Thinking sexual difference with (and against) Adriana Cavarero: on the ethics and politics of care
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Ryan, Kevin. (2019). Thinking Sexual Difference with (and against) Adriana Cavarero: On the Ethics and Politics of Care. Hypatia, 34(2), 222-241. doi: 10.1111/hypa.12465
This article engages with Adriana Cavarero's framing of sexual difference, specifically in terms of how this displaces “bodies that queer” (Volcano 2013). For Cavarero, the narratable self is inescapably relational and characterized by vulnerability, which is how ethics arises in the form of a decision between caring and wounding. At the same time, Cavarero's deconstructive method of appropriating stereotypes restricts the scope of sexual difference to dimorphism. In examining the implications of this, I build on the work of Michel Foucault and Judith Butler by looking to the intersexed life of Adélaïde Herculine Barbin, whose suicide in 1868 at the age of twenty‐nine was precipitated not through malice or cruelty, but through concerted care. This mode of care is anchored in the apparent self‐evidence of how we see and how we think with and through narratives that sediment in orders of power/knowledge. While agreeing with Cavarero's critique of the autonomous “I,” the article nevertheless argues for authorial audacity—the courage to name oneself—as a way of subverting asymmetrical power relations, including those that make it possible to inadvertently generate suffering through care.