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Contemporary Philosophy


Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences



French Feminist Theory: An Introduction by Dani Cavallaro (Continuum) (Paperback) offers an introduction to the key concepts and themes in French feminist thought, both the materialist and the linguistic/psychoanalytic traditions. These are explored through the work of a wide range of theorists: Simone de Beauvoir, Chantal Chawaf, Helene Cixous, Catherine Clement, Christine Delphy, Marguerite Duras, Colette Guillaumin, Madeleine Gagnon, Luce Irigaray, Julia Kristeva, Nicole-Claude Mathieu, Michele Montreley, Monique Plaza, Paola Tabet and Monique Wittig.
French Feminist Theory: An Introduction outlines the philosophical and political diversity of French feminism, setting developments in the field in the particular cultural and social contexts in which they have emerged and unfolded.

The book proposes that French feminism continually cultivates a thought-provoking dialogue between notions of equality and difference. Equality is the aspiration of several theorists who are intent on rectifying women's exclusion from dominant structures and relations of power by supplying them with civil rights and cultural credentials identical to those traditionally enjoyed by men. The critics that promote the principle of difference, conversely, alert us to the dangers inherent in the pursuit of equality: primarily, the reduction of feminism to the advocacy of women's admission to normative and normalizing patriarchal systems. Of pivotal importance, in this respect, is the idea that the pursuit of equality, despite its long-standing popularity, may have to concede ground to a productive fostering of difference as the prerequisite of an understanding of parity-in-disparity and of a balanced relationship between the sexes ultimately consisting of equivalence rather than sameness. It may then become feasible to move beyond the concept of man-as-enemy and towards a deconstruction of patriarchal and phallocratic structures them-selves. Some theorists have described this deconstructive move as post-feminist. Although many critics are unsympathetic to the difference-based model and even more so to the idea of "postfeminism", it is nonetheless imperative to examine the potentially positive repercussions of both, not as inimical to the agendas of radical feminism but as an extension of women's struggle: an endeavour, hopefully, to achieve something rather more life-enhancing than merely tolerant acceptance into, and by, what already is.

Concurrently, the book emphasizes throughout the distinctiveness of two principal strands of French feminist theory in thematic and methodological terms, and the importance of acknowledging crucial divergences within and

between them: not only, as suggested above, over issues of equality and difference but also over the meaning of feminism itself, as a movement from which some theorists have sought to disassociate themselves due to its potential proclivity to perpetuate patriarchal/binary structures of thought. At the same time, the book seeks to document the two trends' critical complementarity. It accordingly argues that while materialist feminism focuses on the fashioning of notions of gender and sexuality by patriarchal social institutions, linguistic feminism concentrates on the impact of symbolic representations of gender and sexuality on the psyche. However, the book also endeavours to show that both trends are ultimately committed to the demystification of biologism and to the exposure of ongoing processes of cultural construction and inscription. Even when the body's functions and rhythms are posited as central, these are not unproblematically reduced to physiology and anatomy, nor are they shackled to economic determinants, for the body is inevitably a text: a function of semiotic and narrative encodings. Thus, although some French feminists are more concerned with material economic conditions and others with psychological and affective structures, their preoccupations often coalesce in attempts to identify and interrogate both obvious and latent connections between the social domain and the psyche, social change and individual transformation. Moreover, in different ways, both varieties stress that signifiers such as femininity and masculinity only gain meaning in the context of specific epistemological and economic formations as effects of performativity, and that identities which do not conform to dominant matrices of intelligibility (e.g. heterosexual ones) are automatically stigmatized as Other.

The book's sections may be read sequentially and, where appropriate, links and cross-references between chapters are highlighted. However, the book also lends itself to a non-linear approach, insofar as each chapter has been conceived of so as to constitute a free-standing unit or block.

Chapter 1, French Feminist Theory: Backgrounds and Contexts provides a historical overview that examines protofeminist perspectives spanning the Middle Ages to the Enlightenment and the 1789 Revolution, the legacy of nineteenth-century feminism and the fight for female enfranchisement culminating in the suffrage reform of 1944. This aspect of the discussion establishes the book's historical dimension by drawing attention to developments and repositionings in the field of French feminism with reference to changing cultural and political scenarios. It then considers the relationship between the notional political power supposedly granted by those historical developments and the actual personal power of individuals, with close reference to the doctrine of Existentialism, Jean-Paul Sartre's notion of engagement and the philosophy of Simone de Beauvoir. Issues of political and personal power are further evaluated with reference to group manifestations of feminist theory and practice. Emphasis is laid on the impact of les vnements of 1968 upon the emergence of the Mouvement de Libration des Femmes (MLF) and its plural groupings and positions. Moving on to examine the intellectual con-texts developing in the post-1968 years, the chapter subsequently highlights points of contact between French feminist theory and structuralist, post-structuralist and psychoanalytic discourses proposing radical critiques of traditional approaches to concepts of meaning, consciousness, truth and the very significance of being human: primarily, the deconstructive approach to textuality; post-Freudian readings of subjectivity; post-Marxist models of power and ideology. Connections are thereby set up between the range of theories grouped under the heading `Structuralism, Poststructuralism and Psycho-analysis' and the issues of political action and intellectual engagement discussed earlier. The opening chapter then proceeds to consider developments in French feminism from the 1970s to the present, drawing attention to its bifurcation into the materialist/social trend and the linguistic/psychoanalytic trend. French feminist theory's relation to the controversial concept of post-feminism is addressed in the closing part of this chapter.

