Back Transdisciplinarity and the Unity of Knowledge: Beyond the Science and Religion Dialogue

Skip Navigation Links
Trisha Famisaran
Identity Politics and the Challenge of Representation


In this paper, I attempt to redirect, among feminists representing a variety of traditions, a discussion of feminist theology and theory as they relate to identity and subjectivity. I evaluate recent attempts to base identity and ground subjectivity, deconstructing essential identities and metaphysics of substance in light of Judith Butler’s understanding of sex and gender. I distinguish between two options guiding the course of feminist theories: (1) questioning the adequacy of the conditions of identity and representation within given discourses, in opposition to (2) the primacy of attaining visible identities according to the given terms of given social structures. Ultimately, I propose a methodology that underscores difference of constituted subjects through becoming, rather than expressions of essential beings configuring homogenous social categories, by resolving the two stated options into an alternative metaphysical understanding.

I evaluate whether Butler’s conception of identity constituted through performativity offers a superior kind of political representation, especially for proposing new starting points for ethics that takes into account ontology of becoming. I assess the strength of Butler’s notion of performativity by interrogating her understanding of materiality and attempt to lay out necessary conditions implied in Butler’s ontology that enable individuals to respond to pre-conscious regulations and pre-conscious physicalities. I affirm that subjectivity and identity are mutable in a positive and empowering sense, because our bodies and the universe body are mutable and interrelated, taking into account individual creativity and that subject-formation can be understood as more than performative responses to power through parody. I turn to Alfred North Whitehead’s philosophy to account for the materiality of bodies and relate it to Butler’s performativity in order to make inroads to politics and ethics. For Whitehead, materiality is difference as such—and Butler affirms the same point, but her becoming through performativity and especially parody are reactive in a sense far different from Whitehead. In Whitehead the reformed subjectivist principle denies the possibility of identity being swallowed up into universal categories but affirms both creativity and being grounded through the influence of past eternal objects taken into the experience of actual occasions. I close the paper by arguing that social intelligibility, including personal identity, occurs simultaneously with subject-formation. The genesis of a subject is an infinite regress of difference, never a temporal point of origin, but always a becoming.

Trisha Famisaran is currently enrolled in the Dual Degree program at Claremont Graduate University for an MA in Philosophy and PhD in Philosophy of Religion and Theology.  She has a BA in History and Political Science from La Sierra University in Riverside, California, and an MA in Theology from Claremont School of Theology in Claremont, California.  Trisha’s interests include ethics, postmodern thought, poststructuralist thought, gender studies, and historical theology.  She works at the Center for Process Studies in Claremont, California, where she is currently Editor of the newsmagazine, Process Perspectives, works on publicity and Web development, and is also the Communications Director.


1616 Walnut Street, Suite 1112, Philadelphia, PA 19103 USA  |  Voice: + 1 484.592.0304 Fax: +1 484.592.0313   |   Email  |  Privacy Policy