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Layton, L. (1997). The Doer behind the Deed: Tensions and Intersections between Butler's Vision of Performativity and Relational Psychoanalysis. Gender and Psychoanalysis, 2(2):131-155.

(1997). Gender and Psychoanalysis, 2(2):131-155

The Doer behind the Deed: Tensions and Intersections between Butler's Vision of Performativity and Relational Psychoanalysis Related Papers

Lynne Layton, Ph.D.

This paper reviews the evolution in Judith Butler's work of the concept that gender identities are performative. The paper explicates Butler's ideas on subject formation and gender identity for an audience not familiar with her work. It then discusses Butler's shift over time from a nonpsychoanalytic to a psychoanalytic conception of identity and performativity. I argue that this shift brings Butler's views on gender identity closer to those of relational analytic feminists, but that Butler's grounding of identity in a Freudian object relations model prevents a fuller exploration of the relational motives behind enacting (or refusing to enact) cultural norms. In the latter part of the paper, I draw on Butler's idea that performativity is linked to melancholia to discuss the cultural prevalence of dysthymia. An integration of relational psychoanalytic theory with Butler's focus on the citing of norms and subject formation might offer clinicians a nonreductive way to connect individual experience with the dictates of culture.

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