Chapter 2, Sexual and Gendered Identities concentrates on the multifarious strategies through which gender, sexuality and related roles and positions are regulated and through which they may be quizzed and diversified. In the first segment of the chapter, traditional approaches to sex as an embodied being's putatively natural essence, in contrast with gender as the socialized manifestation of biological difference, are assessed and questioned. This is done in the light of deconstructive and denaturalizing interventions pointing to the constructedness of all levels of gendered and sexual identity. The inscription of varyingly asymmetrical, oppressive and exploitative power relations in the sex/gender map is investigated further in the following segments of the chapter with reference to materialist and psychoanalytic positions, and with illustrations from economic, medical, legal and anthropological discourses.

Chapter 3, Language and the Subject examines the specifically symbolic dimensions of sexual and gendered identities by investigating the relationship between linguistic structures and subjectivity: that is to say, the strategies through which language fashions and encultures individuals and collectivities and thereby maintains a culture's codes and conventions. The chapter engages with both feminist agendas that aim at exposing the sexist bias of patriarchal language from a sociological viewpoint, and psychoanalytic the-

ories that seek to expose the limitations of patriarchal language and open up spaces for imaginative linguistic experimentation and transgression.

Chapter 4, Patriarchal Institutions explores the ways in which the encoding of gendered and sexual roles relies on specific discursive formations for their self-perpetuation and for the disciplining of the socialized subject. The institutions examined in this context encompass both microcosmic and macro-cosmic forms of organization: the family, the market, the legal system, the realm of rituals, the world of education. All these forms are seen to con-tribute crucially to the shaping of subjectivity in the name of crystallized patriarchal norms, and of related conceptions of acceptability and deviance.

Chapter 5, Writing and the Body develops some of the positions outlined in Chapter 3 by focusing, specifically, on the relationship between textuality and corporeality. The chapter asks whether it is desirable or indeed viable to associate certain forms of textual productivity with particular genders and sexes. Concurrently, it emphasizes the need to move beyond deterministic connections between an author's gender and sexual preferences and her/his text in order to grapple with the sexuality/sexualities of the text itself. In assessing the relationship between subjectivity and creativity, this chapter also consistently explores the controversial concept of criture fminine, or feminine writing, as one of the most famous theorizations within French feminist thought of the relationship between writing and the body.

Chapter 6, Power, Race and the Stranger addresses the confluence of sexist ideologies geared towards the commodification of the gendered subject with definitions of racial and ethnic alterity and colonial agendas. Concurrently, it investigates the psychological connotations of foreignness as an internal condition producing differences not just between but also within subjects. Three main areas within which French feminists of diverse provenance and orientation have approached those issues are discussed: the sociological exploration of parallels in the genesis and practice of racism and sexism; the theorization of the affective dimension of cultural displacement; the elaboration of feminist perspectives on race and postcolonialism in non-metropolitan France, especially by Algerian writers.

The Conclusion provides a rounding-off overview of the principal perspectives and arguments explored in the main body of the book, moving from the historical contextualization of French feminism, through the latter's relation-ship with a range of philosophical positions, to specific themes and concerns discussed in Chapters 2-6. This section ends with a brief assessment of the reception of French feminist thought in anon circles. It is noted, in particular, that the psychoanalytic/linguistic structure has attracted English-speaking theorists more consistently and broadly   than the materialist/social

strand. Indeed, the work of feminists since         the early 1980s has been by and large neglected within anglophone debates due to a reductionist tendency to associate French feminism almost exclusively with the writings of Cixous, Irigaray and Kristeva. Although this receptive tendency may be ascribed to the psychoanalytic strand's more emphatically challenging thematic and stylistic traits, it is necessary to reconsider the Anglo-American world's reductivism.

