The subject of normalization and its relationship to sex/gender is a major one in feminist theory; Heyes' book is unique in her masterful use of Foucault; its clarity, and its sophisticated mix of the theoretical and the anecdotal. It will appeal to feminist philosophers and theorists.
“Experience” is a thoroughly political category, a social and historical product not authored by any individual. At the same time, “the personal is political,” and one's own lived experience is an important epistemic resource. In _Anaesthetics of Existence_ Cressida J. Heyes reconciles these two positions, drawing on examples of things that happen to us but are nonetheless excluded from experience. If for Foucault an “aesthetics of existence” was a project of making one's life a work of art, Heyes's “anaesthetics of (...) existence” describes antiprojects that are tacitly excluded from life—but should be brought back in. Drawing on critical phenomenology, genealogy, and feminist theory, Heyes shows how and why experience has edges, and she analyzes phenomena that press against those edges. Essays on sexual violence against unconscious victims, the temporality of drug use, and childbirth as a limit-experience build a politics of experience while showcasing Heyes's much-needed new philosophical method. (shrink)
Ludwig Wittgenstein's work has been widely interpreted and appropriated by subsequent philosophers, as well as by scholars from areas as diverse as anthropology, cultural studies, literary theory, sociology, law, and medicine. The Grammar of Politics demonstrates the variety of ways political philosophers understand Wittgenstein's importance to their discipline and apply Wittgensteinian methods to their own projects. In her introduction, Cressida J. Heyes notes that Wittgenstein himself was skeptical of political theory, and that his philosophy does not lead naturally or inexorably (...) toward any particular political position. Instead, she says, his ideas motivate certain attitudes toward the "game of politics" that the essays in this volume share: some contributors argue that political theory should use Wittgensteinian methods, others apply Wittgenstein's philosophy of language to figures and debates in areas of political theory (such as post-Kantian genealogy or Habermas's foundationalism), and still others reveal the ways Wittgenstein's concepts inform political foci as diverse as anthropomorphism, defining social group membership, and the nature of liberty. (shrink)
"Why are there 'transsexuals' but not 'transracials'?" "Why is there an accepted way to change sex, but not to change race?" I have repeatedly heard these questions from theorists puzzled by the phenomenon of transsexuality. Feminist thinkers, in particular, often seem taken aback that in the case of category switching the possibilities appear to be so different. Behind the question is sometimes an implicit concern: Does not the (hypothetical or real) example of individual “transracialism” seem politically troubling? And, if it (...) is, does not the case of transsexuality merit equivalent critique? Or, conversely, if one accepts transsexuals as people with legitimate demands (e.g., on medical resources or single-sex spaces), then would one not also be committed to accepting the putative transracial in analogous ways? Understanding the ontological constraints and possibilities with regard to transforming one’s identity is, I suggest, a project that should accompany ethical evaluation of those transformations. Under what circumstances is it (un)ethical to leave behind a gender or racial group with which one has once been affiliated? This question is, again, especially pressing for radical thinkers who endorse the claims that race and gender taxonomies are internally hierarchical and constituted through relations of oppression, domination, and normalization. Changing one’s identity under these circumstances will surely always be linked, however tenuously, to consideration of the larger political and cultural milieu in which such changes are advantageous or disadvantageous, complicit with oppressive norms and/or resistant to them. To illuminate these larger questions, in this paper, I first provide three examples of the analogy thesis in feminist thinking about race and sex change, each of which draws ethical conclusions about individual motivation, political strategy, or public policy, premised on the assumption that race and sex change are equivalent phenomena. None of these accounts consider the genealogy of each category as significant to contemporary possibilities. I next offer a descriptive analysis that highlights different norms at play in contemporary North American understandings: Sex–gender, I argue, is essentialized as a property of the individual’s body, while race is essentialized with reference to both the body and ancestry. This analysis, I conclude, shows politically significant disanalogies between the categories, and reveals the importance of genealogical accounts of race and sex in thinking ethically about changing ourselves. (shrink)
Drawing on Françoise Dastur’s suggestion that the event is a permanent possibility that shapes lived experience, but also, when it occurs, a distinctive temporal rupture, I argue that the initial weeks of the COVID-19 epidemic constitute an event, in her sense. Connecting this phenomenological point to literatures on the politics of temporality, I suggest that the distinction between event and normal experience maps to that between epidemic and endemic. Understanding some of the political and ethical erasures of death and debility (...) in COVID times can thus be mutually informed by phenomenological analysis. (shrink)
Leading feminist scholars have been brought together for the first time in this comprehensive volume to reveal the complexity of feminist engagements with the exponentially growing cosmetic surgery phenomenon. Offering a diversity of theoretical, methodological and political approaches Cosmetic Surgery: A Feminist Primer presents not only the latest, cutting-edge research in this field but a challenging and unique approach to the issue that will be of key interest to researchers across the social sciences and humanities.
