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This thesis considers feminist science fiction as a methodology to approach the question of sexual difference raised by Luce Irigaray.  As something that has not yet happened—the stubborn embodiment of that speculative potentiality of the “what if…?” which resists the lure of transcendence or universalised abstraction—the spectre of sexual difference continues to haunt ideas of feminist progress (Irigaray, 1996; Butler, 2004; Er, 2018).

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, Anna Bunting-Branch

This dense and difficult corpus also appears jarringly out of sync with intersectional, trans feminist, non-binary, and genderqueer accounts of sexual difference raised by her readers (Deutscher, 2002; Butler, 2004; Murphy, 2007; Salamon, 2010; Spivak, 2010; Johnston, 2015). As such, I remain open to the generative possibilities of difference within Luce Irigaray’s writing, as well as embracing divergence from her thinking in feminist practice.

My practice-related research is animated by three key questions:

  • Can reading Luce Irigaray with feminist science fiction allow her philosophy of sexual difference to be thought differently?
  • How can this different thinking be put into practice?
  • What can practicing the difference offer to future feminist movement?

In response, I engage feminist SF as an imaginative methodology (Lefanu, 1988; Rieder, 2010); drawing out qualities that constitute the genre—thought experiment, worldbuilding, defamiliarization, fan activity, sense of wonder—to ‘practice that difference’ which is so vital to the Irigarayan project (Irigaray [1977] 1985:159). Moving from reading and writing through painting, animating, and other ways of making and making public, this thesis locates Luce Irigaray in the context of speculative feminist practice from the past—spanning SF, activism, theory, fandom, and art. Revisioning these strange, provocative, and even failed texts as spaces in which more generative responses can proliferate, I posit practicing the difference as a way of engaging critically and creatively with the philosophy of sexual difference.


Butler, Judith. 2004. Undoing Gender. New York; London: Routledge.

Deutscher, Penelope. 2002. A Politics of Impossible Difference: The Later Work of Luce Irigaray. Ithaca, N.Y: Cornell University Press.

Er, Yanbing. 2018. ‘Anticipations, Afterlives: On the Temporal and Affective Reorientations of Sexual Difference’. Feminist Theory 19(3):369–86.

Irigaray, Luce. [1977] 1985. This Sex Which Is Not One. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Irigaray, Luce. 1996. I Love to You: Sketch of A Possible Felicity in History. New York: Routledge.

Johnston, Tim R. 2015. ‘Questioning the Threshold of Sexual Difference: Irigarayan Ontology and Transgender, Intersex, and Gender-Nonconforming Being’. GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 21(4):617–33.

Lefanu, Sarah. 1988. In the Chinks of the World Machine: Feminism and Science Fiction. London: The Women’s Press Ltd.

Murphy, Ann V. 2007. ‘Beyond Performativity and Against “Identification”: Gender and Technology in Irigaray’. in Returning to Irigaray: Feminist Philosophy, Politics and the Question of Unity, edited by M. C. Cimitile and E. P. Miller. Albany: SUNY Press.

Rieder, John. 2010. ‘On Defining SF, or Not: Genre Theory, SF, and History’. Science Fiction Studies 37(2):191–209.

Salamon, Gayle. 2010. Assuming a Body: Transgender and Rhetorics of Materiality. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.

Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. 2010. ‘Foreword’. Pp. ix–xii in Rewriting Difference: Luce Irigaray and ‘The Greeks’, edited by E. Tzelepis and A. Athanasiou. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.


Primary supervisor: Sharon Morris
Secondary supervisors: Hayley Newman