Although it would be inane to embark on a detailed comparative analysis of French and Anglo-American feminist theories in the present context, the Appendix provided at the end of this volume seeks to highlight points of contact and collusion between French feminisms of both varieties and Anglo-American feminisms, through a schematic analysis of major themes in French theory that have also been dealt with, in diverse ways, in anglophone contexts.

 Retrieving Experience: Subjectivity and Recognition in Feminist Politics by Sonia Kruks (Cornell University Press) In becoming an academic discipline feminism and gender studies has followed postmodernist trends somewhat to the detriment of the originating vision and praxis of feminists in its grass roots form. Kruks attempts to show how experience and story need to be reintroduced into feminist perspectives.


To "essay" is to attempt. The chapters that follow may properly be considered essays: that is, they are attempts to think through what selected aspects of existential phenomenology might mean theoretically for feminism, and how feminists might use insights from existential phenomenology for their own ends. They constitute a series of thematically linked endeavors rather than one seamless argument. They also address and draw on the work of a group of thinkers who, although working in a similar vein, still often disagreed among themselves. I have not tried to smooth out those disagreements but rather to draw from their diverse works here and there as I have found useful. For this reason too, this book cannot offer one unified argument. But although the essays each start out from a particular endeavor, they cluster around three distinct foci. Thus I have divided the book into three parts, within each of which the essays are more tightly linked together.

Part r is entitled "Simone de Beauvoir in 'Her' World and 'Ours."' It contains elements of my earliest work on existentialism and feminism and also some of the most recent. Reading Beauvoir was how I first came to think about existential phenomenology and feminism, and I continue to think with and through her richly suggestive work. If there is one theorist whose work has enduringly informed my own, and whose import for feminism continues to reverberate, it is Beauvoir. I already began to argue more than a decade ago that Beauvoir's account of subjectivity is significantly different from, and an advance on, Sartre's. I also began to argue that it shares striking affinities with Merleau‑Ponty's account of embodied subjectivity or the "body‑subject". The early Sartre (of Being and Nothingness) certainly does not deserve the postmodern opprobrium he has received. But, as he himself later admitted, he does still over‑emphasize the autonomy of the subject. Beauvoir, by contrastl with her greater attention to "the power of circumstance" and embodiment, offers an account of a socially imbued, hence gendered, subjectivity, one that is not necessarily always capable of the freedom that the early Sartre attributes to it.

However, when I developed this reading, I had yet to work through the implications of Beauvoir's account of subjectivity for the postmodernism debates within feminism. I began to do so in an article that was published in Signs (Kruks 1992). Chapter r, "Freedoms that Matter: Situation and Subjectivity in the Work of Beauvoir, Sartre, and Merleau‑Ponty" draws on, reworks, and adds to these earlier materials. It now makes the case for Beauvoir's philosophical originality with respect to not only Sartre but also Merleau‑Ponty. I show in detail how Beauvoir offers us an account of the subject that sheds what remained problematic in Sartre's early work, and how her account enables us to think about gender as both socially produced and yet actively and individually assumed. In her ambiguous claim that one "becomes" a woman, Beauvoir offers us a notion of constrained or situated freedom. Hers is an account that allows for more individual agency than postmodernism (at least explicitly) acknowledges, yet which does not reduce subjectivity to pure interiority or a self‑constituting consciousness.

Chapter 2, "Panopticism and Shame: Foucault, Beauvoir, and Feminism," is recently written and stands as a sequel to the first chapter. In it, I engage more directly in the feminist postmodernism debates by reading Foucault and Judith Butler through Beauvoir. Here I flesh out the arguments, made in`this introduction, about the difficulties that arise when the subject is stripped of any creative role or any active interiority. In particular, I argue that Foucault's account of panopticism is incoherent and incomplete and that Beauvoir's analysis of the "interior" experience of shame offers a needed complement. Likewise, I argue, Butler's account of gender performance demands recognition of an element of interiority that she seeks to deny but that Beauvoir illuminates.

 Sartre has had a bad press from feminists. Indeed, I have been told by more than one colleague that he is such an outrageous sexist that it is really in excusable to use his work at all! Many feminist theorists, who will, for example, happily take Freud seriously‑in spite of his claims that women are inimical to civilization, incapable of moral development, and so on‑shudder at the thought of engaging with Sartre. While I resist the idea of a feminist Index, it was still with some surprise that I found myself turning so extensively to Sartre's works in the essays that compose part 2, "Recognition, Knowledge, and Identity." However, my focus is on later works, Anti‑Semite and few (1946) and the first volume of Critique of Dialectical Reason (1960), rather than on Being and Nothingness. For already by 1946 Sartre's increasing attention to social relations was bringing about profound shifts in his philosophy. By the time of the Critique, his primary focus was on the socially constrained nature of all human action, however individuated and autonomous it might initially appear.