This article argues that commercial weight-loss organizations appropriate and debase the askeses—practices of care of the self—that Michel Foucault theorized, increasing members’ capacities at the same time as they encourage participation in ever-tightening webs of power. Weight Watchers, for example, claims to promote self-knowledge, cultivate new capacities and pleasures, foster self-care in face of gendered exploitation, and encourage wisdom and flexibility. The hupomnemata of these organizations thus use asketic language to conceal their implication in normalization.
Third wave anti-essentialist critique has too often been used to dismiss second wave feminist projects. I examine claims that Carol Gilligan's work is "essentialist," and argue that her recent research requires this criticism be rethought. Anti-essentialist feminist method should consist in attention to the relations of power that construct accounts of gendered identity in the course of different forms of empirical enquiry, not in rejecting any general claim about women or girls.
: This article argues that commercial weight-loss organizations appropriate and debase the askeses—practices of care of the self—that Michel Foucault theorized, increasing members' capacities at the same time as they encourage participation in ever-tightening webs of power. Weight Watchers, for example, claims to promote self-knowledge, cultivate new capacities and pleasures, foster self-care in face of gendered exploitation, and encourage wisdom and flexibility. The hupomnemata of these organizations thus use asketic language to conceal their implication in normalization.
This essay identifies two kinds of awareness of one’s body that occur in a variety of literatures: awareness as psychologically or spiritually enabling or therapeutic, and awareness as undesirable self-consciousness of the body. Drawing on Foucault’s account of normalizing judgment, it argues that these two forms of awareness are impossible to separate, if that separation is into authentic versus extrinsic somatic experience. Nonetheless, awareness is an important component of embodied freedom, but a freedom understood with Spinoza and Nietzsche as grounded (...) in necessity rather than only in the will, and with Arendt and Foucault as a practice rather than an achievement of a sovereign subject. Somatic practices grounded in awareness and acceptance of the body’s necessities, along with attention to the I-can cultivate a form of embodied freedom that bridges care of the self and the political. (shrink)
I argue that the televisual cosmetic surgical makeover is usefully understood as a contemporary manifestation of normalization, in Foucault’s sense—a process of deﬁning a population in relation to its conformity or deviance from a norm, while simultaneously generating narratives of individual authenticity. Drawing on detailed analysis of “Extreme Makeover,” I suggest that the show erases its complicity with creating homogeneous bodies by representing cosmetic surgery as enabling of personal transformation through its narratives of intrinsic motivation and authentic becoming, and its (...) deployment of fairy tale tropes. (shrink)
Philosophers sometimes hope that our discipline will be transformative for students, perhaps especially when we teach so-called philosophy of the body. To that end, this article describes an experimental upper-level undergraduate course cross-listed between Philosophy and Physical Education, entitled “Thinking Through the Body: Philosophy and Yoga.” Drawing on the perspectives of professor and students, we show how a somatic practice (here, hatha yoga) and reading texts (here, primarily contemporary phenomenology) can be integrated in teaching and learning. We suggest that the (...) course raised questions about the ethics of evaluation as well as about the split between theory and practice, which have larger pedagogical implications. (shrink)
The genre of advice to parents about children’s sleep proliferated between the mid-1980s and the beginning of the twenty-first century. This article reads that genre against itself, as symptomatic of larger political trends—the end of the privilege of the normative mid-century nuclear family and the advent of neoliberal ideology and political economy. Specifically, it argues that this wave of advice reflects an ambivalence about the autonomous individual within neoliberalism versus the need for attachment and the dependence of kinship. Returning to (...) Jessica Benjamin’s object-relations feminism, it shows how the oscillation between methods of sleep training that stress independent sleeping against those that align with attachment parenting reveal the same subject-object relations of power (with