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Summary

Following the works of Edmund Husserl, Martin Heidegger, Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Simone de Beauvoir, to name a few of the major figures in this tradition, phenomenology operates on both the ontological and epistemological level to insist that all contact with the world occurs through a layer of living experience.  Phenomenology attends to both what is being observed, the givenness of what is being observed, and the intentions of the one doing the observing while conditioned as being-in-the-world.  In other words, phenomenology commences with the belief that initial contact with the world is not already clearly distinguishable as subjective or objective.  Refusing the constraints of reducing the world to either that which exists out there or to the projections of the inner self, phenomenology understands the lived world as an open-ended framework with meaning complexes.  Because of the open-ended nature of experience and of meaning, knowledge is always unfinished and incomplete.

As the study of the phenomenal constraints of living in the world, feminist phenomenology holds the position that being-in-the-world is not an abstract condition--without sex or gender.  At the most obvious level, this leads to a focus on gendered embodiment and its impact on subjectivity.  From these beginnings, feminist phenomenology clarifies how sex and gender impacts one’s experiences and understandings of the world, broadening to explore the social political consequences.

Key works

Alcoff, Linda Martin (2000). “Merleau-Ponty and Feminist Theory on Experience.”. Chiasm, Merleau-Ponty's Notion of Flesh, Fred Evans Leonard Lawlor (ed.), (New York:  SUNY Press.

Bartky, Sandra Lee (1990).  Femininity and Domination: Studies in the Phenomenology of Oppression (New York:  Routledge).

Butler, Judith (1989). Butler,  “Sexual Ideology and Phenomenological Description:  A Feminist Critique of Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology of Perception,” The Thinking Muse: Feminism and Modern French Philosophy., eds. Jeffner Allen&Iris Marion Young (eds.). (Bloomington:  Indiana University Press).

Weiss, Gail (1999). Body Images:  embodiment as intercorporeality (New York:  Routledge).

Young, Iris Marion (2005).  On Female Body Experience: "Throwing Like a Girl" and Other Essays. (New York:  Oxford University Press). 