Written in the mid‑1990s, the essays in this section represent a shift in my focus from questions raised by postmodernism to (connected) issues of identity politics within feminism. This shift arose with my increasing involvement in the Women's Studies Program at Oberlin College, where questions of identity and difference often were‑and continue to be‑highly contentious. Given my whiteness and heterosexuality, it became important for me to explore what such categories mean and to ask how far identity matters. Identity politics converges with postmodern feminism in its (rightful) distrust of "universalizing" discourses that can occlude oppression, and it shares the latter's concomitant celebration of multiplicity, fluidity, instability. But observing identity politics in action, both at Oberlin and beyond, I began to meditate also on some of the difficulties it poses for feminist (and other) politics. In addition, I began to ask myself questions about its intellectual roots, which, quite unexpectedly, led me back to existential phenomenology!

Thus the first essay in part 2, "The Politics of Recognition: Sartre, Fanon, and Identity Politics," offers an exploration of modern identity politics through a reading of two closely linked historical texts; Sartre's Anti‑Semite and few (1946) and Fanon's Black Skin, White Masks (1952). Fanon's text draws directly and extensively on Sartre's in exploring experiences of otherness and is profoundly informed by existential phenomenology. Since Fanon has recently been resurrected as a major figure within the canon of "Critical Race Theory" in ways that totally erase his existential orientation, this essay is partly a project of retrieval, an effort to set the record straight. However, it is also more than that.

For these two classic phenomenologies of oppression, two studies of the "lived experience" of being ineradicably "the other," throw considerable light on dynamics that still endure in identity politics. Through my reading of Sartre and Fanon I argue, against "post‑identity" theorists, for the continuing importance of identity politics as a form of self‑affirmation and as a demand for the recognition of differences. But I also examine what can be problematic about identity politics: in particular, the tendency to assert differences so strongly that elements of commonality, which might become the basis for solidarity, come to be denied. I also explore how, by privileging the experiential, cultural, and symbolic aspects of identity, identity politics can function to exclude from consideration equally important issues of material redistribution.

The second essay in part 2 moves onto the terrain of epistemology. In "Identity Politics and Dialectical Reason: Beyond an Epistemology of Provenance," my goal is to explore how what Donna Haraway has called "situated knowledges" can avoid slipping into relativistic claims that knowledge is exclusive to particular groups and is simply a function of its provenance. How, I ask, can knowledge be both partial and perspectival and yet also objective, in the sense of shareable and publicly communicable? Although Haraway rightly calls for such "objective" situated knowledges, she does not show us how they might actually be produced.

Here, I selectively use Sartre's later work, the Critique of Dialectical Reason, to sketch some answers. In this work, Sartre's initial focus is on practices: on what we do in the world, rather than on experience. He sets out to demonstrate the ways in which apparently discrete practices are de facto connected: through their inherence in common social fields and through various and complex material mediations. Demonstrating that knowledge of these connections is possible, Sartre shows us how our own situated, practical, knowledges can also open out into a comprehension of the practices of others anon when our perspectives are significantly different. HP thus points a way toward those objective and shareable forms of knowledge that broadly based feminist movement needs. Although such knowledges still emerge from reflection on our specific social locations, they are able to take us beyond the confines of an epistemology of provenance.

The third and final part of the book, "Experience and the Phenomenology of Difference," contains more recent material. It continues to pursue questions about differences among women but in another vein. Here I ask whether there are ways that we can both give differences their full due and also develop forms of solidarity among women. In searching for possible sites where a solidarity respectful of differences might be developed, I argue that we need to move beyond the postmodern fascination with the discursive and to consider more immediate experiences of feminine embodiment. Here my work is informed by Merleau‑Ponty's phenomenology of embodied subjectivity, as well as Beauvoir's.

In chapter 5, "Going Beyond Discourse: Feminism, Phenomenology, and 'Women's Experience,"' I begin by setting out more fully than I have done previously the inadequacy of postmodern reductions of subjectivity to the discursive. Taking the much‑cited works of Richard Rorty and Joan Scott as illustrative, I show that such attempts undermine themselves and become inconsistent. They also preclude sufficient attention to the domain of affectivity. This lack of attention is problematic, I argue. For a focus on affective aspects of embodied subjectivity, particularly on suffering, may direct our attention to certain areas of experience where it is possible to be open to others whose social identities and interests are different from our own.

