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Practising gender, queering theory

  • Lauren Wilcox (a1)

The development of a ‘practice turn’ in International Relations promises to reconstitute IR theory around the study of embodied practices. Despite occasional references to Judith Butler’s work, the contributions of feminist and queer theory are under recognised in existing work. In this piece I note the distinctive approach to gender as a practice represented by Butler and other feminist/queer theorists for its emphasis on intelligibility and failure, particularly the importance on ‘competently’ practising gender in order to established as an intelligible subject. Given the centrality of ‘competency’ in ‘practice turn’ literature, theorising practice from the perspective of ‘gender failures’ sheds light on the embedded exclusions within this literature. To demonstrate the stakes of this critique, I discuss airport security practices, a growing area of interest to IR scholars, in terms of the experiences of trans- and gender non-conforming people. I argue that such practices ultimately complicate success/failure binaries. I conclude by considering the political stakes of practising theory in IR and how competency in theory is similarly marked by the exclusion of feminist/queer work.

Corresponding author
*Correspondence to: Lauren Wilcox, University of Cambridge – University of Cambridge Centre for Gender Studies, Department of Politics and International Studies, Alison Richard Building, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, CB3 9DP. Author’s email:
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Review of International Studies
  • ISSN: 0260-2105
  • EISSN: 1469-9044
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