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  1. Sara Ahmed (2003). Feminist Futures. In Mary Eagleton (ed.), A Concise Companion to Feminist Theory. Blackwell.
  2. Alia Al-Saji (2010). Bodies and Sensings: On the Uses of Husserlian Phenomenology for Feminist Theory. [REVIEW] Continental Philosophy Review 43 (1):13-37.
    What does Husserlian phenomenology have to offer feminist theory? More specifically, can we find resources within Husserl’s account of the living body ( Leib ) for the critical feminist project of rethinking embodiment beyond the dichotomies not only of mind/body but also of subject/object and activity/passivity? This essay begins by explicating the reasons for feminist hesitation with respect to Husserlian phenomenology. I then explore the resources that Husserl’s phenomenology of touch and his account of sensings hold for feminist theory. My (...)
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  3. Alia Al-Saji (2010). The Racialization of Muslim Veils: A Philosophical Analysis. Philosophy and Social Criticism 36 (8):875-902.
    This article goes behind stereotypes of Muslim veiling to ask after the representational structure underlying these images. I examine the public debate leading to the 2004 French law banning conspicuous religious signs in schools and French colonial attitudes to veiling in Algeria, in conjunction with discourses on the veil that have arisen in other western contexts. My argument is that western perceptions and representations of veiled Muslim women are not simply about Muslim women themselves. Rather than representing Muslim women, these (...)
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  4. Alia Al-Saji (2009). A Phenomenology of Critical-Ethical Vision: Merleau-Ponty, Bergson, and the Question of Seeing Differently. Chiasmi International 11:375-398.
    Drawing on Merleau-Ponty’s “Eye and Mind” and Bergson’s Matière et mémoire and “La perception du changement,” I ask what resources are available in vision for interrupting objectifying habits of seeing. While both Bergson and Merleau-Ponty locate the possibility of seeing differently in the figure of the painter, I develop by means of their texts, and in dialogue with Iris Marion Young’s work, a more general phenomenology of hesitation that grounds what I am calling “critical-ethical vision.” Hesitation, I argue, stems from (...)
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  5. Alia Al-Saji (2005). Review of Iris Marion Young, On Female Body Experience: &Quot;throwing Like a Girl" and Other Essays. [REVIEW] Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2005 (10).
  6. Linda Martin Alcoff (2000). “Merleau-Ponty and Feminist Theory on Experience.”. In Fred Evans Leonard Lawlor (ed.), Chiasm, Merleau-Ponty's Notion of Flesh.
  7. Jacquelyn Allen-Collinson (2011). Feminist Phenomenology and the Woman in the Running Body. Sport, Ethics and Philosophy 5 (3):297 - 313.
    Modern phenomenology, with its roots in Husserlian philosophy, has been taken up and utilised in a myriad of ways within different disciplines, but until recently has remained relatively underused within sports studies. A corpus of sociological-phenomenological work is now beginning to develop in this domain, alongside a longer-standing literature in feminist phenomenology. These specific social-phenomenological forms explore the situatedness of lived-body experience within a particular social structure. After providing a brief overview of key strands of phenomenology, this article considers some (...)
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  8. Barbara S. Andrew (2000). Beauvoir and The Second Sex: Feminism, Race, and the Origins of Existentialism (Review). Journal of Speculative Philosophy 14 (2):156-160.
  9. Kristana Arp (1999). Book Review: Elizabeth Fallaize. Simone de Beauvoir: A Critical Reader. London and New York: Routledge, 1998. [REVIEW] Hypatia 14 (4):186-191.
  10. Marina Paola Banchetti-Robino (2000). F.J.J. Buytendijk on Woman: A Phenomenological Critique. In Linda Fisher & Lester Embree (eds.), Feminist Phenomenology. Kluwer Academic Publishers.
  11. Sandra Lee Bartky (1975). Toward a Phenomenology of Feminist Consciousness. Social Theory and Practice 3 (4):425-439.
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  12. Mary Catharine Baseheart (1989). Edith Stein's Philosophy of Woman and of Women's Education. Hypatia 4 (1):120 - 131.
    Edith Stein, Husserl's brilliant student and assistant, devoted ten years of her life to teaching in a girls' secondary school, during which time she gave a series of lectures on educational reform and the appropriate education to be provided to girls. She grounds her answer to these questions in a philosophical account of the nature of woman. She argues that men and women share some universally human characteristics, but that they have separate and distinct natures. Her awareness of the rich (...)
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  13. Christine Battersby (1999). Book Review: C�Line L�on and Sylvia Walsh. Feminist Interpretations of s�Ren Kierkegaard. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1997. [REVIEW] Hypatia 14 (3):172-176.
