The ‘body’ is a normative, constructed unit, which renders legible hierarchies and power relations. Claiming to be the most ‘natural’ unit of human life, the body is the template on which assumptions about race, gender, ability, and social standing are projected upon and used as the justification for the hierarchical ordering of some human beings over others. Thus, the ‘body’ as well as the subject which inhabits it, is realised and takes shape through exclusion. As such, there are, according to Judith Butler, those bodies that “qualify as bodies that matter” (Butler 1993, 16), and those who do not. Inevitably, this has negative legal effects on the bodies that are considered ‘abject’, as can be observed through the experiences of trans folk, people of colour, and differently abled folk.
Simultaneously, it is precisely the existence of those bodies that fall outside the normative template of the constructed body which challenge the norm and “force a radical rearticulation of what qualifies as bodies that matter, ways of living that count as “life”, lives worth protecting, lives worth saving, lives worth grieving.” (Ibid.)
Butler, Judith. 1993. Bodies That Matter – On the Discursive Limits of “Sex””. New York & London: Routledge.