Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy


Women's Studies and Feminist Research


James, Joy


This thesis journeys through a series of events to develop a concept of “imperceptibility” as a mode of resistance to contemporary sexual surveillance. The events I examine include biometric recognition of gender and race at airport security checkpoints, the heteropatriarchal colonial surveillance of Indigenous peoples at Standing Rock, various protest actions, and the political potentials of glitch art. Exploring their unexpected points of connection, my goal is to bring into view acts of resistance against sexual surveillance that already operate below and above the threshold of everyday perception.

The project advocates for a philosophy of resistance that underscores the political importance of creating new modes of existence. Rather than engaging in the problematic of devising a new model of subjectivity, I argue that what is needed to escape from contemporary systems of capture and control is to turn from the Self as the primary site of concern and affirm instead the potentials of becoming-imperceptible. Imperceptibility signals not invisibility, but the act of relinquishing identity in favour of moving toward becoming everybody/everything. Far from a homogenizing or unitary endeavour, I propose imperceptibility as a radical celebration of difference that surges a revolutionary desire for social transformation through interconnectedness.

Activating Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s pragmatic philosophy and style of writing, which emphasize multiple relations over binary oppositions, I introduce “a queer politics of imperceptibility” as a conceptual framework that takes a both/and approach to consider resistance. That is, I work with and between the tensions of feminist theories of recognition and Deleuze and Guattari’s nonrepresentational philosophy. I develop this framework in each chapter by mapping a constellation of interacting forces and affective intensities between bodies, both human and non-human. A Queer Politics of Imperceptibility makes an important intervention into the fields of feminist surveillance studies, posthumanism, affect theory, postcolonial theory and queer theory by revealing the ways in which imperceptible relations of resistance cascade into the political to generate new potentials to act in the world.