Gendering ‘Bare Life’: Marlene Streeruwitz’s Novels Kreuzungen. and Entfernung.

Natalia Dudnik


The novels by the Austrian writer and public intellectual Marlene Streeruwitz— Kreuzungen (2008) and Entfernung (2006)—are both in tune with and imply criticism of the concepts of ‘bare life,’ the sovereign, and homo sacer examined by the Italian political philosopher Giorgio Agamben. This article explores the gender aspect of ‘bare life,’ which has been absent from Agamben's work, through the prism of Streeruwitz's novels that provide male and female views on ‘bare life’: while Kreuzungen is narrated from the perspective of an extremely rich middle-aged man, Entfernung features an aging woman in a situation of loss. I argue that the male and female characters—Max and Selma— have opposite visions of ‘bare life.’ The relationship to one's own ‘bare life,’ as presented by Streeruwitz, is a political one and can be constructed in terms of ownership and repression, or cooperation and corporeality. The latter has the potential to dissolve sociocultural hierarchies such as the mind/body dualism and open new insights into political consciousness and agency. (ND)

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