Feminist Legal Studies

, Volume 14, Issue 3, pp 271–291 | Cite as

Before Identity, Gender and Human Rights



This is the beginning of an exploration of before as the thesis ‘before’ (temporally) and ‘be-fore’ (spatially) difference. Before denotes the origin and the desired destination. Before (in the double sense of ‘before’ and ‚be-in-the-fore’) opens up a space of pre-difference, of origin and of forgotten memory, as well as a space of desire, objective, illusion of teleology, unity, completion. Applied to the two domains of Human Rights and Sex/Gender, the space of ‘before’ yields two slightly different vistas: in human rights, a premodern, functionally undifferentiated society which had to invent human rights as its safeguards of functional differentiation. In Sex/Gender, ‘before’ brings a self-referential construction: that of ipseity, as the form of identity beyond comparison that does not play with id but with ipsum. Ipseity is inoperable but not useless. It is inoperable because it cannot be observed from anywhere without suffering rupture. It is not useless because it offers a ground for the reconceptualisation of difference, both through awe and desire.


difference gender human rights identity ipseity Luhmann paradox utopia 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of LawUniversity of WestminsterLondonUK

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