The final chapter, "Phenomenology and Difference: On the Possibility of Feminist 'World‑Travelling," further develops the line of exploration begun in chapter 5. Taking Maria Lugones's notion of "playful world‑travelling" as a guiding thread, I further examine situations in which we might be open to others, whose worlds and experiences are not our own. Again, I focus oil women's bodies as an important site for such openings, arguing that certain generalities of feminine embodiment may enable us to feel connections with the suffering of other women in ways that are neither objectifying nor appropriative. Such connections could potentially become the bases for forms of respectful solidarity among otherwise different women. However, this possibility is never guaranteed, and I conclude that a willed choice of openness to others is also necessary for feminism.

Taken as a whole, these essays offer a set of interventions in feminist theoretical debates and also bear on more concrete political questions about differences among women and the possibility of solidarity. As situated knowers, we commonly tend to be myopic: to see the world only as it is around us now. But if the postmoderns have taught us one thing, it is that the present does not contain its future as any linear projection. Thus, feminism's present condition is no necessary indicator of its future. Moreover, given the fragility of the advances made by women, the relatively few who benefit from them, and the backlash already under way, we might reasonably anticipate that there will be a broad resurgence of feminism within a not too distant future. These essays are thus written in the conviction that feminism is not "over" and that ways will emerge to move creatively, yet without re‑erasing differences, beyond feminism's present state of fragmentation. They stand as a small contribution to such a renaissance.

Fields Watered with Blood: Critical Essays on Margaret Walker edited by Maryemma Graham (Georgia) Representing an international gathering of scholars, Fields Watered with Blood constitutes the first critical assessment of the full scope of Margaret Walker's literary career. As they discuss Walker's work, including the landmark poetry collection For My People and the novel Jubilee, the contributors reveal the complex interplay of concerns and themes in Walker's writing: folklore and prophecy, place and space, history and politics, gender and race. In addition, the contributors remark on how Walker's emphases on spirituality and on dignity in her daily life make themselves felt in her writings and show how Walker's accomplishments as a scholar, teacher, activist, mother, and family elder influenced what and how she wrote.

A brief biography, an interview with literary critic Claudia Tate, a chronology of major events in Walker's life, and a selected bibliography round out this collection, which will do much to further our understanding of the writer whom poet Nikki Giovanni once called "the most famous person nobody knows."

Maryemma Graham is a professor of English and African American studies at the University of Kansas, where she directs the Project on the History of Black Writing. Among her books are two edited collections, On Being Female, Black, and Free: Essays by Margaret Walker, 1932-1992 and "How I Wrote Jubilee" and Other Essays on Life and Literature by Margaret Walker.
Contributors Tomeiko R. Ashford Dilla Buckner Jacqueline Carmichael Michelle Cliff Eugenia Collier Essim Erdim Ekaterini`Georgoudaki Charlotte Goodman Maryemma Graham Minrose C. Gwin Florence Howe Phyllis Klotman Amy Levin R. Baxter Miller Joyce Pettis Hiroko Sato James E. Spears Claudia Tate Eleanor Traylor Melissa Walker Jerry W. Ward Jr. Deborah Elizabeth Whaley


Advancing Sisterhood? Interracial Friendships in Contemporary Southern Fiction by Sharon Monteith (Georgia) Though black and white women have long been associated with the heart of southern culture, their relationships with each other in the context of contemporary southern fiction have been largely glossed over until now. In Advancing Sisterhood? Sharon Monteith offers an enlightening map of this new literary ground. Beginning with an overview of the theory and literary incarnations of friendship, Advancing Sisterhood? examines how prevalent specific relationships between black and white women have become in the works of Ellen Douglas, Kaye Gibbons, Connie Mae Fowler, Lane von Herzen, Ellen Gilchrist, Carol Dawson, and others. Monteith explains that interracial friendships have become an alluring topic for white women writers. She also examines these friendships to relate them to the ways black women writers and critics have pictured black and white girls and women in the South.

Advancing Sisterhood?  explores childhood female relationships in such works as Ellen Foster and Before Women Had Wings and considers recent ecocriticism and its role in charting the female southern landscape. Monteith also provides an in-depth examination of the archetypal friendship between white housewives and their black servants. Through these discussions, Advancing Sisterhood? demonstrates how contemporary white women writers have broadened their work to include friendships between women of diverse backgrounds and to influence literary expression.

Feminism Is for Everybody: Passionate Politics by bell hooks (South End Press) Hooks wrote this little book to provide an easily accessible account of the central themes of postmodern feminism that have been obscured through the mass media and culture. In keeping with what hooks calls visionary feminism she makes the general development of the womens movement since the 1960s, a clear historical and thematic account of the progress and setbacks of feminism. Her definition of feminism is to claim that it is the identification of sexism in society rather than just the opposition or antagonism between genders. Sexism is not in itself too closely explored in this little visionary tract that I whole heartily recommend as a concise statement of the central insights and necessary future steps of feminist activism. 

