Elliptical Bodies: Gender, Biology And Such Unknowns…

Jeremy Fernando
In Volume 1, Issue 1
Spring 2010


This paper addresses the question of whether there is a necessary link between gender and biology. Since the construction of the self is formed by experiences, and biology dictates that women and men have irreducible differences (giving birth and menstruating being the most obvious), it suggests that the self is always already affected by biology. Hence reducing everything to cultural construction would be potentially anthropocentric: the underlying logic of ‘social construction’ is that everything is under our control, that our very being is the result of a cognitive process, and hence ultimately self-generated. More pertinently, if everything is reduced to culture, it no longer has any meaning (if everything is political, politics as such no longer has any meaning; if everything is social, the socius as such is dead). However if there are some biological irreducibilities, there is always already a certain part of us that is beyond us, that we are born into, that is unknowable (and potentially will always be unknowable). It is the gap between biology and gender, the unknowability that is biology – a part of gender, but always already haunting it with its impossibility of being known, controlled, subsumed under a particular conception – that this paper seeks to meditate. In other words, biology is the ellipsis when it comes to knowing our bodies, knowing our selves; indicating nothing more but the fact that something is there, something that may add or subtract, and which affects one, but in ways that one cannot be privy to, until it happens. One of the major notions posited is that it is precisely the irreducibility of biology that prevents gender as a category from not only becoming a totalizing imperative, but more importantly from becoming meaningless.

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