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Beyond Humanism and Postmodernism: Theorizing a Feminist Practice Author(s): Sara Ahmed Source: Hypatia, Vol. 11, No. 2 (Spring, 1996), pp. 71-93 Published by: Blackwell Publishing on behalf of Hypatia, Inc. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3810265 . Accessed: 29/12/2010 17:14
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andPostmodernism: BeyondHumanism a Feminist Practice Theorizing
SARA AHMED

The modelof feminismas humanistin practiceand postmodemin theoryis Feminist and theory both inadequate. practice directly informeachotherto displace humanist andpostmodern An examination conceptions of thesubject. of feminism's use of rights discourse thatfeminist thehumanist suggests practice questions conception of the subjectas a self-identity. the Likewise,feminist theoryundermines on theconstitutive andindeterminacy postmodern emphasis instability of thesubject.

In this essay,I discussthe relationshipbetween feministtheoryand practice. I consider the implications of a model of feminist practice that creates a necessarydisjunction or contradiction between it and feminist theory.This contradiction relates to a perceived split between humanist and postmodem elements within feminism. Feminism has been viewed as split between the practicalneed for humanismand the theoreticalattractionof postmoderism. In other words,feminismhas been seen as straddlingthe disjunctionbetween humanism (in its need for a discoursebased on women'srights as sovereign subjects)and postmodernism(in its theoretical critiqueof any such discourse of rights and sovereignty). A disjunction is constructed between feminist humanist practice and feminist postmodem theory and is implicitly understood in termsof an inherent contradictionbetween the demandsof practice and theory (feministpracticeis necessarilyhumanist,feminist theory is necessarilypostmoder). The construction of feminism as inherently contradictory,as based on and humanistaspirations as well as on postmodemformsof realist,affirmative resistance,is readilyapparentin recent feminist culturalcriticismand philosophy. Jean Grimshaw in her article "Autonomy and Identity in Feminist Thinking" (1988), for example, arguesthat feminism needs "to engage with those theorieswhich deconstructthe distinction between the 'individual'and the 'social,'which recognizethe power of desire and fantasyand the problem vol. 11,no. 2 (Spring Ahmed 1996)? bySara Hypatia

to the degree that it implies that theory itself is uninformedby the problemsand contingencies of practical politics.and in orderthat feminismcan practicallyexploit the humanist constructionof the subject as a knowing agent. I suggest that the co-existence within feminism of (liberal) humanist and postmoder tendencies moves towards an alternative and constructive and displacesboth positions throughthe focus on approach. this essay will construct a dialectical relationship between feminist practice and theory the social which is basedon an acceptance that a position which foregrounds relation of genderwill radicallydisplacethose positionswhich are structurally and transindifferent. its emphasis on the culturallyoverdeterminedconstitution of the genderedsubject (Gagnier 1990. As such. perhapseven moreso. Gagnier arguesthat feminism is pushedtowarda postmoder ethics and politics via its verycritiqueof gender identity. and there is no attempt made to pose the problemof reconciling these agendasand attitudes into a single position.which transforms gender relations such that they become an-other discourse.These conceptions of feminism hence constructa disjunctionbetween what feminismneeds (the demandsof practice) and its theoretical tendencies. Yet. while at the same time preserving its concern with lived experience and the practicaland materialstrugglesof women to achieve more autonomy and control in their lives" (1988.In other words. at the same time. feminism is constructed as having a dual agenda that derives from alternative and contradictoryattitudes towardsthe subject. 105).This other discourse may involve the simultaneousdisplacement of humanism and postmodernismat the level of both practice and theory. Feminismbecomes withlimits. Likewise. Understandingfeminism in termsof an inherentdisjunctionbetween practice and theory is problematic insofar as it underminesthe importance of theory to the articulationof political choice and.feminism'sconcern with understanding forming relations of gender inequality has both practical and theoretical implications:feminism cannot simply inhabit discourseswhich marginalize the question of gender.These contradictory then humanismwithlimitsand postmodernism tendencies take place as a result of the very nature of this political program which seems to practically require the stability of the category (the subject/women) that it seeks to radicallydisplace.Indeed. I think what we have in these representations of feminism is a demand for a limit to be imposed to the process of postmoderncritique in order that feminism can maintain an unproblematic relation to social reality. Rather than accepting this disjunction. the exclusion of gender from any political or theoreticaldiscourse(an exclusion that often operatesthroughthe assumption . Here.72 Hypatia of supposingany 'original'unity in the self.Regina Gagnierin "FeministPostmodernism: The End of Feminismor the Ends of Theory" (1990) arguesthat feminism cannot undermine its normative ground in humanism given that it presupposes that the oppressionof women exists and that its project is to make the worldbetter for women. 24).

cannotbe simply transcended ornegated. practice. In thisessay. andconcurrently. muchthe boundaries of this discursive contested. are. ideology.Liberal a universalist and insofar as it that universal epistemology ethics. feminist andtheory anyotherparticular practice merge and displacement of humanism and togetherin their joint de-stabilization postmodernism. Butin order to consider the relation between feminist andhumanpractice to delineate moreprecisely whatI meanby humanism and ism. guagein general(the distinction assuch.I needfirstly consider the historical limitsof its production. themselves. Indeed. presupposes havetheirfoundation in the subject asa self-identity thatis prior to the rights . of feminism does not infeminism: the wayin whichfeminism the difference itself negate. betweenpractice andtheory. Feminism activerole in displacing bothprevious of the socialworld conceptualizations The difference and modelsof social transformation. I firstdiscuss cannotbe seenas waysin whichfeminist practice the discourse of I humanism. is an unstable andtheories. although maybe irreducible the senseof defining the terrain of the subject. the humanist mayactually problematize subject. sis on the primacy of the subject overthe "objective" world of socialrelations humanism hasa definite andimportant linkwith (Grosz 1990.however. The specificity termthatnamesdiverse practices to be andstructural difference of feminism is simply displayed by its inability humanist in practice or postmodern in theory. ratherthan feministpractice(and not justfeministtheory) simplyneedinghumanism. to inhabitthe terms of discourse. that Gayatri Spivak suggests the centering of the subjectis irreducible and inevitable(Spivak1990.I will try and demonstrate that.64-65). PostEnlightenment humanist manifest mostimportantly in liberal constitutes an emphathought. 187). that humanism has definedthe terrain of intelligibility forpolitics apparent of the subject in politicaldiscourse) andcommunicative lan(the centering betweensubject andobjectin speech)and. 11). Thismayimply thathumanism itselfis an irreducible of anygiven component humanism andunavoidable in However. (Gatens1991. then consider how feminist simplyinhabiting a relation of critical with tension however theory mayoccupy postmodernism. thisis not to saythatit cannot be problematized or resisted: cannot themselvesbe politics and language reduced to humanism. that is. universality hence has an to that discourse but structural. BEYOND HUMANISM?: RE-THINKING A FEMINIST PRACTICE Doesfeminism needhumanism at the levelof practice? Isfeminist practice humanist? Thesequestions It is quite necessarily maybe slightlymisleading.Sam Ahmed 73 orgeneralizability) of thatdiscourse's cannotbe seenasincidental. As a result. space My exceedsthe very termsof the disjunction argument impliesthat feminism betweenhumanism andpostmodernism.

