The Deconstruction of Sex

In The Deconstruction of Sex, Jean-Luc Nancy and Irving Goh discuss how a deconstructive approach to sex helps us negotiate discourses about sex and foster a better understanding of how sex complicates our everyday existence in the age of #MeToo. Throughout their conversation, Nancy and Goh engage with topics ranging from relation, penetration, and subjection to touch, erotics, and jouissance. They show how despite its entrenchment in social norms and centrality to our being-in-the-world, sex lacks a clearly defined essence. At the same time, they point to the potentiality of literature to inscribe the senses of sex. In so doing, Nancy and Goh prompt us to reconsider our relations with ourselves and others through sex in more sensitive, respectful, and humble ways without bracketing the troubling aspects of sex.

Jean-Luc Nancy (1940-2021) was Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Strasbourg and the author of numerous books, most recently Sexistence.

Irving Goh is President's Assistant Professor of Literature at the National University of Singapore and author of The Reject: Community, Politics, and Religion after the Subject and L’Existence Prépositionnelle.


“Happily, no one will leave this book with an understanding of sex. To the contrary, these trenchant and provocative dialogues challenge any construction of sex that relies on a copular verb. As astutely as Irving Goh places sex in a politicophilosophical framework, just as astutely does Jean-Luc Nancy lay out how sex exceeds it. This results in an exemplary enactment of the becoming-word of sex, ‘leaving in us,’ to quote Nancy, ‘a sort of dizziness and bedazzlement’ by comparison with which ‘understanding’ sex can only seem delusional.” — Lee Edelman, author of No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive

“In this fascinating dialogue between the renowned continental thinker Jean-Luc Nancy and the critic Irving Goh, the foundational terms of sex are brilliantly deconstructed in ways directly relevant to sensual experience, modalities of affect, intimate co-relationality and the fluid subjects of contemporary gender self-identification. Sexual philosophy, post-Foucault and post-Irigaray, gains a new classic with this indispensable text, topped by the bonus of Claire Colebrook's trenchant afterword on killjoy sex.” — Emily Apter, Silver Professor of French and Comparative Literature, New York University