Feminist Futures?

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Author: Elizabeth Grosz
Editor: Janet Witalec
Date: 2004
Publisher: Gale
Document Type: Critical essay
Length: 3,204 words

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[(essay date spring 2002) In the following essay, Grosz explores two strands of futurist feminist criticism as expressed through the works of Luce Irigaray and Gilles Deleuze.]

A revolution in thought and ethics is needed if the work of sexual difference is to take place. We need to reinterpret everything concerning the relations between the subject and discourse, the subject and the world, the subject and the cosmic, the microcosmic and the macrocosmic. ...In order to make it possible to think through, and live, this difference, we must reconsider the whole problematic of space and time.Luce Irigaray, An Ethics of Sexual Difference1

Irigaray makes it clear that feminism has just barely begun to fathom the intellectual depths of its project. To affirm in full positivity the existence and capacities of (at least) two sexes--the project of sexual difference--is to acknowledge two things: first, the failure of the past to provide a space and time for women as women, with the consequence that all forms of prevailing practices and forms of knowledge, including the most objective of the sciences, the most abstract forms of mathematics and cosmology, represent the interests and perspectives of only one sex. All forms of knowledge are open to the augmentation of their objects, fields, methods, and questions through an acknowledgement of their necessary limits, their perspectival emergence in specific rather than universal interests. Second, linked to this recognition, is the necessity, in the future, of providing other ways of knowing, other ontologies and epistemologies that enable the subject's relation to the world, to space and to time, to be conceptualized in different terms. Irigaray makes it clear that a transformation of ontology entails a transformation of the ways in which we understand space and time. Space and time can no longer be understood as neutral or transparent media whose passivity enables the specificity of matter to reveal itself: rather they are active ingredients in the making of matter and thus in the constitution of objects and subjects. A reconfiguration of the subject will, sooner or later, require that our understanding of space and time themselves undergo dramatic metamorphoses.

Since Irigaray's work, a feminist future cannot be identified with the attainment of a sameness with men, of the same rights as men and the same conceptual frameworks, but rather with the proliferation of alternative and different discourses, knowledges, frames of reference, and political investments. The productivity of exchange across boundaries between disparate knowledges may be facilitated and developed on the same model as the interchange between the sexes themselves, the sexes as they will have been from the point of the view of the future, rather than the sexes as they are in the present or have been in the past.

Sexual difference is that which has yet to take place and thus exists only in virtuality, in and through a future anterior, Irigaray's preferred tense for writing, the only tense that openly addresses the question of the future without preempting it in concrete...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|H1100053073