Magdalena Cabaj: Research & CV

Intersex Writing

Research Area 2: Norms & Transgressions


Photo_Magdalena CabajMy dissertation discusses intersex as an emancipatory figure with a great subversive potential, which  through the ages has been forced to occupy the unusual border between fiction and pathology.

In my research, I analyze the notion of hermaphroditism and show how it transgresses the order of visibility, law, accepted ontology and language. To do so, I take into account the ideas of preformation, epigenesis, development of embryology, gonads and DNA. I believe that such a reconstruction of the notion can cast a renewed light onto how contemporary thinking is embedded in the binary oppositions that characterizes Western culture. My philosophical perspective is inspired by the works of Georges Canguilhem and Donna Haraway. Both of them explore the social practices of transgression within an analysis of scientific discourses.

I strive to reveal the mechanisms of exclusion related to the non-dualistic subjectivity of intersexuality from the social ontology. For a long time, hermaphrodites have been treated as monsters, standing at the intersection between “the impossible and the forbidden” (Michel Foucault). Having analyzed the position of intersex in medical and literary discourses, I develop my concept of “hermaphroditic writing”. It refers to a type of non-oppressive language toward intersex individuals.

I believe that my research will present the hermaphrodite as a figure of subjectivity necessary to understand the non-dualistic claims of our postmodern and post-human era.



2011—: Doctoral studies in Theory of Literature, at the Department of Polish Studies, University of Warsaw, under the supervision of Wincenty Grajewski

2013—: cotutelle with the Department of Philosophy within the transdisciplinary PhD program “Lettres/Sciences” of the École Normale Supérieure in Paris, under the supervision of Dominique Lestel

2011-2015 : Master of Arts in Philosophy within the Inter-faculty Individual Studies in Humanities, University of Warsaw. Topic: From Monstrosities to Trans-species: Georges Canguilhem and Donna Haraway

2006-2011: Master of Arts in Literature and Polish Literature at the University of Warsaw in cotutelle with the UFR d’Études Slaves, at Paris-Sorbonne University

Exchange Programs

2015/2016: Visiting scholar at the Department of Gender Studies and The Kinsey Institute, Indiana University, Bloomington

2012/2013: Visiting scholar at the École Normale Supérieure, Paris

Selected Publications

  • “Baba Yaga pourra-t-elle jamais être belle et bonne ?”, Revue Sciences/Lettres [online], 4 | 2016, online 16.01.2016.
  • “En passant près de l’isba de Baba Yaga: morphologie et racines de la sorcière”, in : Baba Yaga, red. Sandra Pellet, Paris, 2015, pp. 24-40.
  • “Hermafrodyty” [Hermaphrodites], Res Publica Nowa, no. 213 : Technolodzy i technokraci, red. Wojciech Przybylski, Warsaw, 2013, pp. 72-75.

Selected Conference and Workshop Presentations

  • Ghost of the Machine: The Post-human Body, Gender & Free Will. Polish Studies Center, Indiana University Bloomington, 24/03/2016
  • Représentations textuelles de l’hermaphrodite. Conference on “Sexual Dis/discontinuities”, the City University of New York, 13/02/2015
  • Baba Yaga pourra-t-elle jamais être belle et bonne ? Conference on “Baba Yaga et son isba. Colloque pluridisciplinaire sur la sorcière des contes populaires russes”, ENS Paris, 16-17/01/2015
  • L’art de la photographie médicale de Nadar. Conference on “Image, imaginaire, représentation”, Vasile Alecsandri University in Bacau, 7-10/05/2014
  • Pisarstwo hermafrodytyczne [Hermaphrodite Writing]. Conference on “Literatura przepisana” [Rewriting Literature], University of Lódź, 14-16/04/2014

Selected Awards and Scholarships

  • French Government Scholarship for Polish PhD Students in France (cotutelle) 2013-2016
  • Awards for the Best Students at University of Warsaw 2008-2013
  • Scholarships of Minister of Science and Higher Education in Poland, 2010/2011
  • Scholarships of Minister of Science and Higher Education in Poland, 2009/2010

Other Activities

  • Voluntary works for many cultural festivals and events for example: New Horizons Film Festival in Wroclaw, 07/2008, 07/2009, 07/2010; Warsaw Film Festival,10/2010, Watch Docs Festival in Warsaw, 12/2009
  • Editing and proofreading for scientific journals “LiteRacje” and “Sztuka i Filozofia”
  • Internship in Centre for Contemporary Art in AIR “Artists-in-residence-laboratory” Warsaw, 03-05/2011
  • Former member of the European Students’ Forum
  • Organization of the student exchange program “Summer University” in Warsaw and participation in “Summer University” exchanges in Istanbul, Amsterdam, Palermo and Valencia