23).The focus on the groupor differentiationand hierarchization the collective is central to a feminist discourseof rights.Within a classicalliberalframework. then its status as universaland self-evident is called into question. "Rights are not fruitfullyconceived as possessions. feminist practice may serve to de-stabilizethe distinction between the subject and what is outside it (its historicalsituatedness)which is essential to humanism. Rather than rightsbeing intrinsic. it becomes at once divisive or differentialand historicallyembedded. If the concept of rights has to be extended. A feminist focus on the structuraleffects that actual relations of inequality may have on the realizationof "rights"involves a stress on the way in which the mobility of subjects is constituted through the process whereby rights differentiateone group from another. The central feature of (classical) liberalism is its emphasis on .Ratherthan the subjectbeing unifiedand transhistorical.74 Hypatia contingent realmsof historyand culture.Rights referto doing ratherthan having. As Iris Marian Young has stressed. A way of analyzingthis is to theorize it in termsof the Derrideansupplement(see Derrida1976. Indeed. to social relationshipsthat enable or constrainaction" (Young1990. Liberalfeminism attempts to supplement liberalismproper.they are institutionallydefined rules specifyingwhat people can do in relation to one another. liberal feminism exposes the deficiency of the original. The linkage of rights and subjectivitieswith the hierarchizationof social groupsmay constitute in itself a refusalof the liberal politics of equality of opportunity. But in keeping with the logic of the supplement.intrinsicrighthas entailedprocessesof exclusion and selection (that universalsuffrage equalsmale suffrage)it exposes humanismas an ideological of legitimation power (perhapsdespite itself). Rights arerelationshipsnot things. wherebythe legitimate subject of rights (the subjectwho is proper. which excluded women.insofaras the normative project of feminism could be described as the claiming of such rights for women.by processes of logical extension of the discourseof universalrights such that they include women. 144-45). which might at first seem to inform feminist practice most concretely.It may seem that a feminist practicewould perpetuatethe assumption that individualrightsare essential and universal.As a result. But given that liberal feminism reveals that the construction of a universal.To refusethe universalism of this rights discourse would be precisely to make visible its role in the of social groups. through defined "men"as a group (or "fraternity") the veryact of constitutingthat groupas a universal.stratifiedsocial "rights" groupthat is exclusive of others. rights become productiveof the very process of groupdifferentiation. they become at once historicallyproduced and defined along exclusive and partial criteria (in this case the criteria is shown to be gendered).and has property)is always alreadythe subject of a demarcated.The humanistself is thus a disembodied and unitary category whose rights are guaranteedas natural or intrinsic properties.

The acceptance of differencehas become a strategicas well as a theoreticalchoice. To do otherwise. and the arbitrary struggle for equitable conditions. equality in this particularfeminist discourseconstructs the subject as relational.as a social relation. feminism is not necessarilycommitted to women as a unity even if it is committed to women as collective. Instead. not when it operates without external influence (as the formal equality of opportunity). But a feminist concept of equality (taking as its basisthe understanding of the differentialposition of subjects)maydisplacethis ideologyof autonomy.Furthermore. feminism is at once stressingthat subject positions become intelligible only within structures of powerand that change requires a politics of alliance which recognizesand reveals structuresof domination and subordination.and doesn't it thereforepre-suppose humanismas a politics of identity?But the emphasison the collective qualifiesthis apparentpre-supposition. where the subject is conceived as "an elastic and indeterminate entity whose interiority can expand or contract depending on its power to exercise its rights in an institutional context that is not deemed external to subjectivity" (Ryan 1989. 1-6). A subject experiences equality.as JudithButlerpoints out in Gender Trouble: Feminism and theSubversion is to misrepresent of Identity. the realm of historically situated and bodily experience. but only when those external relations themselves are equal. as sealed off from external relations. 163). as existing in connection with other subjects in a network of human relations. . that is. Therefore a feminist practice ultimately transformsliberal humanismby pointing to the natureof the liberalformalself. the right to equal opportunityratherthan equal conditions. But doesn't feminism'scommitment to representingwomen as collective subjects perpetuate the assumptionsand practices of humanism at an even more basic level? Doesn't this very notion of "representing women" assume that there are "women" and that they can be represented.which assumes that the subject can be separatedfrom the social relations within which it operatesand that the degree of separationfunctions as a measureof its freedom.intersects with other social relations such as class and race. a point that links universalizingdiscourseswith exclusion and power (Butler 1990. as it undermines the concept of the subject as a self-identity.Feministpositions that are committedto women as a collective (a structure of social alliance) mustaccept their status as partial interventions. the latter assumingthe actual relationsbetween subjectsas its measure. and restoringto rightstalk. This feminist reworkingof the discourse of rights parallels the model offeredby Michael Ryan in PoliticsandCulture(1989). This constitutes a major break with humanism. such that women'sexperiences of powerand disempowerment aredivergent.SaraAhmed 75 formalrights. as limited by the personal/socialeconomies that shape them. by posing a false and oppressive unity. By stressingcollectivity. Gender.

