Skip to main content

Penelope Deutscher

Joan and Sarepta Harrison Professor of Ethics and Justice, Department of Philosophy; Associate Director, Critical Theory Cluster

PhD, University of NSW

Penelope Deutscher specializes in twentieth-century and contemporary French philosophy, and in gender and sexuality studies. Her current projects include a focus on the intersections of biopolitics and reproductive futurism, the genealogy of gendered rights claims, and the complex techniques of power that undermine rights-bearing. Some of her latest publications include“Qualifizierende Disqualifizierung und ihre Umkehrungen: Macht nach Foucault und die Verteilungen von Unvermögen,” Deutsche Zeitschrift für Philosophie 70.2 (2022) (available in English  as “Qualifying Disqualification and its Inversions: Power After Foucault and the Distributions of Incapacity,”  Graduate Faculty Philosophy Journal  43.1  [2022]); “Paradoxes of Reproduction, Grammars of Power,” Diacritics 49.2 (2021); and “Auto-repugnancy: In-between Freud’s Pleasure Principle," Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society 25 (2020).

Her most recent books are Foucault’s Futures: A Critique of Reproductive Reason (2017), and two co-edited collections: Foucault/Derrida: Fifty Years On (co-edited with Olivia Custer and Samir Haddad) and Critical Theory in Critical Times (co-edited with Cristina Lafont), all with Columbia University Press. She is currently working on the book manuscript: A Grammar of Power: Reversible Rights and Plurigenealogies After Foucault.

She is also the author of Yielding Gender: Feminism, Deconstruction and the History of Philosophy (Routledge 1997); A Politics of Impossible Difference: The Later Work of Luce Irigaray (Cornell University Press, 2002), How to Read Derrida (Granta/Norton 2006), and The Philosophy of Simone de Beauvoir: Ambiguity, Conversion, Resistance (Cambridge University Press, 2008).She previously co-edited, with Kelly Oliver, Enigmas: Essays on Sarah Kofman(Cornell University Press, 1999), and, with Françoise Collin, Repenser le politique: l'apport du féminisme, an anthology of French translations of contemporary Anglo-American women political philosophers (Paris: Campagne première /Les cahiers du grif, 2004.). She also guest edited for Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy the special issue 'Contemporary French Women Philosophers' (15:4, 2000). Her continuing publications in these areas include, most recently, essays on Irigaray and Kofman on Nietzsche; Beauvoir, Cassin, and untranslatability; and French feminism and new materialism.

She has been awarded a Senior Fellowship by the I.F.K. (Internationales Forschungszentrum Kulturwissenschaften) Vienna, and a V.I.P (Visiting International Professorship) at the University of Bochum, where she held the Marie-Jahoda Visiting Chair in International Gender Studies in 2013. She has also been the recipient of a Humboldt Research Fellowship, a Distinguished Fellowship at the Institute of Advanced Study, Durham University, UK, a N.S.W. Residency Expatriate Scientists Award at the University of Sydney, and an (A.R.C.) Australian Research Council Large Grant. She is currently Associate Director of Northwestern’s Critical Theory Cluster. In this capacity she was co-investigator, with Judith Butler, of an initiative (awarded funding in 2015 by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation) to establish the International Consortium for Critical Theory Programs. From 2015 to 2022 she was the P.I. of a range of programs (“Critical Theory in the Global South,” also funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation) constituting Northwestern’s contribution to this cross-institutional collaboration.