ExcerptGiorgio Agamben's work would seem to be one of the contemporary philosophical projects that has been least hospitable to a feminist reading—least hospitable to posing questions about gender and sexual difference using its resources. But in recent years, a cluster of feminist responses to Agamben has emerged.1 Welcome as they are, they are as interesting for their ambiguity, their differences (thus perhaps their tacit disagreement) about the character, means, or route for a feminist reading, their caution, and often their awareness (...) of the difficulty and possible infelicity of the feminist response. There is much to be said for those feminist…. (shrink)
The contingent cultural, epistemological and ontological status of biology is highlighted by changes in attitudes towards reproductive politics in the history of feminist movements. Consider, for example, the American, British, and numerous European instances of feminist sympathy for eugenics at the turn of the century. This amounted to a specific formation of the role, in late nineteenth and early twentieth century feminisms, of concepts of biological risk and defence, which were transformed into the justificatory language of rights claims. In this (...) context, one can ask how reproductive politics are to be fitted into the paradoxical relationship between biopolitics and thanatopolitics discussed by Michel Foucault and more recently by Roberto Esposito. In this context, “reproductive life,” can be thought of arising at the intersection of thanapolitics and biopolitics as these relate to women’s bodies. Revisiting Foucault and Esposito in the light of reproductive politics also allows a reconsideration of the paradoxical feminist aims involved in defending individual rights by reference to overall biopolitical interest and futurity. (shrink)
: This essay considers the important role attributed to education in the writings of nineteenth-century feminist Harriet Taylor Mill. Taylor Mill connected ignorance to inequality between the sexes. She called up the specter of regression into lowness and ignorance when she associated feminism with progress. As she stressed the importance of education, she constructed an 'other' to feminism, variously associated with lowness, poverty, and the primitive. She made a case for the advantages of civilization (education, enfranchisement, equality) to be opened (...) up to women. Yet Taylor Mill's position that the ignorant poor, like all humans, should be in a position of so-called "perfect equality" drifted intermittently into the view that the elevation of women to perfect equality would refine and elevate the lower classes. (shrink)
: This paper addresses the appropriation of theories of evolution by nineteenth-century feminists, focusing on the critical response to Darwin's The Descent of Man by Eliza Burt Gamble (The Evolution of Woman, 1893) and Antoinette Brown Blackwell (The Sexes Throughout Nature, 1875) and Charlotte Perkins Gilman's social evolutionism. For Gilman, evolutionism was a revolutionary resource for feminism, one of its greatest hopes. Gamble and Blackwell revisit Darwin's data with the aim of locating, amidst his ostensive conclusions to the contrary, his (...) implicit "defense" of either the equality (Blackwell) or the superiority (Gamble) of women. This article identifies the reasons for, and limitations of, this enthusiasm. To some extent, the basis of this feminism is provided by its keen perception of disparities between what a text does, and what it says it is doing. But these feminists did not think through the implications for their own rhetoric about race hierarchy. Darwin's trope of the "savage" would return in the work of some of these feminists, occasionally displaced or rejected, but usually reiterated, and sometimes integral to the feminism in question. (shrink)
Sexual difference as a basis of equality : an introduction to Irigarayan politics -- Irigaray on language : from the speech of dementia to the problem of sexual indifference -- Rethinking the politics of recognition : the declaration of Irigarayan sexuate rights -- Irigarayan performativity : is this a question of can saying it make it so? -- Sexuate genre : ethics and politics for improper selves -- Anticipating sexual difference : mediation, love, and divinity -- Interrogating an unasked question (...) : is there sexual difference? -- The impossible friend : traversing the heterosocial, the homosocial, and the successes of failure -- Sexed discourse and the language of the philosophers : to be two -- Effacement redoubled? : between the Orient and the Occident. (shrink)
Françoise Dastur describes her efforts to practice history of philosophy in a (paradoxically) non-historical fashion. She discusses her concept of the historical, and argues that the only true way to be of one's time is to be against one's time.
: Françoise Dastur describes her efforts to practice history of philosophy in a (paradoxically) non-historical fashion. She discusses her concept of the historical, and argues that the only true way to be of one's time is to be against one's time.
: This article compares translation and commentary practices surrounding the texts associated with French feminism with those of contemporary French women philosophers more generally. Many of the latter, discussing the history of philosophy, ask questions such as "How do texts play against the means they supply themselves?" and "How are philosophical forces, and the institutions of commentary, countered, destabilized, deregulated?" Deutscher asks what institutional means are available to understand this work as innovative philosophy, and to what extent these projects can (...) usefully be analyzed as the gestures of women in philosophy. (shrink)
: How might we locate originality as emerging from within the "discrete" work of commentary? Because many women have engaged with philosophy in forms (including commentary) that preclude their work from being seen as properly "original," this question is a feminist issue. Via the work of selected contemporary French women philosophers, the author shows how commentary can reconfigure the philosophical tradition in innovative ways, as well as in ways that change what counts as philosophical innovation.