7). Catharine MacKinnon argues that "what women experience as degrading and defiling when we are rapedincludesas much that is distinctive to us as is our experience of sex" (MacKinnon 1987." while black women are constructed as morally unrapeable. But if we consider how sexual violence may be dependent upon race as well as gender.as feminine virtues which would make the concept of lacking the appropriate and violation make sense (Busia 1993. Busia. She calls for an approachthat is attentive to the complications and contradictions that are involved in the construction of social identities (115). the generic use of "woman"functions to exclude an analysis of the heterogeneity that inflects the category and so cuts off an "examination of the significance of such heterogeneity for feminist theory and political activity" (Spelman 1990. For difference is not something that can simplybe "addedon" to a pre-existingmodel of subjectivity. suggeststhat the rapedwoman is socially and culturallyconstructed as "white. The use of "us"and "we"suggests that women may experience rape collectively as a violation of a self beyond the male and legalistic focus on penile penetration. VronWarein BeyondthePale rape discussesthe way in which vulnerabilityis both sexed as woman. Spelman arguesthat the notion of a generic "woman" functions in feminist theoryin much the way the notion of a generic "man"has functioned in Western philosophy. That is. ix). 87). The position of black women in relation to sexual violence is hence differentialand divided:at once an object of violence."If feminismwere to deny the otheress that . 288). The importanceof recognizingthe way in which the existence of differences between women may effect our understandingof gendered subjectivities in practice is evident when we consider the example of sexual violence. The way in which differencesmust displace a model of a unitaryand discrete subject/womanis outlined by ElizabethSpelman. Black women who experience rape hence cannot be simply included within a notion of women's collective experience of rape.then we may begin to recognizethe way in which a feminist politics of rape may work to complicate the category of "women'sexperiences. The problemof assumingwoman as an essential and foundational category is precisely that this assumptionworks to exclude a pragmaticanalysisof the complex and difficult intersections that trouble as well as shape subjectpositions. and racially markedas white: such that the dominant media construction of sexual violence is of a white woman threatened by the aggressionof black men (Ware 1992."Abena P. for example. Spelman drawsour attention to the dangersof an additive analysisof differences (race + gender + class). The social relations of sex and race divide and intersectwith each other-so preventingthe securingof any shared totality of "women's experiences.76 Hypatia The developmentof a politics of differenceis one way of reconsidering how feminism may displace humanism at a strategic level.A. they are also removed from the conceptualizationof woman as a victim of violence. or to a pre-existing model of woman as subject.

becomes centered upon whether the fetus constitutes a subject with proprietal rights. The abortion conflict is characterizedby competingrightsclaims.or the rightsand autonomyof the fetus.The conflict. and the model of individualrightsas having essential foundations. A feminist approach could argue that the sociality of the subject. does not constitute a subject (with rights).The impossibilityof answeringthis question without neglecting the instabilityof the boundariesof the mother's . although ethical disputes function superficiallyas controversies over what is essentially the case or what is essentially valuable.nonfoundationalistor pragmaticjustificationsto democraticdemands can be sought. In other words. at the same time. her properself?). attached to the body of a social subject.which points to the fact that these criteriamust be open to constant revision. the knowledge of rape as a relation of gender and dominance may enable feminism to forge connections between seemingly disparatesocial phenomena: to constructalliances through (ratherthan despite) differences.or on some ultimate universalistor essentialistfoundation (Mouffe 1988. And yet. that is. or external to. 193-94). 419). dealt with as a rights conflict. But despite the importance of working through a politics of difference. for First. The question of the fetus becomes a question of the integrityof the mother (Is it inside or outside the body?Is it an aspect of. For example.leave us in a situation of a defeatist relativism? Will it become impossibleto defend one ethical position over another. which is perhaps how we can define Rosalind Pollack Petchesky's argument in "Morality and Personhood: A Feminist Perspective" (Petchesky 1992.by allowing the differentialposition of blackwomen in reaction to sexual violence to remain invisible.SaraAhmed 77 divides the concept "women'sexperience" then feminism would implicitly supporta racisteconomy. Second. A feminist approachcould conclude that the argument against women's choice is based on an illegitimate model of rights.basedon either the notion of the rightsand autonomy of the mother. means that the fetus. its constitution within and through the social itself. over what constitutes a subjectwith proprietal rights (Johnson 1987. it is the very undecidabilityof what is essential which locates the dynamics of such conflicts. Alternatively. doesn't the refusalof humanistthought.asChantal example. This may entail accepting that the criteria for negotiating between ethical positions are themselves culturally mediated and that the validityof such criteriacan be measured only in termsof their practicaleffects and consequences. 32-33). to defenda critiqueof sexism. the conflict over abortion can be redefinedas a conflict over what is essential.or a critiqueof racism? Mouffepoints out in her article"RadicalDemocracy:Modem or Postmodern" (1988). we can defendthe political projectof modernitywhile abandoningthe notion that it must be based on a specific form of rationality.a feminist approachcould base itself on the undecidabilityof where the body of the woman ends.

