Changing the Subject: Psychology, Social Regulation, and Subjectivity

By Julian Henriques; Wendy Hollway et al. | Go to book overview

5

Gender difference and the production of subjectivity

Wendy Hollway


Introduction

In this chapter I attempt to analyse the construction of subjectivity in a specific area: heterosexual relations. My framework depends on three conceptual positions which we have developed: the non-rational, nonunitary character of subjectivity; its social and historical production through signification; power relations and the re-production of systematic difference.

I have introduced the term re-production (with a hyphen) since the term reproduction is less than ideal owing to the limitations in its theorization. The dangers are ones for which Althusser has been criticized for failing to avoid. First, the concept stresses maintenance rather than change, and second Althusser's notion of economic determination 'in the last instance' avoids recognition of the effectivity of sites such as hetero-sexual relations-the one I use in this chapter-to re-produce gender difference. My use of the hyphen is intended to signify that every practice is a production (what we have called its 'positivity'). Hence recurrent day-to-day practices and the meanings through which they acquire their effectivity may contribute to the maintenance of gender difference (reproduction without the hyphen) or to its modification (the production of modified meanings of gender leading to changed practices). I am interested in theorizing the practices and meanings which re-produce gendered subjectivity (what psychologists would call gender identity). My approach to subjectivity is through the meanings and incorporated values which attach to a person's practices and provide the powers through which he or she can position him- or herself in relation to others.

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