  14. Nancy Bauer (1999). The Philosophy of Simone de Beauvoir: Gendered Phenomenologies, Erotic Generosities, And: Sex and Existence: Simone de Beauvoir's 'The Second Sex', And: Beauvoir and The Second Sex : Feminism, Race, and the Origins of Existentialism, And: Philosophy as Passion: The Thinking of Simone de Beauvoir (Review). Journal of the History of Philosophy 37 (4):688-691.
  15. Nancy Bauer (1996). Book Review: Margaret A. Simons. Feminist Interpretations of Simone de Beauvoir. University Park, Pa: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1995. [REVIEW] Hypatia 11 (3):161-164.
  16. Carol S. Becker (1987). Friendship Between Women: A Phenomenological Study of Best Friends. Journal of Phenomenological Psychology 18 (1):59-72.
  17. Vikki Bell (1999). Feminist Imagination: Genealogies in Feminist Theory. Sage.
    Reading feminist theory as a complex imaginative achievement, Feminist Imagination considers feminist commitment through the interrogation of its philosophical, political and affective connections with the past, and especially with the `race' trials of the twentieth century. The book looks at: the 'directionlessness' of contemporary feminist thought; the question of essentialism and embodiment; the racial tensions in the work of Simone de Beauvoir; the totalitarian character in Hannah Arendt; the 'mimetic Jew' and the concept of mimesis in the work of Judith (...)
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  18. Debra Bergoffen (2008). On Female Body Experience: Throwing Like a Girl and Other Essaysby Iris Marion Young. Hypatia 23 (3):217-220.
  19. Debra Bergoffen (2008). On Female Body Experience: Throwing Like a Girl and Other Essays (Review). Hypatia 23 (3):pp. 217-220.
  20. Debra Bergoffen & Gail Weiss (2012). Cluster: Contesting the Norms of Embodiment — Editors' Introduction. Hypatia 27 (2):241-242.
  21. Debra Bergoffen & Gail Weiss (2011). Embodying the Ethical—Editors' Introduction. Hypatia 26 (3):453-460.
  22. Carol Bigwood (1991). Renaturalizing the Body (With the Help of Merleau-Ponty). Hypatia 6 (3):54 - 73.
    Some poststructuralist feminist theorists hold that the body is merely the product of cultural determinants and that gender is a free-floating artifice. I discuss how this "denaturalization" of gender and the body entrenches us yet deeper in the nature/culture dichotomy. The body, I maintain, needs to be "renaturalized" so that its earthy significance is recognized. Through a feminist reappropriation of Merleau-Ponty's phenomenology of the body, I develop a noncausal linkage between gender and the body. I present the body as an (...)
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  23. Ulrika Björk (2010). Closer: Performance, Technologies, Phenomenology. By Susan Kozel. Hypatia 25 (3):704-707.
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  24. Ulrika Björk (2010). Paradoxes of Femininity in the Philosophy of Simone de Beauvoir. Continental Philosophy Review 43 (1):39-60.
    This article explicates the meaning of the paradox from the perspective of sexual difference, as articulated by Simone de Beauvoir. I claim that the self, the other, and their becoming are sexed in Beauvoir’s early literary writing before the question of sexual difference is posed in The Second Sex (1949). In particular, Beauvoir’s description of Françoise’s subjective becoming in the novel She Came to Stay (1943) anticipates her later systematic description of ‘the woman in love’. In addition, I argue that (...)
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  25. Neus Torbisco Casals Idil Boran (2008). Interview with Iris Marion Young. Hypatia 23 (3):pp. 173-181.
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  26. Deidre Butler (2000). Engendering Questions. Philosophy in the Contemporary World 7 (1):13-19.
    Levinas’s often reflexive internalization of female stereotypes, as well as his reification of particularly patriarchal tendencies within the biblical and rabbinic tradition in his dialogue with Jewish law and thought. are only two of the many problems feminists, and particularly Jewish feminists, must address as they engage his ethics. Despite these difficulties. Levinas’s compelling description of the radical obligation to the Other invites feminists to enter into dialogue with his thought. This article explores the possibilities of developing and enhancing feminist (...)
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  27. J. Butler (forthcoming). Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory. Theatre Journal:519--531.
  28. Judith Butler (1989). Sexual Ideology and Phenomenological Description. In Jeffner Allen & Iris Marion Young (eds.), The Thinking Muse: Feminism and Modern French Philosophy. Indiana University Press. 85-100.
  29. E. C. (1997). The Phenomenology of Pornography. Law and Philosophy 16 (2):177-199.
    Most people are familiar with Justice Stewart's now classic statement that while he cannot describe pornography, he certainly knows it when he sees it. We instantly identify with Justice Stewart. Pornography is not difficult to recognize, but it does elude description. This is because traditional attempts at description are attempts that seek to explain at either an abstract or empirical level rather than at the level that accounts for experience in its totality. Justice Stewart's lament represents the need to understand (...)
