The political uncanny of the family
Patricia Duncker’s The Deadly Space Between and The Civil Partnership Act
in Gothic kinship
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Anne Quéma analyses in Chapter 8 the uncanny kinship narratives in Patricia Duncker’s The Deadly Space Between (2002) and the British Civil Partnership Act (CPA) (2004). Quéma argues that the uncanny can be interpreted as the manifestation of the effects of normative power as we adhere to dominant norms such as family norms. In Duncker’s novel, cultural performatives of kinship, sexuality and gender identification relentlessly haunt the protagonist. The CPA betrays a fundamental contradiction: while legitimizing the deletion of binary gender differences by same-sex union, it applies an interdict that reinstates the Oedipal logic of binary relations and undoes the acknowledgment of same-sex union. This constitutes the political uncanny at the heart of English family law. If the uncanny characterizes both the legal discourse and the novel, it is not so much because they operate under sexual and cultural repression; rather, the uncanny effect derives from the ways in which these two texts remain trapped in and haunted by ancestral patterns of gender and sexual identification that posture as universal, natural and commonsensical ways of doing things.

Editors: Agnes Andeweg and Sue Zlosnik


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