The work of the distinguished philosopher Sarah Kofman has, since her tragic death in 1994, become a focus for many scholars interested in contemporary French philosophy. The first critical collection on her thought to appear in English, Enigmas evaluates Kofman's most important contributions to philosophy, psychoanalytic theory, feminism, and literary theory. These insightful essays range from analyses of Kofman's first book, L'Enfance de l'art, to her last, L'Imposture de la beauté. This unique volume represents the major themes in Kofman's scholarship: (...) literature and aesthetics; philosophy and metaphor; women, feminism, and psychoanalysis; and Jews and German nationalism. Selected essays explore and diagnose Kofman's personal struggles as they are reflected in her writing. (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)
Traditional accounts of the feminist history of philosophy have viewed reason as associated with masculinity and subsequent debates have been framed by this assumption. Yet recent debates in deconstruction have shown that gender has never been a stable matter. In the history of philosophy 'female' and 'woman' are full of ambiguity. What does deconstruction have to offer feminist criticism of the history of philosophy? _Yielding Gender_ explores this question by examining three crucial areas; the issue of gender as 'troubled'; deconstruction; (...) and feminist criticism of the history of philosophy. The first part of the book discusses the work of Judith Butler, Jacques Derrida, and contemporary French feminist philosophy including key figures such as Luce Irigiray. Particular attention is given to the possibilities offered by deconstruction for understanding the history of philosophy. The second part considers and then challenges feminist interpretations of some key figures in the history of philosophy. Penelope 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)
This paper considers two among the several points of intersection in the work of Roberto Esposito and Jacques Derrida. First, and most obviously: in the context of conceptualizing community, and more broadly, Esposito and Derrida have elaborated concepts of immunity and auto-immunity to refer to auto-destructive modes of defense which profoundly threaten what – seemingly – ought to have been safeguarded through their mechanism. The second point of proximity is the use both make of figures of maternity and birth in (...) these conceptualizations. This comparison not only illuminates the differing philosophical commitments of Derrida and Esposito but also offers a means of challenging the fate of sexual difference in the work of Esposito. (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.
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 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 and Antoinette Brown Blackwell 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 or the superiority 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)
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.
: 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)
This paper interrogates the status of the Malthusian couple and the policing and government of reproduction in the first volume of Foucault's History of Sexuality, Volume I, and the associated Collège de France lectures. Presented by Foucault as one of the four ‘strategic ensembles’ of the 18th century through which knowledge and power became centered on sex, what Foucault calls the socialization of procreative sexuality also constitutes a largely invisible hinge between the trajectories in HS1: biopolitics and sex. Particularly because (...) it is one of the least discussed figures in Foucauldian commentary, my argument is that a reading of HS1 through the prism of its Malthusian couple produces unexpected results. A text that can be interpreted from the perspective of its debate with psychoanalysis, or its potential debate with those for whom sexual rights belong to a sexual subject, or its status as a watershed text for biopolitical theory, enters into a fourth dialogue with the history of reproduction as politicized and biopoliticized, a problematic to date taken up most directly by Ann Stoler in Race and the Education of Desire. This allows for a revisiting of the complex relationship between the vectors of ‘sex’ and ‘life’ in HS1. Although reproductive sex, and reproductive life, are not the themes of the strongest importance in HS1, they serve as the invisible hinge at the interface of biopolitics and sex in HS1. Considering the status of reproductive life from this perspective becomes a departure point for reconsidering the reproductive woman, in her historical role as part of the problematized Malthusian couple and at the intersection of biopolitics and thanatopolitics. (shrink)
An avid reader of Nietzsche, the German radical feminist Helene Stöcker referred in 1893 to the Verfrühung of the modern woman, her prematurity. She used references to Mill, Bebel, Darwin, Galton, and Nietzsche among others to develop a concept of women's untimely modernity. This paper considers how a number of concepts of time, transformation, biological futurity, and putative agency over nature became, for Stöcker, the basis for a feminist claim to autonomy, agency, and reproductive rights. The paper goes on to (...) ask how some of these concepts and their context could also have provided the implicit resources to resist their conversion by Stöcker. (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)
This article compares the status of sexual and cultural difference in Luce Irigaray's earliest work and her most recent publication Between East and West, in which Irigaray argues that a culture of sexual difference would facilitate improved structural relations between those of different cultures, races and traditions. Many commentators have argued that Irigaray's recent, more simple formulations on legal reform must be understood in the context of the early, very complex Irigarayan concept of sexual difference. But what about Irigaray's recent (...) formulations concerning cultural difference? Are we to understand these as based on an `aporia' of recognition, as are her formulations on sexual difference? The article argues against such an interpretation, and considers problems arising from the disjunction between Irigaray's treatment of sexual and cultural difference. (shrink)
: 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)
: 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)
: 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.
How might we locate originality as emerging from within the "discrete" work of commentary? Because many women have engaged with philosophy in forms 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.
: 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.
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)
In this paper, the term “qualifying disqualification” is introduced to express an intersection of several different types of power that are differentiated as disciplinary, sovereign, and biopolitical formations. The paper concurs with a viewpoint that has emerged in much post-Foucauldian scholarship that these should not be understood as replacing each other in a historically emerging, linear succession. The resulting question is how to interpret instances of their convergence and intersection – for example, are they best understood as mutually consolidating? The (...) paper points to the friction caused by a simultaneity of heterogeneous formations of power given that they are understood to “subjectivise” differently. In turn, different understandings and conducts of “capacity” and “qualification” correspond to those differences in addition to different techniques of inclusion, exclusion, and exception. “Qualifying disqualification” is proposed as a terminology to express this friction. The fields in which its implications are explored include critical race studies, “capacity”-based rights arguments, and new interpretations of power in the work of Foucault, particularly as theorised in his Collège de France lectures. (shrink)
Table of Contents -- Acknowledgments -- Abbreviations -- Introduction, by Olivia Custer, Penelope Deutscher, and Samir Haddad -- Part I: Openings -- 1. The Foucault-Derrida Debate on the Argument Concerning Madness and Dreams, by Pierre Macherey -- 2. Looking Back at History of Madness, by Lynne Huffer -- 3. Violence and Hyperbole: From "Cogito and the History of Madness" to The Death Penalty, by Michael Naas -- Part II: Surviving the Philosophical Problem: History Crosses Transcendental Analysis.
: 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.
: 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?
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)
: 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.".
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 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)
Françoise Dastur describes her efforts to practice history of philosophy in a 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.
Foucault's analysis of biopolitics has been appraised by Didier Fassin as successfully recognizing an essential trait of contemporary society: the attribution of an absolute value to abstract life and the emergence of political governmentalities managing life. Yet, claims Fassin, Foucault overlooked the need for paying close analytical attention to the everyday detail of lives differentially rendered worth living. Giving a focus to anthropologist Veena Das's work on sexual violence, this paper considers the surprising use by a number of contemporary post-Foucauldian (...) theorists of the resources made available by philosopher Stanley Cavell's reading of Wittgenstein as an alternative for the analysis of everyday violence. Having discussed a further tenor of criticism of Foucault – suggestions that the articulation of biopolitics and its forms of indirect murder as a general phenomenon fail to describe the prior or framing conditions under which certain human lives are more vulnerable than others to becoming disposable life – the paper reconstructs a new lexicon of terms devised by Das which would be more adequate to such analysis. In fact, the paper argues that Foucault is just as available for such reconfiguration as other theorists to whom Das responds differently. (shrink)