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  30. Ann J. Cahill (2010). Getting to My Fighting Weight. Hypatia 25 (2):485 - 492.
  31. Neus Torbisco Casals & Idil Boran (2008). Interview with Iris Marion Young. Hypatia 23 (3):173-181.
    Originally, the idea of interviewing Iris Marion Young in Barcelona came about after she accepted an invitation to give a public lecture at the Law School of Pompeu Fabra University in May 2002. I had first met Iris back in 1999, at a conference in Bristol, England, and I was impressed deeply by her personality and ideas. We kept in touch since then and exchanged papers and ideas. She was very keen to come to Spain (it seems that her mother (...)
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  32. Marguerite La Caze (2008). Seeing Oneself Through the Eyes of the Other: Asymmetrical Reciprocity and Self-Respect. Hypatia 23 (3):118-135.
    Iris Marion Young argues we cannot understand others' experiences by imagining ourselves in their place or in terms of symmetrical reciprocity (1997a). For Young, reciprocity expresses moral respect and asymmetry arises from people's greatly varying life histories and social positions. La Caze argues there are problems with Young's articulation of asymmetrical reciprocity in terms of wonder and the gift. By discussing friendship and political representation, she shows how taking self-respect into account complicates asymmetrical reciprocity.
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  33. Dianne Chisholm (2008). Climbing Like a Girl: An Exemplary Adventure in Feminist Phenomenology. Hypatia 23 (1):9-40.
    : This essay uses the phenomenal advent of women's climbing as a paradigm case for integrating feminism and phenomenology, and for analyzing how women experience and evolve free movement and existence. In contrast to the paradigm set by Iris Marion Young's "Throwing like a Girl," it stresses the category of the lived body over the category of gender, and it reveals how women, by employing and cultivating the body's motility and spatiality, engage and transcend the (gender) limits of crux situations.
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  34. Cristian Ciocan (2001). Feminist Phenomenology. Studia Phaenomenologica 1 (1-2):356-358.
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  35. Maureen Connolly (1994). Iris Young. Throwing Like a Girl and Other Essays in Feminist Philosophy and Social Theory Response and Commentary. Human Studies 17 (4):463 - 469.
  36. Diana Coole (2008). Butler's Phenomenological Existentialism. In Terrell Carver & Samuel Allen Chambers (eds.), Judith Butler's Precarious Politics: Critical Encounters. Routledge.
  37. Elena Cuffari (2011). Habits of Transformation. Hypatia 26 (3):535-553.
    This essay argues that according to feminist existential phenomenology, feminist pragmatism, and feminist genealogy, our embodied condition is an important starting place for ethical living due to the inevitable role that habits play in our conduct. In bodies, the phenomenon of habit uniquely holds together the ambiguities of freedom and determinism, transcendence and immanence, and stability and plasticity. Seeing habit formation as a matter of self-growth and social justice gives fresh opportunity for thinking of “assuming ambiguity” as a lifelong endeavor (...)
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  38. Françoise Dastur (2000). Phenomenology of the Event: Waiting and Surprise. Hypatia 15 (4):178-189.
    How, asks Françoise Dastur, can philosophy account for the sudden happening and the factuality of the event? Dastur asks how phenomenology, in particular the work of Heidegger, Husserl, and Merleau-Ponty, may be interpreted as offering such an account. She argues that the "paradoxical capacity of expecting surprise is always in question in phenomenology," and for this reason, she concludes, "We should not oppose phenomenology and the thinking of the event. We should connect them; openness to phenomena must be identified with (...)
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  39. Hilary E. Davis (1996). The Phenomenology of a Feminist Reader: Toward the Recuperation of Pleasure. Educational Theory 46 (4):473-499.
  40. Ros Diprose & Jack Reynolds (2008). Merleau-Ponty: Key Concepts. Acumen.
    Having initially not had the attention of Sartre or Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty's work is arguably now more widely influential than either of his two contemporaries. "Merleau-Ponty: Key Concepts" presents an accessible guide to the core ideas which structure Merleau-Ponty's thinking as well as to his influences and the value of his ideas to a wide range of disciplines. The first section of the book presents the context of Merleau-Ponty's thinking, the major debates of his time, particularly existentialism, phenomenology, the history of (...)
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  41. Zeynep Direk (2011). Immanence and Abjection in Simone de Beauvoir. Southern Journal of Philosophy 49 (1):49-72.