concomitant gender roles) that Benjamin outlined as central to domination. By embedding this analysis in its contemporary material conditions of class, race, and gender, the article argues that sleep practices try—and must necessarily fail—to create workers and family members who are both entirely autonomous and mutually supportive. It combines examination of the psychodynamics of family relationships as mutually informed by neoliberal rationality and an established critique of the politics of intensive mothering, with recognition of a post-2008 anxiety distinctive of millennial parenting, to show how children’s sleep has become a part of (gendered) work—a technology of the self—that carries the burden of forming the future citizen worker. (shrink)
Representing the best popular and scholarly contributions to transgender/ sex studies, and with their mutual concern with female-to-male sex and gender crossing (among other topics), these three books mark an important shift in scholarship on gender and sexuality. Trans studies has reached a level of autonomy and sophistication that firmly establishes it as a field with its own theoretical and political questions. Of course, connections to feminist and queer theory are still very apparent in these texts, and all three authors (...) are committed—to varying degrees—to reading trans identities against the backdrop of male dominance and heteronormativity. It’s no longer enough, however, for feminist readers to dismiss the projects of trans theorists and activists as epiphenomenal to feminist discourses or even queer theory, or to view trans studies as an optional extra in discussions of sex and gender. These books represent the best arguments against this position, and thus offer a new challenge to the inclusivity, scope, and terms of “women’s studies.”. (shrink)
A recent clinical literature on the psychology of cosmetic surgery patients is concerned with distinguishing good from bad candidates. Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) — a mental disorder marked by a pathological aversion to some aspect(s) of one’s appearance — is typically understood in this context as a contra-indication for cosmetic surgery, as it marks those with inappropriate motivation who are unlikely to be satisfied by the surgery’s outcomes. This article uses Foucault’s genealogical work to argue that both the attempt to (...) provide diagnostic conditions for BDD itself, and the broader attempt to demarcate normal and psychopathological concern with appearance are, in part, effects of disciplinary power. Although often presented as a way of making cosmetic surgery more ethical and restrained, this epistemic project inadvertently defends cosmetic surgical interests. Specifically, it contributes to legitimizing the image of an ethically suspect sub-specialty of medicine, and supports its commercial expansion and effective profit-making by displacing its negative sequelae onto patient psyches. (shrink)
Our study of queer women patients and their primary health care providers in Halifax, Nova Scotia, reveals a gap between providers’ theoretical knowledge of “cultural competency” and patients’ experience. Drawing on Patricia Benner’s Dreyfusian model of skill acquisition in nursing, we suggest that the dissonance between the anti-heteronormative principles expressed in interviews and the relative absence of skilled anti-heteronormative clinical practice can be understood as a failure to grasp the field of practice as a whole. Moving from “knowing-that” to “knowing-how” (...) in terms of anti-heteronormative clinical skills is not only a desirable epistemological trajectory, we argue, but also a way of understanding better and worse ethical practice. (shrink)
In this short introduction to my monograph Anaesthetics of Existence, I explain the origin of the book in a mishearing of Foucault’s phrase “an aesthetics of existence” and outline the book’s method (a melding of genealogy and phenomenology) and its subject: the politics of experience, and especially how to think about undergoings that either are excluded from experience or happen at its edges. The book contains a chapter on Foucault and this new method; one on sexual violence against unconscious victims; (...) two chapters on postdisciplinary temporality in twenty-first century work, and what I call “anaesthetic time”; and a closing chapter on the limit-experience of childbirth. (shrink)