What is requiredis a moregeneralargumentor approachwhich justifies one's own conception of what is essential in the first place. "may actually exacerbate sexual oppression because it protects domestic and maritalrelationsfromscrutinyand frominterventionby government or social agencies"(Poovey 1992. 290). This example may serve to suggest that is not enough in any pragmatic context to simplydefend one'sposition as being basedon an essential truth or right. the feminist use of the discourseof individual rights (the right to choose) can be problematic. be in the same situationof having to justifyour interpretation. The disruptionof the discourse of individual rights may situate the very potential of a feminist approach. it sufficesto posit an egalitarian .In fact.it is apparentthat a feminist approachdoes not strategically require a model of women's rights as true. . 358). as the lack of bodily integrity (and hence the instability of the boundariesof the social subject) leaves us without a propersubjectto actualizeits rightsin a freedomof will and action. in the form of the appropriationand control of women'sbodies.then this wouldnot lead us to a situationwhere the defense of a position is impossibleor unlikely.This is because individual (noninterferencefrompublic bodies). It shifts the question from one of autonomy to one of power." the "discourseof equality and rights . 181).the impossibility of decidingwhetherthe fetus is inside or outside her body establishes that autonomy (of the mother or the fetus) cannot be the grounds for the viability of abortion. and could function by pointing out the various limitations the removal of choice would have on women as a collective.78 Hypatia body and statusas a social subjectdoes not simplynegate the autonomyof the mother. or which locates the effects of variousmodels of essence on the distributiverelation of power between subjects.We would be.. in the light of their interrogation of Roe vs. As Emesto Laclaupoints out in "Politicsand the Limitsof Moderity.as well as abortionprocedures(MacKinnon 1992. As Poovey argues. Nancy Fraser arguesthat we may be more able to arguefor our position preciselybecausewe would not have recourseto any simplistic and ultimatelylimited foundations (Fraser1989.So if we were to assume a position (such as pro-choice or pro-life in the abortionconflict) that has recourseto absolutefoundationsto be untenableand implausible. such as informationand guidance on contraception. By showing how the problematic of pregnancy declares the nonavailabilityof a notion of autonomygroundedon the integrityor rightsof the subject. a feminist approachcould shift the debate aroundabortionfromone of abstractrights to one of power. Indeed. rights are framedin terms of "privacy" This concept of the privateis preciselythat which conceals the political nature of the genderedsubject'saccess to resources.As Catharine MacKinnon and MaryPoovey have both pointed out. essential or proper. that is.the notion of individualrightsframedin termsof the ideology of privacy. need not rely on a common human essence as their foundation.Moreprecisely. . Wade (1973).

Furthermore.feminismmoves towarda pragmatic defines as an insistence on the social context and practiceof all Nancy Fraser truth positions. A feministpracticedoes not then necessarilyrely on a humanistassumption of absolute foundations to individual rights as the intrinsic property of a historicismwhich unitarysubject. by exposingthat the liberalhumanist model of the self reifiesthe culturallyspecific. It can be concluded that the contingencies of feminist practice entail a displacementof humanism.SaraAhmed 79 logic whose limits of operation are given by the concrete argumentative practicesexisting in a society"(Laclau 1988.which is shapedby a belief that "the only constraints to linguistic practice are conversational ones.Instead. needs to remain attentive to the interests that structure all forms of discursive exchange. feminism is committed to interrogatingthe ways in which gender inequality is producedwithin linguistic practices and institutional norms. Such a pragmatist perspectiveis not linked to the school of thought identified with RichardRorty. 165). 100). ethical procedures.and is so pushedtowarda seeminglypostmoder recogni- .and group model of political action." thereforeassumingthat such practicescan in themselves guaranteeand legitimate ethical choice (Rorty 1982. 17). empiricalissueof who organizes each intervention in the public sphere.a pragmaticallyoriented feminist practice.differentialstatusof the subject. We need to consider the or dominates.in particular.Such a considerationwould restorean awarenessof the importance of institutions. Indeed. and the pluralityof historicallychanging discursivesites and practices(Fraser1990. and to affirmingalternative. Rather a feminist pragmatichistoricism points to the fact that social and linguistic practices and conceptual systemsare sites of contestation and are overdetermined by an unequaldistribution of power. Feminismseems to be committed to refusinga model of the subjectas having intrinsicproperties. footing" (Herrnstein approach practical implications: egalitarianism may be possible only when space is allocated institutionally for those subjects/groupswho have less discursive or material power in orderthat their interestscan become heard within the public sphere.As such. disclaiming any disinterestedknowledge or ethics. and it intervenes in these sites with a variety of interpretative and communicative strategies in order to engage the possibility of social change.and what effectsare impliedby. a formof praxis-it interpretsthe multiplicityof sites that constitute social relations as being organizedaroundthe dominance of men over women. work which is.for verbalagentsdo not characteristically enter it from of or conduct their transactions on equal positions equal advantage Smith Such an has immediate 1988. 81).a radicalpolitics dynamicsto any radicalized needs to acknowledgethat "the linguistic marketcan be no more a 'free'one than any other market. more egalitariandistributionsof Feminismitselfcan be understoodas a bodyof theoretical powerand resources. at once.

80 Hypatia tion of the textual or constructednatureof subjectivity. Both feminists and postmoderists have arguedfor the textual and constructednatureof subjecis not necessarilythen to returnto a formof tivity. This approach may protect the alterity of other discursive formations that are structuredby an ambivalence to humanism and modernity. a need to see postmodernism(that is. AND BEYOND POSTMODERNISM?: READING SEDUCTION THESEXED THEORIZING SUBJECT has been read as the "ultimatepostmodern.But in fact the feminist displacement of liberal humanism can be linked to the displacementof the tends to be postmodem subject. rather attempt than simplyask what it means or what it is.That is.function within specific fields of utterance. so emptying them of the potential for a radical difference. point out between and other analogies postmoderism political ideologiessuch as liberin an to ask what the discourse of postmodernism alism. does.hence repeatingsome of the problemsof the liberalhumanist position. I will. rather than as an umbrella term for all such critiques. It must be stressedthat to arguethat feminism of postmodernism does not mean that there displacessome of the assumptions are no continuities between their theories of the subject. he by Steven Connor in Postmodernist will to on the suggests. This is the sort of question raised Cultures (1989)."Indeed. To displacepostmodernism humanism. The problem with the nomenclature of "postmoderism" is that it implies a unity or sameness between all critical readingsof modernityand humanism. to engage with that particular term'sconditions of productionand its practicaleffects (Connor 1989. Such a question. 276). 10). such as feminism and post-colonial theory. antagonistic politics under the unity of its name. the Jean Baudrillard CondiandthePostmodern Notes to ContributorsfromBodyInvaders: Sexuality tion describe Baudrillardas "himself the postmodern scene" (Kroker and texts are hence very importantto any articuKroker1988.The subjectcan be textualizedin many differentwayswith different political implications. and humanist thought in particular. therefore. Baudrillard's .Critiquesof modernity. help us focus very conditions which determine that a be term circulated for debate and. My analysis will help undermine postmodemism'sproblematic tendency of encompassing and containing many differential. texts which become cited as typical of the postmodern or which argue for the peculiarity of "a postmodern condition") as a specific way of critiquing the moder. By do?"I will be asking the question "whatdoes the discourseof postmodernism able to theorize "postmoderism" as a discursivespace which has boundaries (however much they are unstable and contested). throughmy critiqueof some paradigmatic postmoderntexts.I will arguethat the subjectof postmodernism undifferentiatedand undetermined.

