Do representations of violence incite or quell violent desires and actions? This question--the question of the relation between mimesis and catharsis--is as old as Western Philosophy itself. In this essay, I attempt to think through how Kristeva might describe the difference between representations of violence that perpetuate violent desires and actions versus representations of violence that sublimate violent desires and thereby prevent violent actions.
abstract: This essay explores the connections between speculation, spectacle, and the death penalty, particularly insofar as they bear on what is “proper to man” and on the man–animal distinction. Returning to a scene of death from Derrida's seminar The Beast and the Sovereign, specifically the scene of an elephant's autopsy, we see how what he calls “the globalization of the autopsic model” of sovereignty requires the death of the animal (Derrida 2009, 296). Following Derrida, we see how man's dominion over (...) other animals is built on a model of sovereignty as necropsy that erects itself through the autopsic model of power, which ultimately is built on the scaffolding of death and the death penalty. Following the history of the death penalty, however, we see that it becomes the property of man through its exercise on animals, particularly through the capital punishment of animals, which inaugurated the codification of law in Europe, and Thomas Edison's electrocution of animals, which inaugurated the electric chair as a form of execution in the United States. Moreover, the case of Edison (who invented both the electric chair and the first moving pictures, many of which were images of execution) makes manifest the connection between spectacle, animals, and the death penalty. (shrink)
This essay explores the important role played by the figure of the virgin girl at the centre of The Beast and The Sovereign. Derrida hints that she may offer a figure between the beast and the sovereign, between the two marionettes of Nature and Culture. Moreover, it seems that she is both what props up the fabled distinction between man and animal and at the same time that upon which man erects himself as sovereign lord and master. Taking Derrida's suggestions (...) further, I argue that the virgin girl both does and undoes sovereign power as phallic power. She is the figure behind the erection of sovereignty. Indeed, her appearance is both necessary and threatening insofar as she both erects sovereign phallic power and threatens to reveal its impotence. In this way, the girl operates between feminine and masculine, between Nature and Culture, between the beast and the sovereign, particularly as her virginity and its deflowering are essential to the cut between the two sides of these traditional binaries. Finally, her appearance is telling in relation to the movements and rhythms of Derrida's deconstructive approach to philosophy and literature in this seminar and in his work more generally. (shrink)
In this essay, I consider what happens to debates over genetic enhancement when we “deconstruct” the opposition between “grown and made” and the notion of freedom of choice that comes with it. Along with the binary grown and made comes other such oppositions at the center of these debates: chance and choice, accident and deliberation, nature and culture. By deconstructing the oppositions between grown versus made (chance versus choice, or accident versus deliberate), and free versus determined, alternative routes through these (...) bioethical thickets start to emerge. (shrink)
The concepts of animal, human, and rights are all part of a philosophical tradition that trades on foreclosing the animal, animality, and animals. Rather than looking to qualities or capacities that make animals the same as or different from humans, I investigate the relationship between the human and the animal. To insist, as animal rights and welfare advocates do, that our ethical obligations to animals are based on their similarities to us reinforces the type of humanism that leads to treating (...) animals—and other people—as subordinates. But, if recent philosophies of difference are any indication, we can acknowledge difference without acknowledging our dependence on animals, or without including animals in ethical considerations. Animal ethics requires rethinking both identity and difference by focusing on relationships and responsivity. My aim is not only to suggest an animal ethics but also to show how ethics itself is transformed by considering animals. (shrink)
This article critically engages Julia Kristeva’s latest work on maternal passion as an antidote to what she calls “feminine fatigue.” Oliver elaborates, criticizes, and expands Kristeva’s view that maternity can be a model for thinking about passion and its relation to creativity and even to ethics. She relates Kristeva’s thinking about feminine fatigue to contemporary feminism in the United States. .
This essay examines media images of women in recent conflicts in the Middle East. From the Abu Ghraib prison abuses to protests in Iran, women have become the public face of violence, carried out and suffered. Women’s bodies are figured as sexual and violent, a potent combination that stirs public imagination and feeds into stereotypes of women as femme fatales or “bombshells.”.
