21th seminar: Demetra Tzanaki

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Politics of Liberation

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Politics of Liberation
9 June 2023

Demetra Tzanaki

“This is not a gender: from the eugenic (post) liberal modes of governmentality to a World’s Republic”


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Understanding the relationship between gender and eugenism requires a critical exploration of the factors that have shaped our negotiation with and resistance to power along with historical and contemporary readings of those factors. Moreover, it requires a new understanding of the foundations of the Western patriarchal, racist-colonial tradition of binary categoric thinking in which academic disciplines and epistemic truth are rooted. Following Michel Foucault’s premise, in his work the History of Sexuality: The Use of Pleasure, that aphrodisia remains the ethical substance for ancient Greek and Roman sexual ethics and the ontological parameters of the ‘thinking’ subject, I suggest that gender perpetuates this sexual, racist and patriarchal code of ethics and truth and the one-dimensional deterministic perception about the subject. While throughout the 16th century this regime of ethics-truth was more philosophical from the 19th century on, I argue, it takes the form of an absolute scientific truth – as a response to the social upheavals and the rising of Marxist and anarchist ideas. Thus, a discriminative in terms of sex, race, age, and able-bodiness regime-of- truth emerged, as a part of the liberal biomedical discourse, essentially for the survival of capitalism. This biomedical discourse gained momentum after the Paris Commune and provided a place for s/he as the subject that can speak the truth. At the same time, this biomedical discourse employed all the supposedly psychic and somatic interventions in order to ‘help’ nature -through the castration of the intersex- produce an evolved, scientifically stable, social sex, that is, gender. Within this logic, gender became the boundary not only between the rational, healthy, superior race of the civilized liberal-christian West, against the savage, anarchist, androgynous and degenerate non-Western races, but also the boundary between a supposed patriarchal and matriarchal culture, with the latter relying on blood and soil ties and a passive acceptance of all natural phenomena. It also signifies the inclusion of all people as equal, as all children of Mother Earth. In the patriarchal culture, by contrast, we run across the concept of the ‘beloved son’ symbol of the hierarchical order of society. Within this concept, eugenism, I argue, though commonly used, it has been under-theorized concept in the historical -materialist queer literature. In short, eugenism and its relation to gender is more complicated, and its historicity is more difficult than it is presented. After the October Revolution, a series of eugenic programmes will take place, aiming at the study of western gender and the obligatory classification of it strictly into male and female, as an absolute, universal scientific truth. At the same time any societal crisis such as poverty, defeat, subjugation, illness, or sudden death, was interpreted as the result of a psychologically vulnerable, effeminate, castrated, “bastardized”, transgender or intersex life. The dualistic, hierarchical form of masculinity-feminity and the sovereignty of patriarchy emerged as the weapon against degeneracy, transgenderism and communism, allowing fascism to grow up to its ultimate devasting moment for humanity, the holocaust. Following World War II, eugenism as a scientific regime of truth, became through gender not only the intersectional boundary between sex/nature and gender /nurture, but also the barrier against black, trans, intersex, homosexual youth, communists and working class who emerged as parts of an anarch, matriarchal and thus, castrated sub-human nature who had fallen to the category of sub-beings. In conclusion, I argue that gender in our days has become part of an absolute post-eugenic, liberal, scientific truth that leads to the production of a liberal, patriarchal, racist, ageist and ableist treatment of intersex and transgender life that goes hand in hand with the authoritarian (post) liberal states, under the threat of a World’s Republic.