For a close look at some of the issues of sexism in our society Intimacy and Alienation: Forms of Estrangement in Female/Male Relationships by Arthur G. Neal and Sara F. Collas (Women and Sociological Theory: Garland Publishing) provides much food for thought.  Intimacy and Alienation is an examination of contemporary male/female relationships. The authors present a conceptual framework for the types and degrees of estrangement that are present in intimate relationships.


Our guiding metaphor in this analysis of female male relationships is Georg Simmel's description of the stranger as a representative person of our time and place. With increasing urbanization, social relationships typically involve some combination of physical closeness and a sense of psychological distance. While Simmel was directing his attention toward interactions among people who are virtually strangers to each other, he also noted that some degree of estrangement is inherent in all human relationships. When the conceptual metaphor is applied to intimate relationships, the paradox takes on striking characteristics. In addition to Simmel, we also drew upon Emile Durkhim's writings on anomie and Karl Marx's analysis of the alienation consequences of power inequality.

Part I addresses the kinds of estrangement growing out of gender classifications, power inequalities, and modern hedonistic values. In large measure, the estrangements in male/female relationships stem from the havoc generated by the persistence of traditional constructions of gender borders and boundaries. Estrangements also derive from the interaction dynamics of partners as they write gender scripts and negotiate the realities of their relationships. Drawing upon the notion of sexual anomie, we have placed the analyses of gender interactions within the context of cultural forces promoting the creation of hopes, wants, and desires, which also generate conditions to assure their frustration. A great deal of human suffering is embedded in the emotional stress men and women encounter in their intimate relationships.

Part II of the book is organized around separate chapters on the major meanings of alienation as initially identified in the classical analysis by Melvin Seeman. We modified Seeman's analysis to encompass the specific forms of alienation growing out of research on male/female relationships. Specific chapters focus on the crisis of meaning, social isolation, normlessness, fragmentation, and entrapment. We based our reworking of Seeman's concepts on the voluminous literature on the problems of gender relationships, as well as on the recognition that forms of estrangement in intimate relationships differ in major ways from the forms of alienation that have been identified in the impersonal areas of business and government.

Part III focuses on cultural wars, psychological modernity, rational choice, and freedom and equality. Such themes clearly reveal that new paradigms are emerging for thinking about female/male relationships. The increased visibility of the issues of sexual harassment, date rape, and spouse abuse has demonstrated the magnitude and importance of the debate. All of these suggest that relations of power reproduce themselves in both the public and the private spheres of society. From our analysis, it is evident that the conditions of sexual anomie in the larger society translate into a great deal of sadness, uncertainty, and anger at the individual level. The intensity of the collective sadness in responses to the death of Britain's Princess Diana confirmed that the illusion of "happy ever after" has been shattered.

Our primary methodology consisted of a focused, thematic review of contemporary perspectives on female/male relationships. Our intent was to draw upon a variety of data sources and theoretical perspectives: the vast literature from sociology, psychology, family studies, women's studies, and clinical practice, as well as material from popular culture, mass entertainment, and newspaper reports. The unity of our research derived from the problems we investigated. Our purpose was not so much to synthesize any particular body of literature as to sharpen conceptual themes that are inherent in the contemporary debates.

CREATIVE DWELLING: Empathy and Clarity in God and Self by Lucinda Huffaker (American Academy of Religion) is an exploration of process thought for feminist thealogy. She covers a lot of current ground, summarizing many other thinkers' points and issues. Recent efforts to talk about the self in a postmodern dialect have created a dilemma: How can one conceptualize the human self as multiple, fluid, contextual, and radically relational while also maintaining that it is intentional, private, focused, and accountable? CREATIVE DWELLING weaves elements of feminist psychology and process theology into a dynamic interdisciplinary dialogue about human subjectivity. The result brings a new coherence and vitality to our search for more inclusive and adequate ways of understanding our humanity. The theological implications are profound: the dynamics of empathy and clarity impel the author to reframe characteristics of the divine nature, sin, salvation, and spirituality. The book culminates in a study of "dwelling" as a new, iconoclastic, and visionary metaphor for our experiences of the ever-emerging self.

"In this rich study, Lucinda Huffaker weaves together insights from feminist theory, process theology, and contemporary psychology. Her goal is to foster ongoing conversations, but she may do better than that and generate some new conversations among people who have discovered from her work what they have to learn from each other."--William C. Placher, Wabash College

Damaged Identities, Narrative Repair by Hilde Lindemann Nelson (Cornell University Press) (PAPERBACK)

Hilde Lindemann Nelson focuses on the stories of groups of people--including Gypsies, mothers, nurses, and transsexuals--whose identities have been defined by those with the power to speak for them and to constrain the scope of their actions. By placing their stories side by side with narratives about the groups in question, Nelson arrives at some important insights regarding the nature of identity.