My essay is framed by Hypatia's first special issue on Motherhood and Sexuality at one end, and by the most recent special issue (as of this writing) on the work of Iris Young, whose work on pregnant embodiment has become canonical, at the other. The questions driving this essay are: When we look back over the last twenty-five years, what has changed in our conceptions of pregnancy and maternity, both in feminist theory and in popular culture? What aspects of feminist (...) debates from the 1970s and 1980s are still relevant today? And, how might what appear to be radical shifts in popular perceptions of pregnancy actually continue traditional values that objectify and “abjectify” the maternal body?Here, I will focus on three central elements of the revaluation of pregnancy and maternity as they show up in feminist philosophy and in popular culture: 1. The relationship between pregnancy and sexuality, both in terms of pregnant sexuality and in terms of the pregnant body as sexual object; 2. The “choice” to become a mother as a “feminist choice”; 3. The temporality of pregnancy and birth as marking something like “women's time.”. (shrink)
Introduction: The role of animals in philosophies of man -- Part I: What's wrong with animal rights? -- The right to remain silent -- Part II: Animal pedagogy -- You are what you eat : Rousseau's cat -- Say the human responded : Herder's sheep -- Part III: Difference worthy of its name -- Hair of the dog : Derrida's and Rousseau's good taste -- Sexual difference, animal difference : Derrida's sexy silkworm -- Part IV: It's our fault -- The (...) beaver's struggle with species-being : De Beauvoir and the praying mantis -- Answering the call of nature : Lacan walking the dog -- Part V: Estranged kinship -- The abyss between humans and animals : Heidegger puts the bee in being -- Strange kinship : Merleau-Ponty's sensuous stickleback -- Stopping the anthropological machine : Agamben's tick-tocking tick -- Psychoanalysis and the science of kinship -- Psychoanalysis as animal by-product : Freud's zoophilia -- Animal abjects, maternal abjects : Kristeva's strays -- Conclusion: Sustainable ethics. (shrink)
In this essay, I argue that the contemporary notion of law has been reduced to regulations and disciplinary codes that do not and cannot give meaning to our emotional lives and moral sensibilities. As a result, we have increasing numbers of what I call “abysmal individuals” who suffer from a split between law—broadly conceived as that which gives form and structure to social life—and personal embodied sensations of pain and pleasure. My attempt to understand the place of Abu Ghraib within (...) American culture leads to an analysis of our valorization of innocence and ignorance that not only becomes the grounds on which we morally (if not legally) excuse abusive behavior as “fun,” but also becomes part of the justification for condoning some forms of violence while condemning others. In addition, I argue that the distinction between legitimate and illegitimate violence trades on underlying assumptions about the relationship between culture and nature, technology and bodies, wherein bodies are imagined as natural and outside of the realm of law. (shrink)
I challenge the age-old binary opposition between human and animal, not as philosophers sometimes do by claiming that humans are also animals, or that animals are capable of suffering or intelligence, but rather by questioning the very category of "the animal" itself. This category groups a nearly infinite variety of living beings into one concept measured in terms of humans—animals are those creatures that are not human. In addition, I argue that the binary opposition between human and animal is intimately (...) linked to the binary opposition between man and woman. Furthermore, I suggest that thinking through animal differences or differences among various living creatures opens up the possibility of thinking beyond the dualist notion of sexual difference and enables thinking toward a multiplicity of sexual differences. (shrink)
The development of the emerging science of ecology influenced the later work of both Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty. Both use zoology, biology, and ecology intheir attempts to navigate between mechanism and vitalism, but their interpretations and use of the life sciences take them on divergent paths and lead them to radically different conclusions regarding the relationship between man and animal. This essay takes up the problematic of kinship with animals in Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty. Beyond the texts of these two thinkers are (...) the more general stakes of the relationships between humans and animals and the question of whether or not animals can be our kin. (shrink)
The images from wars in the Middle East that haunt us are those of young women killing and torturing. Their media circulated stories share a sense of shock. They have both galvanized and confounded debates over feminism and women's equality. And, as Oliver argues in this essay, they share, perhaps subliminally, the problematic notion of women as both offensive and defensive weapons of war, a notion that is symptomatic of fears of women's "mysterious" powers.
