Navigating the Void: Subjectivity and Contemporary Critical Theory

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  • This dissertation argues that a feminist critical theory of event provides the political tradition of contemporary critical theory with important theoretical tools for the continued interrogation of our dominant socio-symbolic order as characterized by its prevailing structures, institutions and discourses. These discussions are oriented by an exploration of the antinomy between universality and contingency in efforts to theorize subjectivity and ethics in contemporary critical theory. Chapter One explores the role of antihumanism in contemporary critical theory as dramatized by the Foucault-Habermas debate. Chapter Two argues that narrative theories of self are constitutive of an attempt to reconcile universality and contingency by trying to incorporate contingency within an account of narrative coherence and agency which remains formal and universalistic. With the introduction of the notion of 'Event' in Chapter Three, we begin to more fully realize the potential of thinking of universality and contingency as co-constitutive theoretical and transformative practices. In light of the tendency in traditional theories of event to foreground the element of deconstruction over and against the productive, as well as the overly formal nature of theorizing the event, Chapter Four and Five rethink the notion of event from the perspective of feminist critical theory (e.g. Butler, Irigaray and care ethics). A feminist critical theory of event, with a theory of relational subjectivity at its core, becomes a means through which to conceptualize subjectivity in a way that recognizes both its formal and contextual dimensions. A feminist critical theory of event is able to theorize the formal characteristics of relational subjectivity as shared vulnerability, as well as how said vulnerability becomes shaped in particular ways depending on one's position within structures and relations of power. Such a conceptualization of event is best suited to understanding and critiquing the dominant socio-symbolic order of our time.

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  • Copyright © 2020 the author(s). Theses may be used for non-commercial research, educational, or related academic purposes only. Such uses include personal study, research, scholarship, and teaching. Theses may only be shared by linking to Carleton University Institutional Repository and no part may be used without proper attribution to the author. No part may be used for commercial purposes directly or indirectly via a for-profit platform; no adaptation or derivative works are permitted without consent from the copyright owner.
Date Created
  • 2020


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