She regards personal identity as consisting not only of how people view themselves but also of how others view them. These perceptions combine to shape the person's field of action. If a dominant group constructs the identities of certain people through socially shared narratives that mark them as morally subnormal, those who bear the damaged identity cannot exercise their moral agency freely.

Nelson identifies two kinds of damage inflicted on identities by abusive group relations: one kind deprives individuals of important social goods, and the other deprives them of self-respect. To intervene in the production of either kind of damage, Nelson develops the counterstory, a strategy of resistance that allows the identity to be narratively repaired and so restores the person to full membership in the social and moral community. By attending to the power dynamics that constrict agency, Damaged Identities, Narrative Repair augments the narrative approaches of ethicists such as Alasdair MacIntyre, Martha Nussbaum, Richard Rorty, and Charles Taylor.
Hilde Lindemann Nelson is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Michigan State University. She is coauthor of The Patient in the Family and editor of Feminism and Families and Stories and Their Limits: Narrative Approaches to Bioethics.

 NOTES ON NOWHERE: Feminism, Utopian Logic, and Social Transformation by Jennifer Burwell

University of Minnesota Press

$19.95, paper, 237 pages, notes, index


NOTES ON NOWHERE makes an original, significant, and persuasive contribution to our understanding of the political and literary dimensions of utopian writing. The term utopia implies both "good place" and "nowhere." Since Sir Thomas More wrote Utopia in 1516, debates about utopian models of society have sought to understand the implications of these somewhat contradictory definitions. In NOTES ON NOWHERE, Burwell uses a cross-section of contemporary feminist science fiction to examine the political and literary meaning of utopian writing and utopian thought. She provides close readings of the science fiction novels of five feminist writers— Marge Piercy, Sally Gearhart, Joanna Russ, Octavia Butler, and Monique Wittig—and poses questions central to utopian writing: Do these texts promote a tradition in which narratives of the ideal society have been used to hide rather than reveal violence, oppression, and social divisions? Can a feminist critical utopia offer a departure from this tradition by using utopian narratives to expose contradiction and struggle as central aspects of the utopian impulse? What implications do these questions have for those who wish to retain the utopian impulse for emancipatory political uses?

In imagining alternatives to our present social order, discourses of social transformation express two different but related orientations toward existing conditions. The first seeks a position from which to envision a radical, qualitative break with these conditions; the second seeks to disrupt society’s claim to unity and legitimacy by teasing out the contradictions and fissures within these conditions. The first might be defined as utopian, the second as critical.

In itself, each impulse is burdened by a limitation: to the extent that utopian constructions posit a self-contained and inaccessible ideal "elsewhere" where social contradiction has always already been resolved, they abandon a critical connection to contemporary conditions; to the extent that internal critiques confine themselves to a negative hermeneutics of exposure, they fail to present a positive alternative. If internal critique must confront its inability to escape the social structures of oppression or do more than merely describe existing conditions, utopia must confront its disengagement—as a mere escape—from these conditions. In one sense, then, the limitation of the one impulse is precisely the absence of the other: without a utopian horizon, the critical impulse can achieve no distance from existing conditions and no normative point from which to launch a critique; without the engagement of the critical impulse, the utopian impulse becomes totally disconnected from the historical conditions of its production.

This book is about a contemporary shift in the way discourses of social transformation articulate the relationship between the utopian and critical impulses, a shift that can be broadly defined as the rejection of the utopian impulse in favor of internal critiqued. Burwell examines this shift in the context of a transformation in how discourses represent the relationship between subject and social space: for example, how figures of individual subjectivity are used to fund images of the social space; how a subject’s experience of oppression and position relative to dominant power structures is understood to affect its ability to resist oppression and imagine alternatives. Although Burwell’s primary focus is on contemporary feminist thought, she situate her analysis of feminism within the larger tradition of social discourses that, in attempting to break with existing conditions, reject the utopian impulse toward escape or idealism in favor of a "standpoint approach" that derives social transformation from a group’s position within existing conditions. In examining this larger tradition, Burwell identifies those Marxist conceptions from which feminism drew and those that feminism rejected, as well as that which feminism anticipated and shares with postmodern conceptions of the relation between subject and social space.