Kelly Aguirre, Phil Henderson, Cressida J. Heyes, Alana Lentin, and Corey Snelgrove engage with different aspects of Robert Nichols’ Theft is Property! Dispossession and Critical Theory. Henderson focuses on possible spaces for maneuver, agency, contradiction, or failure in subject formation available to individuals and communities interpellated through diremptive processes. Heyes homes in on the ritual of antiwill called “consent” that systematically conceals the operation of power. Aguirre foregrounds tensions in projects of critical theory scholarship that aim for dialogue and solidarity (...) with Indigenous decolonial struggles. Lentin draws attention to the role of race in undergirding the logic of Anglo-settler colonial domination that operates through dispossession, while Snelgrove emphasizes the link between alienation, capital, and colonialism. In his reply to his interlocutors, Nichols clarifies aspects of his “recursive logics” of dispossession, a dispossession or theft through which the right to property is generated. (shrink)
How are ‘philosophy’ and ‘gender’ implicated? Throughout history, philosophers—mostly men, though with more women among their number than is sometimes supposed—have often sought to specify and justify the proper roles of women and men, and to explore the political consequences of sexual difference. The last forty years, however, have seen a dramatic explosion of critical thinking about how philosophy is a gendered discipline; there has also been an abundance of philosophical work that uses gender as a central analytic category. In (...) particular, feminist philosophy has become established as a major field of inquiry, and it is now complemented by related emerging areas, including the philosophy of race and the philosophy of sex and love. For those working in Philosophy and Gender dizzying questions such as the following arise: What justifications were used historically for the exclusion or inclusion of women in political life, and what is their contemporary resonance? How is what counts as knowledge shaped by gender norms? What metaphysical questions about identity are raised by sex change? How might some feminist philosophies risk reproducing racist assumptions about what it means to be a woman, while some critical philosophies of race assume a masculine subject? What does it mean to say that moral theories are gendered? Addressing the need for an authoritative and comprehensive reference work to enable users to answer these and other questions, and to make sense of—and to navigate around—an ever more complex corpus of scholarly literature, Philosophy and Gender is a new title in Routledge’s acclaimed Critical Concepts in Philosophy series. Edited by Cressida J. Heyes, it is a four-volume collection of foundational and the very best cutting-edge scholarship. It features critical analysis of gender as it relates to philosophy of mind and language, epistemology, metaphysics, logic, ethics, social and political thought, aesthetics, and philosophy of science; it is also distinctive in showing how feminist thought has been intertwined in both analytic and continental traditions. The collection reconfigures ‘gender and philosophy’ into an integrated field of inquiry while providing an invaluable resource for scholars in all disciplines who need to know how to think critically about gender. In so doing it responds to recent curriculum developments, while providing a crucial reference guide for theoretically minded scholars across the humanities and social sciences. Supplemented with a full index, and including an introduction, newly written by the editor, which places the assembled materials in their historical and intellectual context, Philosophy and Gender is destined to be valued by scholars and students as a vital research resource. (shrink)
How should scholars and teachers of feminist philosophy understand Wollstonecraft’s work “Maria, Or the Wrongs of Woman”? This paper contends that Wollstonecraft’s work has received far too little attention, that the work is her most sophisticated statement on women’s oppression, and that it can be used as a springboard for approaching contemporary feminist questions while simultaneously supplying these questions a historical context. In putting forward these positions, the paper provides four compelling reasons for including “Maria” in courses on feminism and (...) why this work should be used instead of Wollstonecraft’s more famous “Vindication of the Rights of Woman.”. (shrink)
In the words of Catharine MacKinnon, "a woman is not yet a name for a way of being human." In other words, women are still excluded, as authors and agents, from identifying what it is to be human and what therefore violates the dignity and integrity of humans. Recognition, Responsibility, and Rights is written in response to that failure. This collection of essays by prominent feminist thinkers advances the positive feminist project of remapping the moral landscape by developing theory that (...) acknowledges the diversity of women. (shrink)