    In this paper, I focus on the term ‘immanence’ in Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex and show how it relates to her historical account of sexual oppression. I argue that Beauvoir's use of Hegel's master−slave dialectic and of Claude Lévi-Strauss's reflection on the prohibition of incest lead her to claim that in all societies “woman” is constructed as “absolutely other.” I show that there is an ambiguous logic of abjection at work in Beauvoir's account that explains why men are (...)
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  42. Luna Dolezal (2010). The (In) Visible Body: Feminism, Phenomenology, and the Case of Cosmetic Surgery. Hypatia 25 (2):357 - 375.
    This paper will examine the experience of and drive for boaly invisibility in women through the theoretical approaches of phenomenology and social constructionism. An examination of the social disruptions of bodily invisibility and the compulsive avoidance of such instances, particuhrly with respect to the fastidious maintenance of body comportment and appearance within the narrow parameters afforded by social norms, will lead to an exploration of the conflation of biomedicine with the beauty industry.
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  43. Anne Donchin (2011). Dancing with Iris: The Philosophy of Iris Marion Young. Edited by Ann Ferguson and Mechthild NAGEL. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. [REVIEW] Hypatia 26 (4):875-877.
  44. Mel Duffy (2011). Lesbian Women's Experiences of Being Different in Irish Health Care. In Gill Thomson, Fiona Dykes & Soo Downe (eds.), Qualitative Research in Midwifery and Childbirth Phenomenological Approaches. Routledge.
  45. Ellen K. Feder (2011). Tilting the Ethical Lens: Shame, Disgust, and the Body in Question. Hypatia 26 (3):632-650.
    Cheryl Chase has argued that “the problem” of intersex is one of “stigma and trauma, not gender,” as those focused on medical management would have it. Despite frequent references to shame in the critical literature, there has been surprisingly little analysis of shame, or of the disgust that provokes it. This paper investigates the function of disgust in the medical management of intersex and seeks to understand the consequences—material and moral—with respect to the shame it provokes.Conventional ethical approaches may not (...)
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  46. Ann Ferguson & Mechthild Nagel (eds.) (2009). Dancing with Iris: The Philosophy of Iris Marion Young. Oxford University Press.
    The essays are organized into topic areas that are of interest to students in advanced undergraduate and graduate courses in ethics, feminist theory, and ...
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  47. Helen Fielding (2003). Questioning Nature: Irigaray, Heidegger and the Potentiality of Matter. [REVIEW] Continental Philosophy Review 36 (1):1-26.
    Irigaray's insistence on sexual difference as the primary difference arises out of a phenomenological perception of nature. Drawing on Heidegger's insights into physis, she begins with his critique of the nature/culture binary. Both philosophers maintain that nature is not matter to be ordered by technical know-how; yet Irigaray reveals that although Heidegger distinguishes physis from techn in his work, his forgetting of the potentiality of matter, the maternal-feminine, and the two-fold essence of being as sexual difference means that his own (...)
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  48. Helen Fielding (2002). Merleau-Ponty's Last Vision: A Proposal for the Completion of 'The Visible and the Invisible' (Review). Journal of the History of Philosophy 40 (1):134-135.
  49. Helen Fielding (1996). Grounding Agency in Depth: The Implications of Merleau-Ponty's Thought for the Politics of Feminism. [REVIEW] Human Studies 19 (2):175-184.
    While poststructuralist feminist theorists have clarified our understanding of the gendered subject as produced through a matrix of language, culture, and psycho-sexual affects, they have found agency difficult to ground. I argue that this is because in these theories the body has served primarily as an inscribed surface. In response to this surface body, particular to this age, I have turned to Merleau-Ponty's concept of depth which allows us to theorize the agency crucial to feminist politics. While the poststructuralists' rejection (...)
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  50. Helen A. Fielding (2011). Multiple Moving Perceptions of the Real: Arendt, Merleau-Ponty, and Truitt. Hypatia 26 (3):518-534.
    This paper explores the ethical insights provided by Anne Truitt's minimalist sculptures, as viewed through the phenomenological lenses of Hannah Arendt's investigations into the co-constitution of reality and Maurice Merleau-Ponty's investigations into perception. Artworks in their material presence can lay out new ways of relating and perceiving. Truitt's works accomplish this task by revealing the interactive motion of our embodied relations and how material objects can actually help to ground our reality and hence human potentiality. Merleau-Ponty shows how our prereflective (...)
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