Burwell’s account of the relationship between subject and social space within sociopolitical discourse emerges through an analysis of how the informing logics of this relationship are played out in a series of contemporary feminist utopian novels. Although utopian literature is a genre with distinct formal characteristics, its explicitly political and didactic language invites us to examine it in conjunction with social theories of transformation. Until recently, this invitation has been taken up primarily by Marxist critics, whose characteristic contempt for utopian literature is equaled only by their sense of ownership of the genre. The more or less socialist nature of literary utopia’s ideal societies—from the genre’s inaugural moment with Thomas More’s Utopia through the end of the nineteenth century—provides one explanation for Marxism’s claim to the genre. Another explanation for this sense of ownership, Burwell argues, comes from a set of assumptions about the ideal social space that Marxism, in spite of its materialist origins, shares with utopianism. In spite of its predominance, socialism as the informing vision of utopias has been interrupted on two occasions: once in the late nineteenth century, around the time of the "first wave" of American feminism, and again in the 1970s, in conjunction with the evolution of contemporary feminism. Although both the nineteenth- and the twentieth-century feminist utopias express explicitly feminist beliefs, the second wave of feminist utopias is distinguished by the way it inaugurated a revolution in the utopian form in literature, which began to incorporate conflict, imperfection, difference, and transgression into representations of an ideal social space that traditionally had been defined by its harmony and its stature as a sutured totality.

Sophisticated in conception and writing, this study will be of wide interest to scholars and graduate students in women’s studies, literary studies, American studies, and related fields.

1. Locational Hazards: The Utopian Impulse and the Logic of Social
2. Turning Inward: Strategies of Containment and Subjective/Collective
Boundaries in Traditional Utopian Literature
3. Speaking Parts: Internal Diaiogic and Models of Agency in the Work of
Joanna Russ and Octavia Butler
4. Utopia and Technopolitics in Woman on the Edge of Time
5. Acting Out "Lesbian": Monique Wittig and Immanent Critique
Conclusion. Moveable Locales: Narrating Unsutured Utopia
Works Cited

Jennifer Burwell teaches in the Department of English at Wesleyan University in Connecticut.


Women, Culture, Nature

edited by Karen Warren

Indiana University Press

480 pages, index

$49.95 cloth, 0-253-3303 -9

$24.95 paper 0-253-21 057-7

This is the first examination of Ecofeminism from cross-cultural and multidisciplinary perspectives. The strengths and weaknesses of the growing ecofeminist movement are critically assessed by scholars from a variety of academic disciplines and vocations. They explore the real-life concerns that have motivated ecofeminism as a grassroots, women-initiated movement around the globe; the appropriateness of ecofeminism to academic and scientific research; and philosophical implications and underpinnings of the movement. The volume represents a healthy cross-section of the movement’s basic positions and is reflexively critical as well as programmatic.




One: Taking Empirical Data Seriously

Two: Ecofeminism through an Anticolonial Framework

Three: Women of Color, Environmental Justice, and Ecofeminism

Four: Women's Knowledge as Expert Knowledge

Five: Epistemic Responsiblity and the Inuit of Canada's Eastern Artic

Six: Women and Power

Seven: Learning to Live with Differences

Eight: "The Earth Is the Indian's Mother, Nhandecy"


Nine: Leisure

Ten: Ecofeminism and Work

Eleven: Ecofeminism and Children

Twelve: Ecofeminism and Meaning

Thirteen: Ecofeminist Literary Criticism

Fourteen: Rhetoric, Rape, and Ecowarfare in the`Persian Gulf

Fifteen: The Nature of Race

Sixteen: Ecofeminism in Kenya

Seventeen: Keeping the Soil in Good Heart

Eighteen: Remediating Development through and Ecofeminist Lens

Nineteen: Scientific Ecology and Ecological Feminism


Twenty: Androcentrism and Anthropocentrism

Twenty-one: Revaluing Nature

Twenty-two:`Self and Community in Environmental Ethics

Twenty-three: Kant and Ecofeminism

Twenty-four: Women-Animals-Machines

Twenty-five: Radical Nonduality in Ecofeminist Philosophy

Contributors: Candice Bradley, Douglas J. Buege, Adrienne Elizabeth Christiansen, Deane Curtin,

Wendy Donner, Karen M. Fox, Susan Griffin, Lori Gruen, Petra Kelly, Ruthanne Kurth-Schai,

Wendy Lee-Lampshire, Gretchen T. Legler, Joseph R. Loer, Judith Plant,Val Plumwood, Eliane Potiguara, Robert Alan Sessions, Andy Smith, Charlene Spretnak, Noel Sturgeon, Dorceta E.Taylor, Karen J. Warren, Betty Wells, Holly L. Wilson, Danielle Wirth, and Catherine Zabinski.

KAREN J. WARREN, Associate Professor and Chair of Philosophy at Macalester College is editor of Ecological Feminist Philosophies and coeditor (with Duane L. Cady) of Bringing Peace Home.

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Last modified: January 24, 2016

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