The aim of this article is to revisit the work of the French philosopher Julia Kristeva and ask what place we might give her conceptual framework today. I will focus on one key aspect of Kristeva’s work, sexual difference, as that which ties most, if not all, aspects of Kristeva’s work. I am hoping to present a concise, yet wide-ranging view on Kristeva’s critical contribution to the fields of politics and ethics. My objective will be threefold. First, I will present the main lines of Kristeva’s theory on sexual difference; this presentation will also outline her political critique of equality and diversity in the domains of gender and sexuality. Kristeva believes that contemporary politics invested in suppressing inequality through the promotion of diversity will in the long term not only prove unsuccessful, but also create more exclusion. Secondly, I will point out the main objections raised against her theories and show how her critics come to their conclusions. Objectors to Kristeva’s sexual difference theory are mostly concerned with the manner in which she associates marginality and unintelligibility. They see little value in her theory, because, on the one hand, it relegates marginal groups to a world beyond social viability, and, on the other, because it effectively disables advancements in equality politics. Finally, I hope to provide the reader with a useful counter-critique to Kristeva’s detractors that will show why their views are partly founded on a misreading of her ethical (Freudian) framework and a desire to translate her work into a more pragmatic and user-friendly tool. I will argue that Kristeva’s work is best apprehended as a variant of psychoanalytic ethics and that to engage with its rhetoric is to capture the full weight of Kristeva’s contribution to politics and intellectual engagement.


Arts and Humanities | Social and Behavioral Sciences


Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble. London: Routledge, 2007. Print.

Doane, Janice, and Devon Hodges. From Klein to Kristeva: Psychoanalytic Feminism and the Search for the “Good Enough” Mother. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 1992. Print.

Gambaudo, Sylvie. “French Feminism vs. Anglo-American Feminism: A Reconstruction.” European Journal of Women’s Studies 14.2 (2007): 93-108. Print.

Gambaudo, Sylvie. “From Scopophilic Pleasure to the Jouissance of the Madonna: The Mother’s Maternal Gaze in Three Photographic Examples.” Women’s Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal 41.7 (2012): 781-804. Print.

Gambaudo, Sylvie. “Julia Kristeva, ‘Woman’s Primary Homosexuality’ and Homophobia.” European Journal of Women’s Studies 20.1 (2012): 8-20. Print.

Gambaudo, Sylvie. Kristeva, Psychonalysis and Culture. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007. Print.

Guberman, Ross M., ed. Julia Kristeva: Interviews. New York: Columbia UP, 1996. Print.

Irigaray, Luce. je, tu, nous: Towards a Culture of Difference. London: Routledge, 1993. Print.

Irigaray, Luce. Speculum of the Other Woman. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1985. Print.

Kosofsky Sedgwick, Eve. Epistemology of the Closet. Los Angeles: U of California P, 1990. Print.

Kristeva, Julia. Le Génie Feminin, tome III: Colette. Paris: Editions Fayard, 2002. Print.

Kristeva, Julia. Revolution in Poetic Language. Trans. Margaret Waller. New York: Columbia UP, 1984. Print.

Kristeva, Julia. Tales of Love. Trans. Leon S. Roudiez. New York: Columbia UP, 1987. Print.

Kristeva, Julia. “Women’s Time.” Trans. Alice Jardine and Harry Blake. Signs 7.1 (1981): 13-35. Print.

Lechte, John. Julia Kristeva, London: Routledge, 1990. Print.

Lechte, John, and Maria Margaroni. Julia Kristeva: Live Theory. London: Continuum, 2004. Print.

McAfee, Noëlle. Julia Kristeva. London: Routledge, 2004. Print.

Schutte, Ofelia. “Irigaray and the Problem of Subjectivity.” Hypatia 6.2 (1991): 64-76. Print. doi: 10.1111/j.1527-2001.1991.tb01393.x

First Page


Last Page