Carnal difference

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    In An Ethics of Sexual Difference, Luce Irigaray suggests that “sexual difference … could be our ‘salvation’ if we thought it through.” Thinking through the issue of sexual difference, she continues, would signal the beginning of a newly fertile and creative era, “the production of a new age of thought, art, poetry, and language: the creation of a new poetics” (1993a: 5). Irigaray’s insistence on sexual difference has been justifiably problematic for many of her readers, particularly in relation to arguments for the cultural and historical performativity of gender and sexuality. Irigaray explicitly states, however, that she is “not advocating a return to a more repressive, moralising conception of sexuality. On the contrary, what we need is to work out an art of the sexual, a sexed culture” (1993: 3) This paper asks: is it possible to accept Irigaray’s call for a differently sexed culture without imposing a proper, real or natural gender or sexual identity? Might it be possible to speculate differently about sexual difference, utilising the ingredients that lie within Irigaray’s work? In answer, I propose carnal difference as a means for moving beyond sexual difference. Carnal difference formulates difference in erotic terms by emphasising the irreducibility of bodies, and the inability of one to entirely consume or incorporate the other in a carnal encounter or exchange. This paper not only explicates a theoretical model for carnal difference; it also attempts to put into practice a poetics of carnal difference. This is an exploratory, experimental and speculative philosophy that requires a poetic logic, not an analytical one, and so privileges a mode of writing that is subjective and playful. The intention is to demonstrate that the philosophical inconsistencies and ambiguities of carnal difference might be meaningful and productive.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number2
    Pages (from-to)1-9
    Number of pages9
    JournalNEO : journal for higher degree research students in the social sciences and humanities
    Publication statusPublished - 2009


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