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Paddy McQueen

BA, MA Durham University 

Rethinking Recognition: Establishing the Conditions of a Liveable Life

This thesis examines the philosophical and political dimensions of recognition, with particular attention paid to the role played by recognition in feminist theory and politics. Recognition is becoming an increasingly important concept within theories of justice, inspired in large part by Charles Taylor’s essay ‘The Politics of Recognition’ (Taylor, 1994). Political theories of recognition, which attempt to reconfigure the concept of justice in terms of due or withheld recognition, have important affinities with the rise of multiculturalism. Multicultural politics has produced an array of literature focused on recognising, accommodating and respecting difference. Although these two trajectories overlap, there are also important differences between them. Multicultural politics is rooted in the identity politics underlying various social movements that gained prominence during the 1960s, such as the civil rights movement and radical/cultural feminism. These movements tend to emphasise the distinctness and value of their cultural identity and demand group-specific rights to protect this uniqueness (e.g. Young, 1990; Kymlicka, 1995; Tully, 1995). Political theories of recognition, particularly those formulated by Charles Taylor and Axel Honneth (e.g. 1995; 2003; 2007; 2008; 2010), tend to focus on the role played by recognition in individual identity formation and the normative (i.e. justificatory / evaluative) foundation this can provide to theories of justice.

This thesis draws on feminist and post-structuralist theories to challenge these models of politics and the self. Furthermore, it illuminates feminism by arguing that the various political and theoretical movements which collectively constitute feminism can each be understood as making a specific demand for recognition. Consequently, the overarching aim of the thesis is twofold: (I) to identify the most promising form of contemporary feminism; and (II) to develop a distinctive understanding of recognition which can do justice to the insights of this form of feminism, thus producing a critical perspective on existing political theories of recognition. To this end, the thesis advocates a feminist politics inspired by the work of Judith Butler (e.g. 1990; 1997; 2004; 2005) and demonstrates how her work can be used to reveal fundamental problems for many existing theories of recognition. Whereas many forms of feminism have tended to focus on issues of the authentic and integrated gendered self, the value of inner embodied experience and first-person authority, Butler’s theory shifts decisively away from such ideas, instead exploring the discursive and performative construction of the subject and the ways that the formation of the subject is coextensive with (i.e. inextricably bound up with) power. A new politics of recognition is constructed based on Butler’s insights, which differs significantly from existing theories of recognition.


Cillian McBride and Shane O'Neill

For more information on my academic work, please see

Academic C.V.


McQueen, P. and McQueen, H. (2010), Key Concepts in Philosophy, (Basingstoke: Palgrave)

Peer Reviewed Articles:

McQueen, P. (in press), ‘Review Essay: Agency and Embodiment’, Hypatia

McQueen, P. (2011), ‘Four-Dimensionalism and the Necessity of Non-Supervenient Relations’, Philosophical Writings, 38 & 39: 13-27

McQueen, P. (2011), ‘Recognition, Social and Political’, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

McQueen, P. (2010), ‘Butler and Buddhism: Identity, Performativity and Anatta’, Studies in Social and Political Thought, 17: 131-151

Forthcoming Peer Reviewed Articles:

McQueen, P. (exp. 2014), ‘Enslaved by One’s Body: Gender as a form of Contemporary Slavery’, Journal of Citizenship Studies – accepted for inclusion within edited volume entitled ‘The Body as a Site for Politics: Practices of Contemporary Slavery’ (subject to final editorial review)

Work in Progress:

McQueen, P. ‘The Liminal Bind: Issues of Inclusion and Recognition for Trans-Identities’ – accepted as book chapter in Recognition and the Politics of Identity and Inclusion in the 21st Century: Managing Diversity in Plural Societies.

Conference Papers:

McQueen, P. (2011), ‘Enslaved by One’s Body? Reflections on Gender and Transsexuality’, at 6th ECPR General Conference (Reykjavik)

McQueen, P. (2011), ‘Gender, Citizenship and Inclusion: Trans-identities and Official Recognition’, at 6th ECPR General Conference (Reykjavik)

McQueen, P. (2011), ‘A Life Less Liminal? Issues of Inclusion and Recognition for Trans-Identities’, at Recognition and the Politics of Identity and Inclusion in the 21st Century: Managing Diversity in Plural Societies (University of Hong Kong)

McQueen, P. (2011), ‘Subverting the Ideal: Loren Cameron and the Beautiful Monster’, at Ideal Woman Conference (Queen’s University Belfast)

McQueen, P. (2010), ‘Recognition in a Post-Gendered Landscape: A Critical Analysis of Honneth from a Cyborg Perspective’, at Critical Political Theory Conference (University of Essex)

McQueen, P. (2010), ‘Refiguring Trans-Identities: The Value of a Multiple Me’, at Me, Myself & I: Exploring Philosophical Notions of the Self Conference (University of Southampton)

McQueen, P. (2010), ‘Beyond Recognition: Feminist Reflections on Honneth, Identity and Power’, at Utopia, Dystopia, Critical Theory Conference (University of Sussex)

Academic Employment:

[2011-2012] Lecturer at Queen’s University Belfast for the following modules:

• Contemporary Critical Theory (level three module): lectures given on Jürgen Habermas and Judith Butler
• Modern Political Thought (level two module): lectures given on Jean-Jacques Rousseau

[2010-2012] Teaching Assistant at Queen’s University Belfast for the following modules:

• Contemporary Critical Theory (level three module)
• Modern Political Thought (level two module)
• Philosophy and the Good Life (level one module)
• Approaches to Philosophy (level one module)