Volume 25, 2008
Philosophy and Gender
Are Butler’s Theory of Performativity and Merleau-Ponty’s Theory of Expressivity Really Contradictory?
Until now post-structuralism is widely regarded as an opposite to phenomenology. This is also true for the relation of Butler’s post-structuralism and Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology. The aim of this paper is to show how close they are to each other. For this purpose, I will focus on Butler’s poststructuralist theory of performativity to confront it with Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenological theory of expression. While Butler accuses theories of expression of being essentialist, I argue that Merleau-Ponty’s theory of experience resists such a criticism. “Expressivity” and “performativity”, and thus phenomenology and post-structuralism, are not opposites but partners in the search for an anti-essentialist concept.