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Feminism, Foucault, and Embodied Subjectivity

Margaret A. McLaren

Publication Year: 2002

Addressing central questions in the debate about Foucault’s usefulness for politics, including his rejection of universal norms, his conception of power and power-knowledge, his seemingly contradictory position on subjectivity and his resistance to using identity as a political category, McLaren argues that Foucault employs a conception of embodied subjectivity that is well-suited for feminism. She applies Foucault’s notion of practices of the self to contemporary feminist practices, such as consciousness-raising and autobiography, and concludes that the connection between self-transformation and social transformation that Foucault theorizes as the connection between subjectivity and institutional and social norms is crucial for contemporary feminist theory and politics.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-ix

This project has been informed, sustained and supported by a number of individuals, institutions and communities, and I am happy to have a chance to acknowledge some of them here. Amy Allen, Allison Leigh Brown and Kathryn Norsworthy read drafts of the entire manuscript. I appreciate the time and energy they spent reading my work and their criticisms and comments undoubtedly improved ...

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Chapter 1

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pp. 1-18

Feminists disagree about the usefulness of Foucault’s work for feminist theory and practice. Some feminists advocate a Foucauldian feminism, while others argue that the underlying assumptions of feminism are antithetical to Foucault’s theoretical framework.1 The question about whether or not Foucault’s work is useful for feminism is situated within the larger debate about the compatibility ...

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Chapter 2

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pp. 19-52

Foucault has been famously criticized for his lack of a normative framework, and thus his lack of any grounding for an emancipatory or liberatory politics.1 Yet in Foucault’s work, notions of freedom, or at the very least antidomination, figure prominently.What are we to make of this? Is it simply conceptual incoherence as some have claimed? Does Foucault rely on Enlightenment ideals such as unified ...

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Chapter 3

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pp. 53-80

Feminists lodge two seemingly contradictory complaints against Foucault’s notion of the subject. On the one hand, some feminists accuse Foucault of abolishing subjectivity altogether. On the other hand, some feminists claim that Foucault proposes a subject that is wholly determined by outside forces. Both complaints rest upon the connection between subjectivity and moral and political ...

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Chapter 4

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pp. 81-116

The body plays a central role in contemporary feminist theory. Recently feminists have focused increasingly on the body—as a source of knowledge, as a site of resistance, and as the locus of subjectivity.1 Feminists have taken mainstream, traditional philosophy to task for embracing mind/body dualism and for associating women with the body and men with the mind. Early feminist work, ...

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Chapter 5

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pp. 117-144

Feminists disagree about whether or not a unified conception of identity is necessary for an effective feminist politics.1 Those who advocate a unified concept of identity argue that it is necessary to make political demands on behalf of women. They claim that without appealing to the category “women,” one cannot make claims for the group. Not only feminism, but also other new social movements ...

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Chapter 6

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pp. 145-164

Foucault’s later work has much to offer feminists, not only because it extends his notion of embodied subjectivity, but also because it elaborates a connection between ethical subjectivity and ethical and political context. The politics of the body and the practices of the self do not begin and end with the individual. They are social, cultural, and historical. Recognizing techniques of the self as political ...

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pp. 165-174

I have addressed feminist objections to Foucault’s work, and demonstrated the ways that his work has been and can be useful to feminists. I have focused on feminist criticisms of Foucault’s account of subjectivity, countering objections that it is incapable of resistance. I have explicated Foucault’s analytics of power, showing that it can account for asymmetries of power, reversals of power, and resistance. ...


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pp. 175-208


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pp. 209-224


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pp. 225-230

E-ISBN-13: 9780791487938
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791455135
Print-ISBN-10: 0791455130

Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 2002