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Book review: Rosi Braidotti, Transpositions. Cambridge: Polity, 2006. 307 pp. ISBN 0 −−7456−−3595−−4, £55.00 (hbk); 0−−7456−−3596−−2, £18.99 (pbk)
Robin Stoate Feminist Theory 2007 8: 356 DOI: 10.1177/14647001070080030705
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ISBN 0–7456–3595–4. ‘woman’ as the unconscious. ‘woman’ whose challenge to man is merely to adequate the phallic. the argument that art.356 Feminist Theory 8(3) Ettinger achieves this analysis through deliberate steps. the idea that art functions to do anything is a repetition of those investors’ founding liberal humanist myth. she also convinces that. can involve the unconscious matrixial stratum of subjectivization manifesting its notions of the subject holds together. sameness or psychosis. and particularly feminist theory. It is a pity. 56). working to avoid replicating. Psychoanalytic ﬁlm theory in particular should beneﬁt from her de-stagnation of the relationship between the female and the gaze. £55. because of the matrixial stratum of subjectivization. While much of the theory of the matrixial ﬂows neatly from Ettinger’s description of the subject-conditions of intrauterine and early post-natal existence. the language to which she is struggling almost exists. For the most part. ‘woman’ as matter.sagepub. But this and an overall opacity are a consequence of a form of writing both describing and emulating the kind of discourse to which it alludes. 0–7456–3596–2. Transpositions. in the matrix. as a repetition-compulsion. ANDREW SHAIL St Anne’s College.00 (hbk). Oxford Rosi Braidotti. are reproduced so badly. that Ettinger’s own artworks. used to mark the beginning of each of this volume’s components. although at times she verges into seeing the matrixial as the phallic’s own failure. after all. ﬁnally giving us a psychoanalytic way of seeing ‘the female’ in aesthetics as a presence other than absence. The constant citing of the matrixial as functioning through between-ness is also sometimes little more than a statement of between-ness. Rosi Braidotti here develops the notion of ‘philosophical nomadism’ to begin to illustrate the foundations of what she Downloaded from fty. She is. Continuing the unique Deleuze/Spinoza/Irigaray-inspired critique of the unitary subject of liberal humanism that she began most explicitly with Nomadic Subjects (1994) and continued with Metamorphoses (2002). ‘woman’ as the absence of the penis. then. or ‘woman’ as the non-I from which individuation establishes separation and for which it occasions nostalgia.com at UNIV OF GUELPH on January 7. 2013 . 307 pp. ‘woman’ whose desire is self-directed. in places it tends towards a gesture merely to state a reverse of phallic logic: the trace that the matrixial leaves ‘is a resistance to and liberty from the Phallus which shakes the borderlines of culture into becoming thresholds and draws openings towards new concepts that will retroactively account for a transgression to the m/Other via the eroticized antennae of the psyche’ (p. For those who see the public of most art as a tiny body of patron-investors. But Ettinger’s assertion that certain events in the psychodynamic development of the subject are aesthetic and so can be re-traced aesthetically allows her to see art as not just one sort of symptom but as a practice where matrixial processes are caught. 2006. £18. ‘woman’ as the phallic difference from ‘man’. This is a work based on using language to undo what certain words have been habituated not to mean anything other than. Cambridge: Polity. Ultimately.99 (pbk) There has been an increasingly popular turn towards the work of Gilles Deleuze as the philosophical reference point for all matters bodily in contemporary theory.
