The Stakes of Feminism and the Feminist Postmodern

Bonnie Mann

in Women's Liberation and the Sublime

Published in print October 2006 | ISBN: 9780195187458
Published online September 2006 | e-ISBN: 9780199786565 | DOI:

Series: Studies in Feminist Philosophy

  The Stakes of Feminism and the Feminist Postmodern

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This chapter focuses on Judith Butler's early work in order to clarify some central stakes (or mis-takes) of feminist postmodernism. It begins by acknowledging and responding to her insistence that the term “postmodernism” is misleading and masks a “ruse of authority” that distorts rather than clarifies the issues at hand. It is argued that establishing the feminist postmodern over and against a foreclosed“essentialism” amounts to a disavowal of the realm of necessity. A dual conception of “nature” as “human nature” and the natural world is foreclosed at the moment that inaugurates the textual space in which feminist postmodernism sets to work. This disavowed realm returns on the inside of Butler's theory as a discursive “nature,” which makes constant trouble in regards to the subject's agency, the subject's freedom. It is shown that Butler's approach to the relation between extradiscursive being and speech authorizes the displacement of feminism from its foundation, but not a foundation in the unitary subject so much as a foundation in a certain set of historical projects. The return of the repressed realm of necessity (or otherwise said, the repressed relation to the earth) in Butler's early texts, its return as discursive determinacy, pushes toward exactly what Butler turns to in her later work: the theme of embodied vulnerability in relation to other persons.

Keywords: Judith Butler; postmodern; feminist; sublime; essentialism; vulnerability

Chapter.  11227 words. 

Subjects: Feminist Philosophy

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