Sex, ontology, subjectivity: In conversation with Alenka Zupančič


In this wide-ranging conversation, Alenka Zupančič engages with a number of important themes that animate her current work. Randall Terada begins by asking her first to address the striking connections in her work between sexuality, ontology, and the unconscious. Zupančič then moves on to the Lacanian theme of subjective destitution and her differences with Alain Badiou’s theory of the subject. She highlights her most recent work on Kant and offers a subtle critique of Emmanuel Levinas and Jean Laplanche. Zupančič lightens up the discussion somewhat by detailing an Ernst Lubitsch joke to illustrate the significance of the with-without for her Lacanian inspired ontology and in doing so points out why the sexes are not two in any meaningful way. Finally, the discussion closes with a candid and accessible commentary on being, multiplicity, and the One and its importance for a politics that is emphatic in its emphasis that it not take “nothing” or “non-being” for granted.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


  1. 1.

    Lacan Toronto is a diverse group of academics, students, analysts, therapists and counsellors who regularly meet in Toronto to study and discuss the work of Jacques Lacan. They frequently invite speakers to address contemporary theoretical and clinical issues from a Lacanian perspective.

  2. 2.

    For a lengthier discussion of both Laplanche and Levinas, see Zupančič (2008a, 2008b).

  3. 3.

    See Zupančič (2011b, 2012b) for a well argued and trenchant analysis of Freud’s Verneinung (negation).


  1. Copjec, J. (2012) The sexual compact. Angelaki: Journal of the Theoretical Humanities 17 (2): 31–48.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Kant, I. (1960; orig. 1793) Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone. New York: Harper Torchbooks.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Lacan, J. (1998) The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis (Book XI). Translated by A. Sheridan. New York: W.W. Norton.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Lacan, J. (1999) Encore. In: J-A Miller (ed.) The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book XX: On Feminine Sexuality, The Limits of Love and Knowledge, 1972-1973. Translated by B. Fink. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Laplanche, J. (1999) Essays on Otherness. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Shalev, O. and Yerushalmi, H. (2009) Status of sexuality in contemporary psychoanalytic psychotherapy as reported by therapists. Psychoanalytic Psychology 26 (4): 343–361.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Žižek, S., Butler, J. and Laclau, E. (2000) Contingency, Hegemony and Universality. London: Verso.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Žižek, S. (2012) Being and subjectivity. Paper presented at the European Graduate School, 8 July, Saas-Fee, Switzerland., accessed 4 December 2012.

  9. Zupančič, A. (2000) Ethics of the Real. London: Verso.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Zupančič, A. (2003) The Shortest Shadow. Nietzsche’s Philosophy of the Two. Cambridge: The MIT Press.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Zupančič, A. (2004) The fifth condition. In: P. Hallward (ed.) Think Again. Alain Badiou and the Future of Philosophy. London: Continuum.

    Google Scholar 

  12. Zupančič, A. (2008a) The Odd One In. Cambridge: The MIT Press.

    Google Scholar 

  13. Zupančič, A. (2008b) Why Psychoanalysis: Three Interventions. Aarhus: Aarhus University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  14. Zupančič, A. (2011a) Realism in psychoanalysis. Paper presented at the one divides into two: Dialectics, Negativity & Clinamen Conference, 28-30 March, Berlin., accessed 6 May 2012.

  15. Zupančič, A. (2011b) This is not my mother. Paper presented at the one divides into two: Dialectics, Negativity & Clinamen Conference, 28-30 March, Berlin., accessed 6 May 2012.

  16. Zupančič, A. (2012a) Sexual difference and ontology. e-flux journal 32., accessed 6 May 2012.

  17. Zupančič, A. (2012b) Not-mother: On Freud’s Verneinung. e-flux journal 33., accessed 4 May 2012.

  18. Zupančič, A. (2013) Tarrying with the imperative. Paper presented at Apocalyptic Politics: Framing the Present, 12 April, Villanova University, Philadelphia, PA.

  19. Zupančič, A. (2014) Sexuality and the lapse in being. Paper presented at Lacan Toronto, 16 March, Toronto.

Download references


Randall Terada would like to thank Alenka Zupančič for responding graciously to repeated requests for her time, over and above the initial interview that took place in Toronto, and also Concetta Principe, Ines Anderson and Carlos Rivas for their help in the early draft stages, and to Dr. Judith Hamilton for locating and providing a crucial secondary source.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Randall Terada.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Zupančič, A., Terada, R. Sex, ontology, subjectivity: In conversation with Alenka Zupančič. Psychoanal Cult Soc 20, 192–206 (2015).

Download citation


  • Lacan
  • Žižek
  • ontology
  • real
  • subjectivity
  • sexuality