Basing this idea of life on redressing the balance in the distinction between bios (the political-discursive capacity of certain privileged human beings) and zoe (the non-. with the caveat of a ‘vigorous’ re-examination to remove its unfortunate fascistic connotations (p. for example. this is an ambitious project that covers vast theoretical. 183). which are comprehensively and regularly shot down in advance by Braidotti as she strives to show the tenacity and ‘ethical pragmatism’ of a consistent materialist approach (p. Where Transpositions develops most clearly from her previous work is in its explicit focus on attempting to account for this nomadic subject’s possibility for maintaining a consistent but non-essentialist and non-moralistic ethics. 2). 12). Of course. in order to sidestep the limitations of Enlightenment logics of the self.com at UNIV OF GUELPH on January 7. For Braidotti. This ‘life’ is a kind of less-transcendent vitalism – indeed. She stresses the importance of ﬁrst fundamentally reconﬁguring the subject as one of immanence rather than universality and completeness. cultural. 51–2). Initially posited as a response to what Deleuze and Guattari notoriously identiﬁed as the ‘schizophrenia’ of late capitalism. one with no a priori framework of judgement. 12). the capital-driven multiplication of subject positions (that is then narrativized as ‘social progress’ by the dominant ideology) is an inadequate solution to this disenfranchisement. pre. and philosophical ground and indeed the basic nature of Braidotti’s 357 Downloaded from fty. 37). It is. 2013 . she appeals to the importance of a materialist reconﬁguration of the concept of ‘life’. Braidotti is not afraid to deploy that term. rethinking it as not so much a fragile specular metaphysical entity that requires protection at all costs. To negotiate this. Braidotti tries to avoid a transcendent basis for her ethical project and is keen to reject the discourse-oriented Derridean/Levinasian turn of an automatic submission to ‘anthropocentric’ radical alterity (p. Braidotti’s work theorizes a possible way out of the West’s technocultural ‘double-pull’ of resisting change while hungering for (highly commodiﬁed) technological product development and the multiplication of marketable ‘others’ as an alibi for genuine restructurings of social agency and equality (p. 37).sagepub. action or behaviour or the logic of rights’ (p.or a-human vitalistic force of material generation and the explication of potential) she ﬁrmly roots the human body as the point of intersection between these two sides of ‘life’ and so a central ‘contested space’ (p. in short. moves to. The main problem is that the level of explication one would expect from such a potentially important intervention in poststructuralist ethics seems at a few points to not be entirely forthcoming. This is notable in particular when Braidotti critiques existing poststructuralist ethical projects: the aforementioned dismissal of discursive models is only brieﬂy investigated and I was keen for a much more extended disassembling of their problems (p. but as an endlessly and relentlessly creative (physical) force of qualitative and topological transformation. It also constitutes a defence against the alltoo-common charges of poststructuralist theoretical endeavours as relativist. Braidotti’s project to align ethics with ‘human affectivity and passions as the motor of subjectivity’ rather than ‘the moral content of intentionality. Similarly. address the myth of the ethereal information society and highlight its heavily material base could have run much deeper (pp.Book reviews intends to be a project to provide an account of the possible ethics of that nomadism and so initiate a response to ‘the speciﬁc ethical challenge represented by postmodernity’ (p. 23). 13).
95 (pbk) The French philosopher and ethicist. ISBN-13: 978–0–7914–6847–0. meant to be felt more in the skin and the blood than in the mind (wheresoever that may be located. Helene Iswolsky. trans. too. 14) that Braidotti very much wants to stress is rendered with great passion and care. M. 2006. That is not for a moment to suggest.358 Feminist Theory 8(3) ethics of philosophical nomadism understandably resists an argumentative trajectory that would dwell too long on narrow speciﬁcs. too. has proven controversial for feminist theorists. with. which is in turn encapsulated by the metaphor of the maternal body. 201). Zoe emerges in a way that may at times touch the kind of universalism that Braidotti wishes to avoid – although she does note its capacity for destructiveness and part of her ethical project of philosophical nomadism is to emphasize ‘sustainability’ in a subject’s relationship to. Emmanuel Levinas. 190 pp. IN: Indiana University Press. Braidotti’s posited relationship with death provides an optimistic alternative to seeing it as the horizon against which life itself is always already judged – death is inevitable and ‘self-styled’. ISBN-13: 978–0–7914–6848–7. $74. Reference Bakhtin. The Gift of the Other: Levinas and the Politics of Reproduction. certainly not a metaphysical alibi for immortality – indeed. and the writing glows with a passionate. somewhat hungry approach to the topic at hand.sagepub. but zoe powers on (p. that there is not an obvious commitment to maintaining academic rigour: the Deleuzean ‘ethical pragmatism’ (p. inviting way. $24. he acknowledges the signiﬁcance of femininity within his ethical frameworks. M. albeit in a witty. Bloomington. or overextend them into universals and pre-close the possibility for interpretation. Perhaps ‘afﬁrmation’ would be a more suitable term for these instances – it is one that Braidotti deploys when considering ways of turning the ‘negative’ into ‘positive’ (p. What we do get instead at these points is generally just repetition of Braidotti’s position. ‘I’ disappear. and among that force. The woman who provides hospitality Downloaded from fty. 2013 . This is. then. (1984) Rabelais and his World. He invokes the metaphorical images of the welcoming woman of the home as the precondition for and precursor of the ethical relation proper. of course – and one must be careful not to ratify the division that Braidotti herself so successfully rejects). It wears its affective colours proudly. At times when encountering this aspect of Braidotti’s neo-vitalist reﬁguring of the animal/political human I even felt echoes of the Rabelaisian carnivalesque as noted by Mikhail Bakhtin (1984). R O B I N S T O AT E Newcastle University Lisa Guenther.50 (hbk). On the one hand.com at UNIV OF GUELPH on January 7. 247). ISBN-10: 0–7914–6848–8. at times. obviously a book that is. New York: State University of New York Press. though. It is. Zoe itself does feel somewhat transcendent. and is thickly armoured against accusations of relativist uselessness. the positively socially disruptive acorporeal bodily force of desire erupting with gusto through the surface of oppressive networks of power. ISBN-10: 0–7914–6847–X.
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