Anaesthetics of Existence

Essays on Experience at the Edge

Book Pages: 192 Illustrations: 9 illustrations Published: May 2020

Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies, Theory and Philosophy > Feminist Theory

“Experience” is a thoroughly political category, a social and historical product not authored by any individual. At the same time, “the personal is political,” and one's own lived experience is an important epistemic resource. In Anaesthetics of Existence Cressida J. Heyes reconciles these two positions, drawing on examples of things that happen to us but are nonetheless excluded from experience. If for Foucault an “aesthetics of existence” was a project of making one's life a work of art, Heyes's “anaesthetics of existence” describes antiprojects that are tacitly excluded from life—but should be brought back in. Drawing on critical phenomenology, genealogy, and feminist theory, Heyes shows how and why experience has edges, and she analyzes phenomena that press against those edges. Essays on sexual violence against unconscious victims, the temporality of drug use, and childbirth as a limit-experience build a politics of experience while showcasing Heyes's much-needed new philosophical method.


“‘Anaesthetics of Existence,’ writes Cressida J. Heyes, ‘is a book about refusal, exclusion and liminality.’ More than this, it is a book about the unevenness of attention, about the tendency of bodies to flicker in and out of consciousness, and about extreme ordinariness and the increasing ordinariness of the extreme. This book is timely, original, and offers new insights within the philosophy of experience.” — Jack Halberstam, author of The Queer Art of Failure

“Incredibly smart, wide ranging, inventive, and timely, Cressida J. Heyes's Anaesthetics of Existence offers a detailed and philosophically rigorous phenomenological exploration of experience. Heyes does not merely report on phenomenology, she does it with an aliveness to her prose and an expansiveness to her thinking that feels fresh, original, and exciting. A marvelous book.” — Gayle Salamon, author of The Life and Death of Latisha King: A Critical Phenomenology of Transphobia

“Without a doubt, Heyes’ Anaesthetics of Existence is a marvelously written, timely, and exciting book. It is both a scholarly feat—impeccably researched and persuasively argued—and a pleasurable read that offers some respite and solace amidst the chaos of postdisciplinary time.”

— Corinne Lajoie, Contemporary Political Theory


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Cressida J. Heyes is H. M. Tory Chair and Professor of Political Science and Philosophy at the University of Alberta and author of Self-Transformations: Foucault, Ethics, and Normalized Bodies and Line Drawings: Defining Women through Feminist Practice.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  vii
Introduction  1
1. Foucault's Limits: Experience at the Edge  27
2. Dead to the World: Rape, Unconsciousness, and Social Media  52
3. Down and Out: Temporality after Discipline  75
4. Anaesthetic Time  97
5. Child, Birth: An Aesthetic  125
Coda  141
Notes  147
References  159
Index   177
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-0826-2 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-0781-4