- Speculum of the Pruning-Scissors(on Katerina Kolozova and Eileen A. Joy, eds., After the “Speculative Turn”: Realism, Philosophy, and Feminism)
After ten years of biting the dust of speculative realism (hereafter SR), scholars are now gradually reassessing the consequences of the movement. One of the parallel criticisms to the SR movement has been its indifference to gender. The volume After the “Speculative Turn”: Realism, Philosophy, and Feminism is so far the first systematic attempt to disrupt SR’s predominantly gender-free modus operandi. This volume will be vital for scholars and readers, from speculative/new realisms through new materialisms, posthumanism/posthumanist feminisms, and object-oriented philosophy and ontology (OOP/OOO) down to the speculative turn’s related contemporary gestures (nonhuman/affect/ontological turns).
Ever since SR was given an all-male birth back in 2007 at a conference held at Goldsmiths College, University of London, problems pertaining to gender and feminism were taken on mostly from within its spin-off, the OOP/OOO, the new materialisms, and Deleuzo-Guattarian feminisms. In SR, questions pertaining to gender and sexuality were not raised until Christopher Vitale’s (2010) and Michael O’Rourke’s (2011) interventions.1 After the “Speculative Turn” is thus not merely a cultural revisionist critique but an infrastructural expansion of SR in the wake of its intrinsic contradictions, produced by its self-aware indifference to “cultural specificity.” I say “indifference” because indifference does not constitute an active ignorance or covert arrogance. To deliberately attack scholars associated with SR by accusing them of misogyny would be to manipulate the readership and to patronize the scholars. (Cf. the now common prank about the “four horsemen of speculative realism.”) The question of indifference to gender does not come from the question of “representation.” It derives from a critique of representation formulated outside the post-Kantian canon of continental antirealism that always replaces the real with our correlation to it. Without having to subscribe themselves to SR, a segment of continental/poststructuralist feminism took refuge from the postmodern antirealism and found an outlet for “the much needed critique of culturalism in gender theory” (as the blurb of After the [End Page 132] “Speculative Turn” announces). This “critique” is the resulting need of SR’s anticorrelationist strand of materialism that rejects in various ways the cultural turn’s performativity of embodiment.
Yet as the book’s editors observe, strands of feminist philosophies have already done this before SR: “The provocations of ‘speculative turn’ philosophers (generally, all men) to post-Kantianism were already preceded by feminist philosophy” (13). This is the fundamental reason why the present volume is discursively necessitated: other than producing a confusion of origins, homosocial generations almost always tend to forget their undergirding materiality (and therefore citationality). The volume thus brings closer SR and feminist philosophy, since (a) SR is “defined by a radical break with any form of philosophical spontaneity” (12), while (b) feminist philosophy was already moving away from it (e.g., Irigaray, Haraway, Firestone).
The situation resembles perfectly the compensatory status outsourced to feminist thought by the forgetfulness performed by male reason. This means that the editors and contributors are already forced to prove the primacy and relevance of their work to experimental variations of anticorrelationism within “pre-SR feminism.” One of the ways in which the editors revolve around the issue is by placing quotation marks around “speculative realism” in the title. This skepticism gives rise to “new forms of realism,” offering a double differentiation away from SR. First, there was never SR feminism, and second, SR does not capture speculations concerning gender-as/beyond-culture. In short: one need not be anticorrelationist to be a speculative feminist. This is why most of the texts are nominated as “a critical theory sui generis that invokes the necessity of foregrounding new forms of realism for a ‘feminism beyond gender as culture’” (13). What has changed since 2007’s SR in both feminist theory and continental realism should be read in the light of what had changed before 2007: for the editors this is feminist philosophy’s application “without the burden of maintaining fidelity to the linguistic turn” (14). Thus the volume is both anamnetic and...