The subjectis determinedthen by its own undeterminedpossibilities. Seduction is associated with the feminine. Seduction becomes a metaphorfor that which resistsnatureand essentialism.class. Such a flotation is representedas a passagetoward seduction. Baudrillard hence rejects ideologies which arguethat the subject is determined in the last instance. The subject is deteronly by play mined (it has a destiny). but by nothing positive which exceeds it or is beyond it. behind the liberationof its discourse" (1990. a readingwhich refusesto recognizethe of power. 5). Seduction "continues to appear to all orthodoxies as malefice and artifice.Concurrently. suggests be fully determining. The passagefrom determinationto "generalindetermination" and to the neutralizationof structureentails. 2). in his thesis. Baudrillard offersan alternative. But it is here that the postmoderngesture can itself be problematized.and the dispersalof truth ideologies.For rather than refusingthe concept of destiny.but sees the subjectas governed determininginfluence of structures the radical free of its own (in)difference. According to Baudrillard's reading. He suggeststhat we are and economic political immersed in a "sexual indetermination"where there is "no more want.for artifice. no more prohibitions. Seductionbegins: "Nothing is less certain today than sex. appearance. a "flotationof the law that regulatesthe differencebetween the sexes"(6). As such. 180).SaraAhmed 81 lation of the political limits of postmodernismas a theoretical discourse. Baudrillard's can be readas a normativeand positive readingof the subject. the concept of determinationin the last instance.by its own limitlesspotential for dispersaland betrayal. postmodernism ratherthan as a rejection of its limits. a black magic for the deviation of all truths.Freudianpsyassumes that determines the choanalysis anatomyfully subject'sdestiny (as in is he that Marxism takes class to "anatomy destiny"). which ratherthan being consideredthe negation or opposite of masculinity. or gender). approaching reason to sexual reason (5).an exaltation of the malicioususe of signs. and no more limits: it is the loss of every referential principle"(5). the very structureof free play becomes the normative account of subjectivity. a conspiracy of signs" (Baudrillard1990.The for feminist readersis Seduction(1990) which is crucial text by Baudrillard explicitly concerned with theorizing the sexed subject.The subject is determinedby indeterminacy(ratherthan anatomy.the subject in and of free play. It becomes a sign for the indeterminable and undifferentiated subject.is defined in terms of the deconstruction of the masculine/feminine sexual hierarchy. Baudrillard argueshere that the proliferationof images of "sex"is and that the principleof uncertaintyhas extendedfrom total loss.Ratherthan recognizingthe subject as an effect of discourseand power (and in this sense as being positioned and relational) this approachontologizesand autonomizesthe subject .and that feminism takes genderto be fully determining.He arguesthat "seduction is destiny" (Baudrillard1990. That is.

With them everything is makeup. patriarchy defense againstthe austerepowerof the feminine to disperseand betraytruth itself). as the exposureby interpretationof transvestism. 1217). the dynam- . theater. a false one. hence entail the delimitation of the play of their meaning via their occupation in an alreadydeterminedculturalspace. political.If the feminine as artifice and women as is celebrating(in his idealizationof "artificial" connect.82 Hypatia by renderingit primaryat the same time as emptying it of any determinate content. itself. Now. 12-13) In Baudrillard's argumenttransvestisminvolves the seduction of the sign itself:a processthat leaves the sign indeterminateratherthan referential. 148). and ethical situations I arguethat the signs intrinsic (Derrida1988. The absence of a referentdoes not mean that signsarenot determined.first of all. and ritual game. an exalted but ironic invocation. with play itself. The transvestiteis radicaland powerfulinsofaras it retrievesthe symbolic is a mere trivialand pathetic powerof the feminine (for Baudrillard. But the opposition implied here. one may ask why the transvestiteis a man playing at being a interForwhat Baudrillard woman as women are producedunderpatriarchy. it is because they make sex into total.In this sense. Baudrillard writes: What transvestiteslove is this game of signs. gestural. and if their lives appearmore sexuallyendowed than our own. in stratifieddiscursive(rhetorical/syntactical). of femithe artifice radical as production (makeup. pretense) represents prets ninity by the symbolicand political order:the man is mimickingwhat women become and are within patriarchy. (Baudrillard 1990.what excites them is to seduce the signs themselves. In contrastto Baudrillard. The transvestiteradicallyrefusesthe regimesof truth and production and hence signifiesthe free floating of the sign. although unstable. to the production of the transvestite subject are material and determined. They appear obsessed with games of sex. but they are obsessed. Given this.sensual.I am quite in agreementwith this textualization of the sexual subject. between indeterminacyand referentialityis. and seduction. discursiveeconomy that stabilizesmeaningsin They formpartof a generalized the form of the delimitation of subject positions.howeverpragmatically. femininity). I will not disagreewith the analysisof transvestism(or sexualitymorebroadly) as a signifyingsystemratherthan as referential. then what Baudrillard the transvestitesubject) is preciselywomen'sstatus as signs and commodities circulatedby and for male spectatorsand consumers. The signs used by the transvestite subject (as the signs of a fully negotiated. the male of the artificeof femininity (not the female subjectbut that non-referential other of sexuality and production).refusesto recognizeactual power as operative within the determinationof subjectivity (Baudrillard 1990. Baudrillard's for example.

