Transgressive Dasein: An applied ontology of sex and gender

A. M Janssen, Fordham University


In this project, I explore the question of gender as a phenomenon that is experienced as a style of Being, shaped by the tensions that obtain between individuated Dasein, the brute facts of embodiment, and the social constructs according to which Dasein's Being is rendered intelligible, and operating according to deployments of power by means of technologies. I do this by employing Heidegger's model of Dasein and phenomenological method, supplementing this approach with work done by other thinkers, including Edmund Husserl, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Michel Foucault, and Judith Butler, as well as recent work done in the field of gender studies. The result is an applied ontology of the phenomenon of gender that is neither a critique of current secondary literature in Heidegger studies nor a prescriptive ethics. Rather, this is an exploration of how it is that we experience gender at all—the mechanisms and conceptual history that render the gendering we do intelligible and relevant to our lives. I argue that gender is an issue that permeates both the contingent, ontical (relating to specifics) reality of Dasein's Being, and also that the tendency to categorize Dasein into types is an ontological, or foundational, aspect of Dasein. It is not essential to Dasein's Being that any particular gender norms be as they are, but it is necessary to Dasein's Being that gender norms of some type do arise. I argue further that norms can only arise when transgression is possible, and that the possibility of transgression is a necessary condition for norms to arise at all. The Gestell of gender, deployed as many technologies, is what establishes Dasein's Being in such a way that it is understood according to certain parameters. Transgressive Dasein illuminates the discourses already at work and taken for granted in the operations of power which shape and give style to Being—those Daseins who transgress the expectations of das Man are engaged in a revealing of the contingency of the ways life is ordered and rendered intelligible, creating tension with established truths by revealing the way they shape Dasein's thinking from the start.

Subject Area

Philosophy|Gender studies

Recommended Citation

Janssen, A. M, "Transgressive Dasein: An applied ontology of sex and gender" (2009). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3377047.