‘Atopic and Utopic’: Kristeva’s Strange Cosmopolitanism

  • Philip Leonard


According to one inveterate caricature, poststructuralism consists of a coherent, if unruly, school of thinkers who essentially promote the same agenda: complacently celebrating polymorphism, indulging in an insipid and misguided assault on the ‘the economy of the same’, revelling with a carnivaleseque excess in the dissolution of the sovereign subject, clamorously affirming terminal culture are seen to be its principal concerns. When viewed in terms of this caricature, Kristeva’s recent work seems to strike an oddly conciliatory, if not utterly pacific, note: here, it is conspicuously not the case that two millennia of tradition are to be swept away in a tide of vertiginous antihumanism, and neither is Western culture hardened into a monolith that is shattered by the overwhelming force of its innumerable contradictions. Of course, such an image of poststructuralism provides only the most jejune reduction of critique to fixed and polarized positions, and Kristeva shows how unhelpful this caricature is, not only by insisting that a critical revaluation of tradition is needed (indeed, her work has always concerned itself with such a revaluation), but also, more specifically, by claiming that the tradition of universalist thinking in the West demands a sharper reassessment.


National Identity Chinese Woman Intellectual History European Identity Postcolonial Theory 
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© Philip Leonard 2005

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  • Philip Leonard

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