It is widely presumed in queer theory today that the political value of the field lies in its antinormative commitments. A historically framed attentiveness to the context in which antinormativity came to define the queer theoretical project, however, raises the possibility that queer theory’s conventional commitments to antinormativity need to be reconsidered. As part of that project, this essay traces the elaboration of the norm in Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble, reading it against what is often taken as its inspiration, Michel Foucault’s understanding of normalization in The History of Sexuality, volume 1. Butler’s description of how norms work and, more particularly, how norms might be subverted is radically inconsistent with Foucault’s account of the processes of normalization that characterize modern power. This inconsistency allows us to see that, despite its apparent singularity, antinormativity is not a homogenous thing except in its field-founding force for queer theory.

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