adopted by such radical gender theorists. I argue that by incorporating a properly nuanced model of recognition back into their theories they can imbue their accounts with a properly grounded model of the subject that is responsive to the inequalities and oppressions that infuse the particular concrete contexts in which we experience and live out our identities.

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Paddy McQueen
Swansea University


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