here. middle structures class) implicit to the sexing. to a mere "flotation"of the law regulatingsexual difference. rather than functioning at another ordersuspendedfrom materialeffects and determinatemeanings. I simply want to suggest that the transvestite subject's performance is overdetermined by a broadersignifying system.and as such idealizesthe very symbolicpowerof capital itself to displacethe possibilitiesof value and utility. In contrast. overdeterminingthe subject effects produced by a signifying system.transvestismmay be shown to be functioning at the level of the materialdynamicof the sign. they are attached to determinate subject positions and invested interests via their status as commodities. Baudrillard's use of transvestism suggeststhat his version of postmodemism workswithin the ideologyof liberalism. This attachment is most aptly reflectedin the use of female bodies as vehicles for advertisingproducts. from which its politics cannot be simply disassociated. with the genderedsubjectconstitutedwithin an overdetermined structure(perhaps named as patriarchy.Indeed.SaraAhmed 83 ics of the transvestitesubject occupy and repeat the power divisions within which the gendered subject is always already negotiated. in a feminist analysis. This is not to argue that the transvestite subject is necessarily conservative. and which hence delimits or constrains the play and significance of its performance. as obvious forms of disruption and displacement from the commodified structure of woman as sign could take place in specific negotiations.Indeed. workingclass. it is interestingto note the shift in JudithButler'sworkfroma model of transvestism as a quasi-voluntaristic performancethat disruptsa system of differencesin GenderTrouble: Feminism and theSubversion (1990) to an emphasison the regulatory of Identity and normativemechanismsthroughwhich subjectsare identifiedas sexed and which maydelimit the potential for transgression throughthe reincorporation of differenceinto systematicityin BodiesThatMatter:On theDiscursive Limits of "Sex" (1993).and classingof subjects. . it is separatedfrom social relationsvia the verystresson indeterminacy. white.That law may not be a referent.but its stabilization is pragmaticallyand normatively regulated through the very of identification (woman.his postmodemsubjectrepeats rather than transforms the status of the subject under liberal ideology. Black. the entailing negotiated hierarchymasculine/feminine) fromwhich a play in its termsis madepossible. in its freedomfromdeterminationby regimesof truthand powerto determinefreely the conspiracyof signs (one could add commoditiesto complete the analogy). does not lead.A feminist analysismay interpretthe systemof gender as relativelystable. man. racializing. Also in his text the circulation of signs is reified. Baudrillard's postmodem vision of signs as proliferating and neutralizingconnects with the very nature of money as a signifierwhich can only quantify. In fact. It is quite cear that the signs in the postmodernworld of the "simulacra" are not free-floating. The absence of a referent to secure the regime of sexual difference (as the sign of gender).

xxiii). where the structureit inhabits is not .and will continue to be. Lyotardcomments at an earlier point that "knowledgein the form of an informationalcommodity indispensableto productive power is already. a major-perhaps the major-stakein the worldwide competition for power" (Lyotard 1989. Here. Lyotard's opening sentences begin: "The object of this study is the condition of knowledge in the most highly developed societies. So the criterion of as the goal of "anoptimalcontributionof highereducationto the performance best performativityof the social system" (48) functions as the discourse of power.such as the dialectics of Spirit. Knowledgesare perpetuatedonly if they are economically viable propositions. He concludes that a trulypostmodernlegitimationis only possiblewhen science is conceived as operatingwithin a paralogiccontext. by. its great dangers. histortext describesphenomena within a particular on knowledge"Lyotard's the bulkof the firstpartof the ical period. its great voyages. discoursesare legitimatedaccordingto the criterionof utility which is at once the criterion of capital. 5).which may share the assumption that sexuality involves the textual negotiation of meanings. It is being dispersedin clouds of narrative languageelements" (xxiv).84 Hypatia A feminist reading of Baudrillard. 54). The term moder is used "to designate any of this kind." Hence. and presupposed "the narrativefunction is losing its functors. the hermeneutics of meaning.may want to critique his model of sex as indeterminationby showing how this model disassociates sexual differencefrom the reproductionof power inequalities. constructstwo versionsof science in a postmodemage. its great hero. or the creation of wealth" (xxiii). its great goal. But Lyotardthen argues that performancecannot be considered a postmoder formof legitimationbecauseit assumesthe stabilityand predictability of the system as a "positivist"philosophy (Lyotard1989. science that legitimates itself with referenceto a metadiscourse making an explicit appeal to some grand narrative. I have decided to use the word postmodern to describe that condition" (1989. the relation Lyotard between them being somewhat unclear. In the first version.This mode of discoursecharacterizes text and situates his thesis on "the postmoderncondition.progress neouslya productof. BEYOND POSTMODERNISM?: PRAGMATICS AND ETHICSIN POWER. Lyotard'sreport on knowledge is concerned with what he defines as a crisis of legitimation-a crisis in modem philosophy. the emancipation of the rational or working subject. THE POSTMODERN AND THE DIFFEREND CONDITION The Postmoder Condition(1989) representsone of Jean-Francois Lyotard's As a "report the most influential theses on what constitutes postmodernism. The term postmodernis used to designate an incredulity toward metanarrativeswhich is simultain the sciences (xxiv).

