Thursday, 21 January 2010

Foreshadowing Dundee

Interesting to see Paul Ennis mentioning the 'Real Objects and Material Subjects' Conference here and some of the content of Levi Bryant's post on Inhuman Ethics here. I'm aiming to attend the conference and have submitted a paper that will be touching on some of Levi's claims about the need for a re-engagement with Haraway . I think that her work can be productively read as ontology, notably OOO, and - as Levi suggests - it was perhaps unfortunate that her work was located precisely when it was in history.

My abstract for the conference reads as follows, not sure how closely I can stay to it, but it is vague enough to allow me to formulate some ideas over the next couple of months.

Thinking Sex(es)/Object(s): Feminist Metaphysics as Object Oriented Ontology
Three main claims are advanced and defended in this paper, albeit with some brevity and increasing gradations of tentativeness. First, it is noted that feminist philosophers, in both analytic and continental traditions, have been reluctant to engage with metaphysics, or, far more commonly, they have been active critics and opponents of it. This attitude may be explained, in part, by the masculinist and misogynist use of “essentialism” in the history of women’s oppression, although a number of other reasons can be mobilised with relative ease. Second, contra these considerations, I propose that the marginalisation of metaphysics by feminists has been overly hasty. Indeed there are good reasons to move the discipline of metaphysics towards the centre of feminist philosophy. Third, I identify some feminist philosophers whose work may be read as metaphysics and whose commitments mark them out as holding realist ontologies (e.g. Christine Battersby, Donna Haraway and Luce Irigaray). I then bring to the table of continental metaphysics some concepts developed by those selfsame philosophers and propose that an Object Oriented Ontology may be the most appropriate means of developing and exploring these ideas. The irony and/or perversity of proposing this alliance, given the history and weight of feminist analyses of sexual objectification, is not lost on me. However, I contend that an Object Oriented Ontology does not run afoul of ethical, political and social feminist critiques of objectification; rather, it delivers fertile resources and research possibilities for tackling a pre-existent feminist interest in the status of objects.

[ADDENDUM: Just been informed that my paper hasn't been accepted, so it is likely to be worked up in a more developed form for Speculations or Hypatia. I'll still probably be attending Dundee and soaking up the SR and OOO atmosphere, although it will depend on how my institution feels about funding the trip].


larvalsubjects said...


Interesting stuff here. Wish I could attend. Send a copy of the paper my way after the conference. Like science and technology studies, environmental philosophy, media studies, etc., I think feminist thought has, in many cases, been a privileged site in cultural theory for the rediscovery of realist thought. This is because the sorts of issues that are at the center of feminist thought cannot be reduced to issues of mere discourse, lived experience, language, etc. Here I have in mind issues pertaining to biological embodiment (not phenomenological lived embodiment, but the sheer facticity of having a biological body), the role played by technologies like birth control, the possibility of abortion, etc., etc., etc., institutional structures and how they impact bodies and so on. In a number of respects I think Haraway was attempting to think these sorts of assemblages. Clearly the semiotic and phenomenological domains cannot be abandoned here but if feminist thought is reduced entirely to these dimensions it will fall woefully short in addressing the questions it wishes to address.

Kai said...

This sounds excellent; I would love to read the paper when it's done. I feel like the work of Elizabeth Grosz and Karen Barad, especially would also fit well in this work.

Kai said...

(postscript - I should apologize in advance since I haven't been following this blog if you've already articulated a similar position)

Paul Reid-Bowen said...

Thanks for the comments, my interests in feminist metaphysics are diverse but tend to be focused on the new avenues of enquiry being opened up by feminist philosophers. I don't necessarily mean that feminist philosophers are doing metaphysics in a different mode or voice (qua Carol Gilligan with Care Ethics), but it is pretty clear to me that many of them are highlighting new issues for consideration (e.g. natality, sexual difference) and/or bringing forwards some new concepts and approaches for tackling old topics.

Kai - yes, I'm a big fan of Grosz's work too, although I'm not familiar with Barad (I'll investigate). You won't have missed much on the blog, its rather patchy and experimental, initiated by my initial encounter with Speculative Realism earlier in the year.

Paul John Ennis said...

Paul: Sorry to hear the paper was rejected. I do hope you still come. It is clear that Harman, Levi and many others (including myself) are interested in how this angle will play out. Also I do hope you choose to submit the paper to Speculations!