Agamben maintains that Heidegger continues the work of the anthropological machine by defining Dasein as uniquely open to the closedness of the animal. Yet, Agamben’s own thinking does not so much open up the concept of animal as it attempts to save humanity from the anthropological machine that always produces the animal as the constitutive outside within the human itself. Agamben’s return to religious metaphors at best displaces the binary man-animal with the binary religion-science, and at worst returns us to (...) a discourse at least as violent as the one from which he is trying to escape. Merleau-Ponty’s reanimation of science provides an alternative. (shrink)
Have we entered a historical moment of 'post-feminism'? This volume presents a timely and convincing 'no'. These essays demonstrate that there is a new generation of French women who take up questions of equality and difference from a position distinct from either first or second wave feminism, a position that often attempts to move beyond the binary of equality and/or difference to a new form of the individual.
: I begin to suggest an alternative to the notion of vision based in alienation and hostility put forth by Jean-Paul Sartre, Sigmund Freud, and Jacques Lacan. I diagnose this alienating vision as a result of a particular alienating notion of space presupposed by their theories. I develop Irigaray's comments about light and air to suggest an alternative notion of space that opens up the possibility that vision connects us to others rather than alienates us from them.
: Our stereotypes of maternity and paternity as manifest in the history of philosophy and psychoanalysis interfere with the ability to imagine loving relationships. The associations of maternity with antisocial nature and paternity with disembodied cul-ture are inadequate to set up primary love relationships. Analyzing the conflicts in these associations, I reformulate the maternal body as social and lawful, and I re-formulate the paternal function as embodied, which enables imagining our primary relationships as loving.
This essay argues that Hegel's discussion of the family in "The Ethical Order" section of Phenomenology of Spirit undermines the entire project of that text. Hegel's project demands that every element of consciousness be conceptualizable, and yet, woman, an essential unconscious element of consciousness, is in principle unconceptualizable. The end of the essay attempts to relate Hegel's discussion of the family to contemporary discussions of family values.
In Womanizing Nietzsche, Kelly Oliver uses an analysis of the position of woman in Nietzsche's texts to open onto the larger question of philosophy's relation to the feminine and the maternal. Offering readings from Nietzsche, Derrida, Irigaray, Kristeva, Freud and Lacan, Oliver builds an innovative foundation for an ontology of intersubjective relationships that suggests a new approach to ethics. Oliver argues that while Freud, Nietzsche and Derrida, in particular, attempt to open up philosophy to its other--the unconscious, the body, difference, (...) even the feminine--their attempts depend on closing off the possibility of a specifically feminine other. In this regard, Oliver maintains that none of these theorists have escaped the Hegelian model of intersubjectivity at the level of Lordship and Bondage. She suggests that the recent talk of the death of philosophy is a symptom of the exclusion of woman, the feminine and the maternal. By problematizing and reformulating the traditional philosophical association between the maternal and nature, Oliver presents an alternative model for intersubjectivity and ethics. (shrink)
A valuable intervention in Kristevan scholarship and a significant and exciting contribution in its own right to post-structuralist discussions of ethical and political agency and practice. Contributors: Judith Butler, Tina Chanter, Marilyn Edelstein, Jean Graybeal, Suzanne Guerlac, Alice Jardine, Lisa Lowe, Noelle McAfee, Norma Claire Moruzzi, Kelly Oliver, Tilottma Rajan, Jacqueline Rose, Allison Weir, Mary Bittner Wiseman, Ewa Ziarek.
Julia Kristeva is known as rejecting feminism, nonetheless her work is useful for feminist theory. I reconsider Kristeva's rejection of feminism and her theories of difference, identity, and maternity, elaborating on Kristeva's contributions to debates over the necessity of identity politics, indicating how Kristeva's theory suggests the cause of and possible solutions to women's oppression in Western culture, and, using Kristeva's theory, setting up a framework for a feminist rethinking of politics and ethics.