like the narrationby the Cashinahuastorytellerwhich obeysonly the rulesthat define the pragmaticsof its transmission(20). Lyotard's concept of paralogyas an internalformof legitimationcan provide a rationale for the perpetuationof such power interests.As such. to a problemin Lyotard's text. as it takes a prescriptivemode of addressfor a descriptive one-that Lyotard's model of the paralogicfunctions as a preferred strategyof legitimation rather than as a characterization of what strategiesare in use.it can only emerge from within a given linguistic practice and communicationalinteraction (41). which is the tendency to confusethese two modes. this concept of paralogyrepeats the liberal concept of the free market.concepts of performanceand transforming power become. Certainly. Science is not determined by anything other than the boundariesof its own production.at times postmodernismis used to designate a state of affairs(produced in particularby the impact of certain technologies on knowledge and the content of certain sciences such as quantumphysics) while elsewhereit is used quite clearly to define a new ethics based on paralogy. where antagonistic and competing interestsare defined as the only basis for human relations within an unstructuredand undetermined context. Second. Knowledgemay therefore the intent or criteriaof efficiency).such as representedby the genderdivision.So although performancemay contradict the heterogeneityof languagegames. and even conceals. It refuses to recognize.So in arguing againstperformanceand for paralogythe dimension is simultaneouslyethical and normative or descriptive. The problem with Lyotard's paralogyis thus the same problemwith free markettheories. This points.SaraAhmed 85 intact or stable. that subjects are always already . even if its own boundariesare indeterminateor undecidable. at one and the same time. postmodem legitimation is local or context-immanent.Indeed. It could be arguedin defense of Lyotardthat this criticism is a false one. In its very aestheticismand formalismit fails to recognizethat local situationsor events are overdeterminedwithin broaderstructures or social relations characterizedby systematicinequality. Performancemay still function to overdetermine the production of scientific knowledge in the postmodem world. What are the problems in Lyotard'srejection of the idea of power as determinatein favorfor a postmodernpragmatics? First. but is continuallytransformed by the introductionof new and antagonistic claims.one could arguethat power may still be a motive or operational principle even if knowledge by contradictionand indeterproductionand transmissionare problematized concrete social interests (and still be tied to certain minacy. his final designation of performance and power as nonpostmodem or antipostmodemcarriesthe implication that they are not determiningforms of legitimation in the contemporary production of knowledge. it may still function to regulatethat heterogeneity as a form of power legitimation. impossible.As such. in fact.

In contrast. and Evelyn Fox Keller (1982). 98). it could be arguedthat if ethical policy and political practice were merely to follow the principle of the paralogic then there would be no means for countering the prevailing hierarchical systems. entailing the gendering.and hence reinforce. ElizabethFee (1983).such inequalities. This departsfroma postmodernmodel of paralogyin that science is positioned as over determined by broaderstructuraland power relations.and transcendentaltruths"do in fact "bearthe markof their collective and individualcreators.and that local formsof legitimationwill be determinedby. theories.classing. race and culture" (Harding 1986. She suggeststhat what we took to be "humanlyinclusive problematics.race. A feminist interpretationmay stressthat the production of scientific knowledge is stabilizedby its immersion in dynamics of power." the resourcesand structures needed to mediate.feminist philosophersof science have engaged in their critique of scientific rationalismby focusing on the way in which the productionof by the social positions and interestsof scientists.and the creatorsin turn have been distinctively marked as to gender. class.objective methodologies.the very metanarrative itself. Lyotard's model of paralogynegates the (gendered) power imbalance underwhich all formsof humanactivity arealreadydetermined.Furthermore.86 Hypatia differentiatedfrom each other in termsof power and resources. and racializingof what is knowable within and beyondscience. boundaries Such social change would both presuppose and entail the emergenceof larger political structuresand movements. In the light of the work by Sandra Harding (1986). The variousproblemsassociatedwith Lyotard's concept of paralogyare also which will lead us finally to the implicit to his analysisof narrativepragmatics. . in which science legitican be seen to the neglect way postmoder paralogy of the feminine and women via the "ideals" matesthe exclusion and repression of scientific rationalism of impartiality and objectivity. which would necessitate collecting subjects together under the recognition of shared and (relatively) stable or determinate positions of inequality. postmoder paralogycan also be consideredto ignore the relation Lyotard's That is. knowledgeis overdetermined This involves a recognition that it does matter"who"defines the boundaries of scientific knowledge. 15). As Boris Frankel argues in "The CulturalContradictionsof Postmodemity. and strengthen the values and practiceswhich maximize democracy and socialist pluralismcannot spring solely from the of local communitiesformedon a loose alliance (Frankel1990. As Sandra Harding establishes in The ScienceQuestion in Feminism (1986) such ideals function ideologically to conceal or disguise the status of science as a social institutionwith a division of laborthat marginalizes women. Lyotard's between scientific knowledge and structuresof patriarchy. and a set of interestsand values that tend to reflect and justifysuch a division.such as representedby the categories of gender. Donna Haraway(1990).concepts. facilitate. and class.

Lyotard's interpretationof the naming process as intrinsic to the canonic narrativecan. In this sense.Lyotard links the authorityof the narratoror story-tellerto the priorpost of being a listener:"The narrator's only claim to competence for telling the story is the fact that he has heard it himself. and it is ended with the name of the narrator. The pragmaticsof the Cashinahuanarratives. Lyotard to this position by focusingon the namingfunction of the narrative. However. Details such as the assignment of the role of the "to certaincategorieson the basisof age. open.The authorityof the storytellerbecomes inseparable from (even if it remainsirreducibleto) the authorityof the fatherand the transmission of the father'sname. the passageitself worksto complicatethe termsof such an opposition. by the pragmatics they are overdeterminedby the social divisionsof powerwhich assignthe propername (as transcendentalsignifier)to the male. be problematized.SaraAhmed 87 Condition issueof ethics. At one point in The Postmodern Lyotard distinguishes a pragmatic analysis of the narrative function from one which focuses on extrinsic details such as the institutional assignment of subject positions (Lyotard1989. declined at the end of his narration. family. he is necessarilysuch a hero because he bearsa name. This blursthe distinction between the intrinsic and extrinsic that Lyotarduses to exclude an analysisof social structures(age. 20). sex.The story is introducedwith the name of its hero. 20). or determined"simply" of the narrative's transmission. It neutralizesthe political . The assignmentof patronyms(namthe into from the narrative'sconstitution within a father) brings ing play social broader structureorganizedaround the authorityof the father.he argues. sex.Such contradictions enable us to consider how The Postmodern Conditionseparateslinguistic exchanges from broaderstructures of social differentiation. the positions of the narratorand the hero are not fluid. I think. This autonomizationof the narrativefunction fromthe social organization of power has quite clear ideological implications. and that name was given to him in conformity with the canonic narrative legitimating the assignment of patronymsamong the Cashinahua"(21). or familyor professional narrator group"are hence excluded from his model of the pragmaticsof the transmission of narratives(20). The currentnarrateegains potential access comes to the same authoritysimplyby listening"(Lyotard1989. are "intrinsic"to them. The transmissionof the narrative takes place then within a social context that becomes intrinsicto its effect. The contrastor opposition that this passagefromThe Postmodern Condition sets up is between the intrinsic and the extrinsic (as institutional). professionalgroup) from his model of narrative pragmatics. This closureor delimitationsimultaneously takes place in narrative (the assignmentof patronyms)and beyond narrative (in the gendering of subject positions within institutional structures).This identifies the hero with the narratorand implies a possible interchange:"In fact.