Luce Irigaray''s Être deux (1997) synthesises her linguistic research with an interpretation of Sartre, Merleau-Ponty and Lévinas. The linguistic research focuses on consistency both of an individual subject''s discourse, and of the overall research findings (rather than the presence of inconsistency in those findings) to reinforce Irigaray''s argument that there is a relationship between sexual difference and sexed language use. Previously in her work, Irigaray''s philosophical and linguistic research were held more distinct. Être deux speculates on the extent to which (...) a discursive analysis of the texts of Merleau-Ponty, Sartre and Lévinas might support the concept of a masculine relationship to language. While it is certainly the case that some degree of what Irigaray deems masculinity can be located in their texts, this analysis occurs through an unnecessary de-emphasis of the discursive complexity of these texts, a complexity Irigaray has been at pains to demonstrate in the methodological orientation of her earlier work on the history of philosophy. (shrink)
Michèle Le Dœuff discusses the revival of feminism in France, including the phenomenon of state-sponsored feminism, such as government support for "parity": equal numbers of women and men in government. Le Dœuff analyzes the strategically patchy application of this revival and remains wary about it. Turning to the work of seventeenth-century philosopher Gabrielle Suchon, Le Dœuff considers her concepts of freedom, servitude, and active citizenship, which may well, she argues, have influenced Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Le Dœuff favorably juxtaposes the active citizenship (...) defended by Suchon with the kind of citizenship implicitly supported by recent French government feminism. (shrink)
Michèle Le Dœuff speculates about why the parity movement enjoyed attention and sympathy in France over recent years. She discusses recent developments in "State-handled" feminism, and the resurgence of interest in feminist debate in France. Perhaps patriarchy is an institution more fundamental than the State?
: Rada Ivekovic reflects on the significance of modernity in contemporary Indian philosophy. Where the orient has been figured as the other for western philosophers, she asks how Indian philosophy depicts the west, how philosophers such as Kant have been interpreted, and how thematics such as pluralism, tolerance, relativity, innovation, and curiosity about the foreign have been figured in both ancient and contemporary Indian philosophy. While working on the western side with such authors as Lyotard, Deleuze, Serres, or Irigaray, Ivekovic (...) doesn't exactly indulge in comparative philosophy. Rather, she tries to make the most of the existing "coincidences," using both western and Asian thought in order to open a new area for the production of concepts and a new field for philosophy in general. (shrink)
: A philosopher formerly based in Zagreb, now at the Université de Paris VIII (Saint-Denis), Rada Ivekovic explains the genesis of her interest in comparative philosophy, situated in the context of a convergence of Asian, Islamic, and European forms of thought which emerged among certain philosophers in the former Yugoslavia. She discusses the relationship between this area of specialization and her work as a feminist philosopher.
: Michèle Le Dœuff speculates about why the parity movement enjoyed attention and sympathy in France over recent years. She discusses recent developments in "State-handled" feminism, and the resurgence of interest in feminist debate in France. Perhaps patriarchy is an institution more fundamental than the State?
Proust interrogates Gilles Deleuze's notion of resistance in relation to death as that which is "turned against death." She questions a concept of resistance which is "no more than impassivity and indifference." How, she asks, can we know if the force of resistance is on the side of death or life? Characterizing life as movement, she speaks for a concept of resistance as on the side of life.
: Françoise Proust explains that where Foucault established a cartography of power, she is interested in elaborating an "analytic of resistance." This, she elaborates, would be "the transcendental of every resistance, whatever kind it be: resistance to power, to the state of things, to history; resistance to destruction, to death, to war; resistance to stupidity, to peace, to bare life.".
: Proust interrogates Gilles Deleuze's notion of resistance in relation to death as that which is "turned against death." She questions a concept of resistance which is "no more than impassivity and indifference." How, she asks, can we know if the force of resistance is on the side of death or life? Characterizing life as movement, she speaks for a concept of resistance as on the side of life.
It may be that denouncing the ideals of objectivity or neutrality associated with the sciences leads us into a trap: that of accepting, in order to criticize it, that there would be a common identity for the many ways to produce science. Learning to laugh, we choose to laugh with and laugh at. But we accept the risk of being interested, that is, of giving up the position of a judge.
: It may be that denouncing the ideals of objectivity or neutrality associated with the sciences leads us into a trap: that of accepting, in order to criticize it, that there would be a common identity for the many ways to produce science. Learning to laugh, we choose to laugh with and laugh at. But we accept the risk of being interested, that is, of giving up the position of a judge.
Yielding Gender explores and reconsiders the tensions that deconstruction poses for feminist philosophy. Emphasizing the important role of deconstruction in revealing the ambiguity and unstable nature of gender, Penelope Deutscher asks the crucial question: does the very instability of gender mean that we can no longer talk of a man or a woman of reason in the history of philosophy? Using the work of Judith Butler, Jacques Derrida and Luce Irigaray, Deutscher explores this question by examining the issue of gender (...) as "trouble", deconstruction and feminist criticism of the history of philosophy. She then considers and challenges feminist interpretations of some key figures in the history of philosophy. Deutscher sketches how Rousseau, St. Augustine and Simone de Beauvoir have described gender and argues that their readings of gender are in fact empowered by gender's own contradiction and instability rather than limited by it. (shrink)
Luce Irigaray's argument that women need a feminine divine is placed in the context of her analyses of the interconnection between man's appropriation of woman as his "negative alter ego" and his identification with the impossible ego ideal represented by the figure of God. As an alternative, the "feminine divine" is conceived as a realm with which women would be continuous. It would allow mediation between humans, and interrupt cannibalizing appropriations of the other.