Arranged Quotes on Feminism

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“the discourse of psychoanaly¬sis is symptomatic of the non-Cartesian style of thinking and the epistemological uncertainty of ‘modernity’, the moment of the ‘crisis’ of metaphysics. In this chapter, I would like to turn my attention more closely to some of the French philosophical approaches to the crisis of the modern, with special emphasis on the question of sexual difference.” -

Subjectivity is the process of empowerment of certain discourses, norms and ways of being. It is a technique, or rather a technology of the self, not a new metaphysics.

History of thought means not simply the history of ideas or repre¬sentation, but also the attempt to reply to the question: how is a body of thought constituted? How can thought, insofar as it relates to truth, also have a history? ... Thought has a history too; thought is a historical fact, even if it has many other dimensions besides ... What I am trying to do is present the history of thought’s relations to truth; the history of thought in terms of its having to do with truth. – truth values as applied to post-modern feminism

Foucauldian archaeology is the condition of possibility of an other history of ideas, in which discourse is to be understood firstly as an event inscribed in the process or chain of bodies of knowledge, corpus of signs and perceptions of any given epoch.

Matter on the contrary is at the opposite pole: a blind, dumb and opaque mass, the dense corpor(e)ality of which contrasts with the clarity and transparency of reason. Descartes raises this contrast to the level of ontological difference, which is formalized in the division between mind and body. In his perspective, the latter resembles a collection of sensory organs, each of which has a precise function but, being matter without intelligence, it needs the breath of life from the mind in order to come to life. The body is conceptualized in Cartesian philosophy according to a very precise geometry: it has a volume that occupies a certain amount of space so as to exclude from it all other bodies. In this respect, it is similar to the non-human, the animal.

The soul, situated between the body — raw matter — and thought, defined as the principle of intellection, is the driving force of the will thanks to which man can dominate the powerful sensory perceptions which invade him. Being the sign of animal-like, pre-rational susceptibil¬ity, the body, as the site of passions and multiple other perturbations, is the favourite target of the Cartesian method, and thus forms the battleground for the combat between reason and its others. The stake of this combat is the mastery of the territory that is the body. – bodily conceptualization, corporeality and sensory perceptions

In Writing and Difference, in ‘Cogito and the history of madness’, Jacques Derrida takes up Foucault’s reading of the cogito and presents a very close critique of it.’6 He contests the theme of the exclusion of madness, challenging Foucault’s interpretation as follows: Descartes encounters madness alongside dreams and all other forms of sensory error, but he does not accord them all the same treatment: dreams and illusions may be discovered and surmounted, thanks to the Cartesian method, but the subject who doubts excludes madness. – madness and dream sequences - Orlando

For Derrida the history of philosophical ideas is in itself already a text, strictly speaking the sole text proper to philosophy. Philosophy acts as the distancing of ‘reason’s others’, the rejection of the non-rational, of all that differs from the rational norm; as such it must reiterate this gesture in each and every one of its discursive instances.

In the classical theory of subjectivity as illustrated by the Cartesian cogito, the production of meaning is regulated by the relations between those bodies that are defined as capable of action and those which are acted upon. The active-reactive distinction allows for the two ontological categories of Being and non-Being, that is, of the same-as and the different-from, whose dialectical relationship upholds a single meaning and system of representation. Deleuze, on the contrary, claims that the relation between meaning and non-meaning, positive and negative, active and reactive cannot be reduced to dialectical exclusion. He prefers to play Spinoza against Descartes, and thus speak of free circulation or communication between different affects or elements.

Discourse is not just that which translates struggles for domination and its systems, but that by which one struggles, the power one seeks to possess – linguistic relations – applied to ecriture feminine

What I want to show is how power relations can materially penetrate the body in depth, without depending even on the mediation of the subject’s own representation. If power takes hold on the body, this isn’t through its having first to be interiorized in people’s conscious¬ness. There is a network or circuit of bio-power, of somato-power.4

The body is thus understood as the product of normative effects that situate it directly in the field of politics; as such it is not the body as studied from the point of view of historical, biological or demographic sciences, but rather, the body defined as a political field. – body as product of normative effects

the penal discourse of the law and so on) that shape the body, the situated, embodied structure of subjectivity. The process of getting to know and of getting to control the embodied self being one and the same thing, Foucault strikes a double blow: on the one hand he redefines subjectivity in terms of bodily materialism, on the other hand he redefines power.

Power is no longer an objectified property, the prerogative of the happy few; instead, it is a microphysics of the most detailed techniques of knowledge and control

Sexuality plays a dominant role in the process of subjectification of individuals. Here Foucault applies the same methodological scheme he used to trace the dividing lines be¬tween reason and madness, intellectual and ethical order and disorder, and sees in the discourse on sexuality produced by our society one of the most powerful means to control and discipline the embodied subject. – subjectification of individuals

A collection of feminist essays edited by I. Diamond and L. Quinby attempts to assess the points of convergence between Foucault and feminism.24 Four main areas of intersection are brought out. Firstly, the body as site of power, a play of forces aiming both at discipline and resistance in the production of subjectivity. Of particular interest for feminists is the attention Foucault draws to the discourse of the law, medicine and education as being major normative forms whose role has been infamous in the history of women’s bodies. That he should, however, take so little notice of the feminist agenda on these issues is a problematic point.

Secondly, the emphasis on the specific and local mode of operation of power: Foucault draws attention to the ‘microphysics’ of power, and though he does connect them to macro-instances, he constantly breaks down the over-emphasis that traditional liberal political theory, and also contemporary Marxist theory, had placed on ‘power’ as a substantive notion, which also resulted in over-stressing the importance of the ‘state’.

Thirdly, the crucial role of discourse in producing both knowledge and power: discourse is the bridge between the material and the theoretical; it also provides the basis for Foucault’s critique of the distinction between science and ideology. Fourthly, the critique of humanism, through the emphasis placed on the embodied, specific nature of the subject, as well as his/her relative unimportance in a process of knowledge production where, following the post-structuralist insight, the code precedes and is independent of the message. - discourse

Foucault displaces and expands the notion of materialism, by inscrib¬ing it in the corpor(e)ality of the subject. In so doing he reveals and denounces a double trap which threatens feminism, like other social and political movements: on the one hand a sociologizing reductivism which, on the binary model of class struggle, sets the female individual in opposition to the male patriarchal system; on the other, the utopian model which makes ‘women’ an entity (on the) outside, foreign to the dominant system and not contaminated by it. - corporeality

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