This chapter introduces “constitutive exclusion” and makes the case for it as a framework for understanding why some claims are unintelligible as political claims, and some actors unintelligible as political agents. While many theoretical frameworks—political theory, critical theory, feminist theory, queer theory, and Afro-pessimism—rely on constitutive exclusion, none take it up explicitly. I do so around three claims: First, political borders are drawn through the internal exclusion of radical political actors, whose claims are then rendered unintelligible. Second, a politics of recognition is insufficient as a response to these exclusions, as recognition is often consistent with domination and disavowal. Third, the radical potential buried within internal exclusions is accessible by means of a method attentive to the temporality and materiality of these exclusions. The critical work of the book is in service of a future in which we no longer define ourselves through such exclusions within.
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