Feminism after Postmodernism: Theorising through Practice

Feminism after Postmodernism: Theorising through Practice

Feminism after Postmodernism: Theorising through Practice

Feminism after Postmodernism: Theorising through Practice

Synopsis

What has happened to feminism over the last few decades? Is it any use as a 'politics for women' anymore? Or has feminism lost its political edge and utility having changed beyond all recognition since the massive influence of postmodern and poststructural ideas? This book addresses these questions, and presents a valuable overview of the main forms of feminism at the heart of the traditional/contemporary or modernist/postmodernist debate. In order to 'theorise through practice', Zalewski uses the example of reproductive technologies (such as IVF, amniocentesis and ultrasound), which unexpectedly reveals some intriguing similarities between modernist and postmodernist feminisms and illustrates some of the the beneficial legacies of the more traditional feminisms, casting doubt on claims that such feminisms are anachronistic.

Excerpt

Over the last decade or so, a number of feminists have argued that a gulf or huge chasm-like gap exists between the feminisms typically associated with the 1970s (commonly thought of as modernist or traditional feminisms) and those associated with the 1990s (postmodernist or contemporary feminisms). This book takes on and challenges the idea that there is such a gulf. It is important to address this notion of a gulf between these feminisms because it raises the question of how to 'do' feminist politics. The alleged chasm between modernist feminisms and postmodernist feminisms has resulted in each group questioning the politics of the other. Modernist feminists have typically declared postmodern feminisms apolitical and therefore useless for feminism, while postmodern feminists have dismissed more traditional feminisms as anachronistic and virtually useless. In this book I take on these arguments and their implications, not only theoretically, but through a specific set of practices-reproductive technologies-in order to illustrate why it matters that there might be significant differences between feminist theories.

In the first chapter I introduce the idea of a gulf between traditional or modernist feminisms and postmodern feminisms by imagining a conversation between two well-known feminists: Andrea Dworkin and Judith Butler. 'Would they agree on anything?', I ask, in order to start illustrating how differently feminists might think. My aim in this chapter is to start explaining what some of the differences between feminist theories are. As such, I introduce some of the key themes and ideas from the four central categories of feminist thought which are the key 'players' in the alleged gulf between modernist feminisms and postmodernist feminisms: liberal, radical, socialist and postmodern.

In Chapter 2 I go into more theoretical detail about the nature of the alleged gulf. I organise this discussion around three keys issues: the (human) subject; epistemology (theories of and questions about

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