Subjectivity: Theories of the Self from Freud to Haraway

By Nick Mansfield | Go to book overview

5 Femininity: From female
imaginary to performativity

SO FAR I have outlined two broad approaches to theorising the subject.The first approach—identified with psychoanalysis and the work of Freud and Lacan—attempts to present a model of the nature of the individual subject, and how it is formed.For these theorists, the subject has a knowable content, and is measurable against a normative path of development. This development is influenced by a variety of factors: for Freud, gender identity and family politics define the immediate hothouse context that brings the nascent self to an early crisis, from which the normal masculine subject emerges, laden with complex and ambiguous identifications but motivated by a clear sense of its needs and purposes. Lacan's approach is far more mythical, in the sense that for him subjectivity is a product of the self's appeasement of huge incontrovertible and superhuman forces, that underpin gender and family positioning as they do for Freud, but whose domain is language, the systems of symbolisation and mediation which structure human culture.Language defines the subject from the outside, instilling in it a sense of lack, which it perpetually tries to satisfy through an endless and constant desire.

The second approach to the subject, which I have identified with the work of Foucault, believes neither that the subject has a fixed or knowable content, nor in fact that subjectivity exists outside of the demands power places on individual bodies to perform in certain ways.Power, in its drive to administer human populations, contrives the subject as an ideal mode of being to which we must conform. We define ourselves according to authoritative notions of what it is to be well and not sick, sane and not mad, honest and not criminal, normal and not perverted. These

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Subjectivity: Theories of the Self from Freud to Haraway
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Subjectivity - Theories of the Self from Freud to Haraway *
  • Series Introduction v
  • Acknowledgments viii
  • Contents ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1: The Free and Autonomous Individual 13
  • 2: Freud and the Split Subject 25
  • 3: Lacan: The Subject is Language 38
  • 4: Foucault: The Subject and Power 51
  • 5: Femininity 66
  • 6: Kristeva and Abjection 79
  • 7: Masculinity 92
  • 8: Radical Sexuality 105
  • 9: Subjectivity and Ethnicity 118
  • 10: Deleuze and Guattari 136
  • 11: The Subject and Technology 148
  • 12: The Subject and Postmodernism 162
  • 13: Conclusion 174
  • Glossary 181
  • Bibliography 186
  • Index 193
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