Strategically speaking: The problem of essentializing terms in feminist theory and feminist organizational talk [Book Review]

Human Studies 21 (3):235-257 (1998)
This paper examines the discursive construction of collective identity in several feminist organizations, as a way of shedding new light on the debate over essentializing or totalizing terms in contemporary feminist/postmodernist theory. We argue that while this debate is about language, it has remained largely untouched by the insights of a discursive approach. The latter as we take it up here treats language as irremediably strategic or interested. In contrast, the feminist argument over essentializing terms appears to hold to a correspondence version of language, a position which limits the debate in fatal ways. Part 1 reviews the argument that terms such as women, feminist and feminist identity are essentializing discourses which dominate by silencing difference. Part 2 then considers the way one such concept – feminist identity – is actually constructed and used in the routine talk of members of feminist organizations. In Part 3 we draw out the implications of a discursive approach to such terms for the feminist/postmodernist debate.
Keywords Philosophy   Philosophy   Modern Philosophy   Philosophy of the Social Sciences   Political Philosophy   Sociolinguistics
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DOI 10.1023/A:1005379625641
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References found in this work BETA
Jane Flax (1992). The End of Innocence. In Judith Butler & Joan Wallach Scott (eds.), Feminists Theorize the Political. Routledge 445--63.
R. Coles (1991). Foucault's Dialogical Artistic Ethos. Theory, Culture and Society 8 (2):99-120.

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