The IUP Journal of English Studies
Citationality of Gender: Judith Butler and Kamala Das

Article Details
Pub. Date : Jun, 2019
Product Name : The IUP Journal of English Studies
Product Type : Article
Product Code : IJES31906
Author Name : Sandhya V and Harini Jayaraman
Availability : YES
Subject/Domain : English Studies
Download Format : PDF Format
No. of Pages : 10



One of the most enduring influences of poststructuralism is its radical redefinition of subjectivity. The constructed nature of the “self” or rather the “subject” and the contingencies involved in its construction have been discussed by poststructuralist philosophers in quite interesting ways. The theorization of gender by Judith Butler is mostly on these lines. Taking her cue from Derrida, Lacan, and Foucault, Butler makes a close study of the “constructed” nature of gendered identity and the mechanics of power that has gone into the making of it. For Butler, gender is not what one is born into, but a “role” one performs, comprising repeated stylized acts which are “citational” in nature. Her deliberations on gender become more significant when we read the creative works of writers who have delved into the intricacies of gender construction, from this perspective. Kamala Das’s works display an amazing affinity to deconstruct the behavioral patterns associated with gender roles. The way Das’s characters debunk the gender roles that they are expected to perform and the close portrayal of their subjectivity that resists the taxonomy of a gendered identity are quite “Butlerian” in spirit. Hence, this paper, while trying to bring out how gender is “performed” differently in Das’s works, also seeks to shed light on the resistance to power such difference in gender performativity entails.


For Judith Butler, gender is a performative. It is the result of a series of stylized acts. Through these acts, which are attributed to the masculine or feminine way of behavior, one becomes a man or a woman. Butler, in this context, emphasizes the difference between gender performativity and gender performance. Gender performance presumes a “self” which dons the gender role, whereas gender performativity is an act without a doer. It is the behavioral codes attributed to the two genders which generate the notion of a gendered identity within, not the other way around. It is in the way Butler looks at these conventions of behavior that she brings about a revolution in Gender Studies.