Nonnormative Ethics: The dynamic of trans formation

Van Der Drift, Mijke Anne. 2018. Nonnormative Ethics: The dynamic of trans formation. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

In this thesis I propose to address trans as nonnormative ethical formation. In
the current definition (Stryker, 2008) trans is defined as a movement outside of
constraints that encapsulate normative genders. Preciado (2012) argues that
trans involves the constitution of a soma-political project, beyond identity.

As opposed to theories that describe identity formation as aspirational, the
thesis extends Aristotle’s arguments for ethical formation in terms of interactive
engagement within environments through an agents’ dunamis – the powers of its
Soul (Lee 1992). The limits of the Aristotelian model will be overcome by use of
Anzaldúa (1987) and Lugones (2003). The navigation away from imposed
normative environments through agential action will be shown to lead to
nonnormative logos: a formational logic shaping perception, action, and practical
reflection culminating in practical truth. This reading enables centering
somatechnical processes (Sullivan 2009) as generative of forms of life.

Wittgenstein suggests that agential logic informs forms of life, shaping validity of
both principles and decisions. I use this insight to claim that the polis is ordered
by a single logic that informs norms. I propose nonnormative ethics to
encompass agents with differing logos. Reading eudaimonia as the demon
standing behind the agent, I will suggest that nonnormative ethics takes place
outside of the polis on the ‘demonic grounds’ (McKittrick 2015, Wynter 1990).
Nonnormative ethical connections are multilogical and are bridged by collective

I will draw from Glissant (2002) to make a case for acknowledging agential
opacity away from a pathologising claim to interiority. I will argue for nonantagonistic
playfulness and loss (Lugones, 2003) as keys to the emergence of
nonnormative codes enabling shared forms of life. I propose that the distinction
with the codes of the polis is the willingness to share loss, instead of exploitation.

The thesis makes the case that bodily change is central to changing one’s
understanding of, and relation to one’s surroundings. Furthermore, I argue such
change is a collective process, and that emerging epistemologies are connected
to contextual ethics.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


Trans, ethics, nonnormative, philosophy, queer, decolonial

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Centre for Cultural Studies (1998-2017)


31 August 2018

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

10 Oct 2018 12:22

Last Modified:

06 May 2023 01:26


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