Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS)


IAS Book Launch: What Is Sexual Difference?

31 January 2024, 4:30 pm–6:30 pm

Three images: Mary Rawlinson on the left, the book cover in the middle and James Sares on the right

Join us for the launch of Mary C. Rawlinson's new book What Is Sexual Difference? Thinking with Irigaray

This event is free.

Event Information

Open to







Institute of Advanced Studies


Common Ground, G11
Ground Floor, South Wing Wilkins Building
Ground floor, Wilkins building
United Kingdom

Luce Irigaray has written that “sexual difference is one of the major philosophical issues, if not the issue, of our age.”
Spanning metaphysics, phenomenology, and psychoanalysis, Mary C. Rawlinson's work examines how sexual difference structures being and subjectivity, organises our experience of the world, and affects the images and discourses involved in knowledge production and practical action. No other philosopher has paid such careful attention to the consequences of the elision of sexual difference in philosophical thought. However, at a time when notions of sexual and gender difference are hotly contested, Irigaray’s thought has often been dismissed as essentialist or reductively binary. What Is Sexual Difference? brings together leading scholars to consider the philosophical implications of Irigaray’s writing on sexual difference, particularly for issues of gender and race. Their essays directly confront the charge of essentialism, exploring how Irigaray’s thought opens new possibilities for understanding the complexity of gender identities, including nonbinary and trans experiences as well as alternative configurations of masculinity and femininity. Though Irigaray is sometimes accused of a failure to appreciate racial difference, contributors show the productive role of her work in thinking race. This book also illuminates how Irigaray’s work provides creative practices that help realign human experience and our relations with nature and each other. More information about the book can be found here

For the launch of her book, Mary C. Rawlinson will be in conversation with her co-editor, James Sares (University of Kentucky). Peg Rawes (UCL Bartlett School of Architecture) and Alex Hyde (UCL School of European Languages, Culture and Society) will comment.

About the Speakers

Mary Rawlinson

at Institute of Advanced Studies, UCL / Stony Brook University, New York

Mary C. Rawlinson is Senior Research Fellow, at the Institute of Advanced Studies and Emerita Professor of Philosophy, Stony Brook University in New York. Rawlinson’s publications include The Betrayal of Substance: death, literature, and sexual difference in Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit (Columbia University Press, 2021), Just Life: bioethics and the future of sexual difference (Columbia University Press, 2016), Engaging the World: Thinking After Irigaray (SUNY, 2016), The Routledge Handbook of Food Ethics (Routledge, 2016), Labor and Global Justice (Lexington, 2014), Thinking with Irigaray (SUNY, 2011), and Derrida and Feminism (Routledge, 1997), as well as articles on Hegel, Proust, literature and ethics, food justice, tourism, bioethics, and contemporary French philosophy. Her next book Liminal Justice (forthcoming, Bloomsbury, 2024) investigates the idea of justice in crime fiction. Rawlinson was the founding editor of IJFAB: International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics (2006-2016) and Co-founder and Director of The Irigaray Circle (2007-2017). 

James Sares

at University of Kentucky

James Sares is a postdoctoral scholar in philosophy at the University of Kentucky and holds a PhD in philosophy from Stony Brook University. He is the recipient of the 2018 Karen Burke Memorial Prize, awarded by the Irigaray Circle. He works in the history of modern philosophy and phenomenology. His recent publications include an article on Hegel and time for the Hegel Bulletin