Material Feminisms

Material Feminisms

Material Feminisms

Material Feminisms

Synopsis

Harnessing the energy of provocative theories generated by recent understandings of the human body, the natural world, and the material world, Material Feminisms presents an entirely new way for feminists to conceive of the question of materiality. In lively and timely essays, an international group of feminist thinkers challenges the assumptions and norms that have previously defined studies about the body. These wide-ranging essays grapple with topics such as the material reality of race, the significance of sexual difference, the impact of disability experience, and the complex interaction between nature and culture in traumatic events such as Hurricane Katrina. By insisting on the importance of materiality, this volume breaks new ground in philosophy, feminist theory, cultural studies, science studies, and other fields where the body and nature collide.

Excerpt

Stacy Alaimo and Susan Hekman

The purpose of this anthology is to bring the material, specifically the materiality of the human body and the natural world, into the forefront of feminist theory and practice. This is no small matter indeed, and we expect this collection to spark intense debate. Materiality, particularly that of bodies and natures, has long been an extraordinarily volatile site for feminist theory—so volatile, in fact, that the guiding rule of procedure for most contemporary feminisms requires that one distance oneself as much as possible from the tainted realm of materiality by taking refuge within culture, discourse, and language. Our thesis is that feminist theory is at an impasse caused by the contemporary linguistic turn in feminist thought. With the advent of postmodernism and poststructuralism, many feminists have turned their attention to social constructionist models. They have focused on the role of language in the constitution of social reality, demonstrating that discursive practices constitute the social position of women. They have engaged in productive and wide-ranging analyses and deconstructions of the concepts that define and derogate women.

The turn to the linguistic and discursive has been enormously productive for feminism. It has fostered complex analyses of the interconnections between power, knowledge, subjectivity, and language. It has allowed feminists to understand gender from a new and fruitful perspective. For example, it has allowed feminists to understand how gender has been articulated with other volatile markings, such as class, race, and sexuality, within cultural systems of difference that function . . .

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