Differences That Matter: Feminist Theory and Postmodernism

Differences That Matter: Feminist Theory and Postmodernism

Differences That Matter: Feminist Theory and Postmodernism

Differences That Matter: Feminist Theory and Postmodernism

Synopsis

Differences That Matter challenges existing ways of theorising the relationship between feminism and postmodernism which ask 'is or should feminism be modern or postmodern?' Sara Ahmed suggests that postmodernism has been allowed to dictate feminist debates and calls instead for feminist theorists to speak (back) to postmodernism, rather than simply speak on (their relationship to) it. Such a 'speaking back' involves a refusal to position postmodernism as a generalisable condition of the world and requires closer readings of what postmodernism is actually 'doing' in a variety of disciplinary contexts. Sara Ahmed hence examines constructions of postmodernism in relation to rights, ethics, subjectivity, authorship, meta-fiction and film.

Excerpt

It is difficult to begin writing a book with a sense of anticipation that one's reader may already be feeling a sense of dread. I imagine you scowling, 'not another book on feminism and postmodernism'. And I imagine you yawning, 'hasn't enough been said?' Of course, the fantasies one has of 'the reader' or 'one's reader' are always impossible, always inadequate to their object. But, as someone interested in how feminism and postmodernism can and do speak to each other, I have a sense in which there is a critical reluctance to pursue a debate on or through these terms at all. So, one reader of my work comments, 'my heart did rather sink at the prospect of yet another book on feminism and postmodernism'. This prospect of readers with sinking hearts is, to say the least, alarming. To deal with this doubling of affect (the reader's sinking heart, the writer's alarm) I want to ask: is the difficulty simply the proliferation of books on feminism and postmodernism, or is the difficulty about how the proliferation has taken place and to what effect?

Indeed, at the first academic conference at which I presented my work in 1993 the conference organiser commented on how none of the papers on postmodernism had said anything new or different. She suggested to me that all the papers – which had offered very different positions and were shaped by diverse disciplinary frameworks – were simply re-staging an old debate. I found this judgement surprising and instructive. There was a sense of this 'thing' called 'postmodernism' that had taken over feminist debates (becoming a proper object of feminist dialogue in and of itself) such that any dialogue between feminism and postmodernism could only be a re-staging. Immediately then the institutional effects of speaking on postmodernism as a feminist announce themselves. In part, such an act of speaking on, about or to postmodernism is read as a sign of the exhaustion of feminist concerns. So one must ask yet another difficult question: why is there an assumption that the debate between feminism and postmodernism is already staged?

Partly, this difficulty relates to anxieties in Women's Studies about the role of theory that is perceived to be 'male'. As I discuss later, while I do . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.