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In doing so, he highlights the dependence of any performative utterance on its context: performative utterances require conventions to sustain them. The performative utterance “I christen this ship the Titanic” may be “happy” when it is uttered by a dignitary at a formal dockyard launch, for example, but less happy when uttered by a child playing with toy boats in a bathtub. Conventions governing the success or failure of performative utterances are like the magician’s mirror or trick sleeve—they are the means allowing the utterance to effect its accomplishment.

Father D. F. Miller, as cited by MacKenzie 1962, 86). The operation of condonation as a bar to divorce (discussed in Chapter 4) illustrates the same phenomenon. Moreover, these sorts of corporeal inscriptions are not merely “written onto” passive bodies but Theorizing Conjugality 37 can be mobilized by agent-subjects. In this way, marriage is performative in several senses. Performativity In her introduction to a collection of essays on feminism and Foucault, Susan Hekman says, “Foucault’s treatment of the body and sexuality has stimulated the most extensive feminist interest in his work.

16 I want to focus instead on the impact of the “same-sex marriage” debates17 on the feminist problematization of marriage. The dilemma is obvious, yet disarmingly complex. If the patriarchal and (hetero)sexist imperatives of marriage (presumed to both construct and police an unequal power relationship between husbands and wives, or men and women) are removed, feminist critiques of marriage peel away from the social-institutional structures of marriage like so much old wallpaper. If marriage no longer necessitates the (de jure or de facto) union of one man and one woman, it no longer seems to have very much to do with either counter-sexist or counter-patriarchal critiques.

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