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Suad Joseph - Thinking Intentionality

Suad Joseph - Thinking Intentionality

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Published by M. L. Landers

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Published by: M. L. Landers on Aug 06, 2013
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suad joseph
journal of Middle east WoMen’s studies
Vol. 8, No. 2 (Spring 2012) © 2012
Suad Joseph
Distinguished Lecturer
Tus ar, scholarship on subjectivity, relevant to Arab men as well as women, skirts the key issue o “intentionality.” Feminist scholarsoen conate agency and intentionality. Agency, as it is approached,is attached to the subject in the aermath o observing actions. In-tentionality invites a probe into beore and during actions. Te twomain approaches to intentionality in psychology are “drive” theory and “relational-models.” First, I briey consider drive theory. Second,I examine relational concepts rom the eld o psychology, by way o a query, ending with a discussion o Kenneth J. Gergen’s
RelationalBeing: Beyond Sel and Community 
(Oxord University Press, 2009).hird, I review some o the standing tropes through which Arabwomen as subjects are viewed. Fourth, I explore what these inquiriescould mean or the study o Arab women’s subjectivity and inten-tionality. Finally, I gesture toward questions on methodologies and languages.
thinking subjectivity and intentionality
lonely engagement with vocabulary, terms, and language and adiicult turning to anthropology, sociology, psychology, politicalscience, and philosophy or methods and approaches accompanied theearly days o my project on culturally situated notions o gender, am-ily, selhood, and subjectivity in Arab societies, ocusing especially onLebanon, in the late 1970s. A journey o three decades ensued, during
journal of Middle east WoMen’s studies
which time I hit roadblocks and stumbled onto pathways, pursuing whatat times appeared to me an unspeakable subject, an unwritable concept,an unanswerable query.At the time, ew scholars were theorizing Arab amilies or Arabwomen as subjects. Few writing about the Arab world were ponderingquestions o subjectivity or intentionality. I wrote a paper ormulatinga ramework or thinking about relational notions o sel, amily, pa-triarchy, citizenship, and rights in 1984 or the Social Science ResearchCouncil Near and Middle East Committee on which I was serving as amember. A series o articles began appearing on patriarchal connectiv-ity (Joseph 1993a, b), relational rights (1994b), relational pedagogies o writing (1995), ethnographic methods (1988), patriarchal connectivemirroring (2003), desire (2005) in the context o relationships betweenbrother and sister (1994a), mother and son (1999), brother and brother(2003), key eldwork inormants (1996) and their relationships withemployers (1998), non-governmental organizations (NGOs) (1997), thelaw (1990), and political leaders, citizenship, and the state (2000), amongothers. Te last paper in this string, entitled “Learning Desire: RelationalPedagogies and the Desiring Female Subject in Lebanon,” was publishedin Volume 1, Number 1 o the
 Journal o Middle East Women’s Studies
 (2005). Written in the early 1990s, the earlier dra o “Learning Desire”had been rejected by 
as not suciently “eminist.” Framing theseconcepts drove my work on gender, citizenship, civil society, humanrights, and the state in Lebanon and the Middle East through the early part o the twenty-rst millennium.Scholarship on subjectivity, relevant to Arab men as well as women,addressed by many researchers, skirts the key issue o intentionality.Indeed, my own work on subjectivity hit a wall by the early decade o the twenty-rst century as I struggled to nd concepts to capture inten-tionality in the dynamics I perceived among the Lebanese persons andamilies with whom I was working. I have long thought that the nextmajor task or theory o the subject is to understand “intentionality.”Feminist scholars have pored over agency, thinking that agency cap-tured intentionality. Agency, as it has been approached, is attached tothe subject in the aermath o observing actions. Intentionality invitesa probe into beore and during actions. Can eminists understand how oppressed women are oppressed; respond to oppression; are complicit
suad joseph
in oppression; may not see actions as oppression; may not experienceoppression; may oppress others; resist oppression—and how they understand or themselves all the above, without understanding inten-tionality? Tis query haunts my thinking on subjectivity.Te two main approaches to intentionality in psychology have been“drive” theory and “relational-models.” Formalized by Sigmund Freud(Strachey 1999) and psychoanalytic schools, the hegemonic drive theory underwrote most approaches to the subject in the elds o psychology,political science, sociology, anthropology, economics, and history andin the popular culture or much o the twentieth century. Based in bio-logical notions o instincts inherent in the subject and organized or thesubject’s sel-interest and closely linked with Darwinian evolutionary theory o survival, the century plus-old drive theory implanted itsel soprooundly in Western culture, especially that o America, as to havebecome naturalized.Relational models o intentionality track to the early twentiethcentury as well,
though their ormal articulations are usually traced tothe work o John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth, as well as to that o W.Ronald D. Fairbairn, Harry Stack Sullivan, D. W. Winnecott, and HeinzKohut in the 1950s-1970s. Relational models were initially rejected by classical psychoanalysts but had become more accepted as a “school” by the 1980s. Feminist scholars such as Nancy Chodorow (1978), Jean BakerMiller (1987), and Carol Gilligan (1993) sophisticated the psychoanalyti-cal relational models with gender analysis, though not without harshcriticism by other eminists (Keller 1986). By the 1990s anthropologists,such as Dorinne Kondo (1990) and mysel, were adding cross-culturalanalyses and critiques to the psychoanalytical relational models. Law and political science scholars similarly took on notions o relationality or their disciplines by this time (Nedlesky 1989, 1990, 1993, 2011).In the rst section o the paper, I briey consider drive theory, by way o background. In the second part, I examine relational conceptsrom the eld o psychology, not by way o a review o the literature,but by way o a query, ending with a discussion o Kenneth J. Gergen’s(2009)
Relational Being: Beyond Sel and Community 
. In the third part, Ireview some o the standing tropes through which Arab women as sub- jects have been viewed. In the ourth part, I explore what these inquiriescould mean or the study o Arab womens subjectivity and intentional-

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