Accepted Paper:

Intersex and the ethics of exclusion: choosing, postponing and cutting  


David Andrew Griffiths (University of Surrey)

Paper short abstract:

In this paper I read infant genital surgeries through Barad's agential realism. Choosing to perform surgery or not are different kinds of agential cuts. I will align Barad's ethics of exclusion Morland's ethics of uncertainty to think of choosing surgery beyond "doing something" vs "doing nothing".

Paper long abstract:

In this paper I will consider both exceptions and exclusions, and will read the decision to perform infant genital surgeries through Karen Barad's agential realism. Individuals born with variations of sex characteristics have historically been seen as unfortunate exceptions to the gender binary. Activists and scholars have conceptualised the intersex body as a 'site of exception', which justifies 'normalising' surgery to uphold the sex/gender binary, and which excludes intersex infants from human rights. Anne Tamar-Mattis (2013) has suggested that the legal framework of the 'categorical exception' could be useful to rethink the rule of parent-doctor medical decision-making for intersex infants. Choosing to allow surgical cuts is an agential cut, to the exclusion of other possibilities. Surgical cuts cleave healthy tissue from the body in order to cleave the individual more tightly to the sex/gender binary; these cuts also often cleave the individual to a life of further medical interventions. Yet choosing not to perform surgery is also a kind of cut; however in this paper I will argue that this cut is to the exclusion of surgery, and opens up worlds of possibility. In this respect I will align Barad's ethics of exclusion with Iain Morland's ethics of uncertainty to rethink the language of choice around surgeries: too often presented as "doing something" vs "doing nothing", when each choice has the potential to be a life-altering, world-making cut.

Panel F08
Medicine meets the sexed body: Discovering, diagnosing, producing and shaping