Here. the example is used in orderto elaboratea theoryof the incommensuraa refusalof one phrase bility of phraseregimes. Such authority cannot be seen as intrinsic to narratives.My point here would not be to accuse Lyotardof "wronging" Cashinahuacommunityaccordingto the ethics of the differendhe has delineated (to accuse him in this sense of being a failed postmodernist). Accepting that violence "taking" incommensurability how we irreducible alter relatenarrativeto ethics.It conceals how posts in interchangeability language are overdetermined by prior and relatively stable social assignments such as representedby those groupsthe text itself identifies: age.88 Hypatia effects of discourse and implies the fluidity of narrative in the form of the of positionsof discursiveauthority. The very demands of narrativeand arguis alreadyviolated.I think we need to considerthe fact that Lyotard's a narrativethat positionsor enlists the Cashinahuain a certainway. even in the event of ment mean that incommensurability as an ethical ideal. It is interestingto considerthat in his text concerned less with postmodemism but more explicitly with questions of justice and ethics. subject authority power to name (156).involving in some sense the "translation"of the Cashinahua into an example in an the argument.His basic point is that "a universalrule of judgmentbetween heterogeneousgamesis lackingin general" (xi).Such an incommensurability. The pragmaticsof a narrative'stransmission are therefore inseparablefrom the divisions of power that give certain subjects or social groups authority to speak. In relation to the Cashinahuanarratives.is defined as a differend:a conflict that cannot be resolved due to the "lackof a rule of judgmentapplicableto both (1988. sex. xi). I have already considered the problems implicit to Lyotard'srefusal to narrativesmay alter our acknowledgehow the genderingof the Cashinahua's and the instituof the relation between narrative understanding (pragmatic) tional assignmentof subjectpositions. The of "small cannot be reconciled into narratives" self-determiningnature these The universal(his)storyof "man"as a subjectwho translatesacrossnarratives. own text still worksas First. family. to translateinto the termsof another. Lyotardarguesthat a wrong occurswhen a single rule arguments" of judgment is applied in the case of a differend. professional group. differendoccurswhen the Cashinahuasubject(narrative)is judgedin relation to the universalstory of "man"(156).Lyotard points out that authoron a these narratives rests the paradox: subject that is named has ity within and the with has the authority.but complicatesthe very separationof narrativesfrom institutions. We the other is may against .Rather I want to arguethat this conception of an ethical practice as being a respectfor the differendis an impossibleone. Lyotardalso attends to the example of the Cashinahua narratives. What I want to considermore closely here is the inadequacyof Lyotard's conception of ethics (as the ethics of the differend) for dealing with institutional (and gendered) power differences. The Differend (1988).

So for example.and contingent model of how differentethical practicesdeal with "the other" in cases of conflict or dispute.structure narrativesin the firstplace) maycomplicatethe model of justicewhich equates with a violence againstdifference. What follows from an alternativeanalysisof ethics in relation to an economy of differences between narratives is that injustice cannot simply be identified with a violence againstradicaldifference. an attention to the institutionalized power differences throughwhich varyingdiscoursescompete (and one can recallhere the power that enables the Westernethnographerto speak of the Cashinahua . an understandingof the differencebetween narrativesas a matterof degree.we mayask: How egalitarianare the procedures for resolvingconflicts?How much do they attend to structural powerdifferences? Refusingsimplyto conceive of ethics in terms of the respectfor radicaldifferencesmay allow us to focus more on the specificities of ethical conflicts: who they involve. of the other (humanistand modem) or narratives which refusethe "otherness" which resist that totalizationby respectingthe other as radicallyother (antihumanist and postmoder). and whose interestsare at stake.This may implythat there will be some degree of continuity between conflicting discourses. As Nicholson argues:"It is not as though the abandonmentof the search for foundational means of adjudication entails the admission of no means of adjudication.cautious. Furthermore. Particularlywhen the communicative conflict occurs between participants who sharea common history.however much that continuity is inflected with otherness and difference.SaraAhmed 89 would no longer work with an opposition between narrativeswhich totalize.Linda Nicholson has arguedin contrast to Lyotardthat the availabilityof criteriafor adjudicating between disputesmay come from the pragmaticand hence contingent fact of the existence of cross-culturalmediating standardsof validity (Nicholson 1992. it is also important to consider that a radical incommensurability between discoursesmay not be the case in pragmaticsituations. It may also be significant to recognizethat some ways of adjudicatingin the case of dispute between discourses maybe less unjustthan others.what is required is a more pragmatic. value. maynot be radical.Instead. While it is importantto recognizethat such an identificationof justice and radicalotheress would be a logical impossibility(the evaluative demand implicit to "the just"may alreadynegate the supposedradicalityof otherness). or criterionof adjudicationto resolve the conflict" (88). 85). This point does not exclude the possibilitythat discoursesmay be But it suggeststhat incommensurability incommensurable. What we have instead is an economy. whom adjudicatesthem.one could frequentlyfind some common belief. I do not think that justice can be simply identified with respecting the other as a radical other. as the very fact that discoursesare conflicting or competing means that they exist in some formof relationshipto each other.Recognizingthat power inequali"wrong" ties alreadyposition what can happenin casesof discursiveconflict meansthat .

"we" need to "agree" on the value of differenceand this agreementmay have the statusof a pragmaticconsensusor even a meta-prescription. That is. CONCLUSION and Lyotard'spostmoder narrativeshave My readings of Baudrillard's on which the postmoder is constructedare antagothe terms that suggested nistic to the aims of feminist theory and practice."Indeed. for it fails to acknowledgethe implicationsof such a gap and the demandsuch a gap puts in place for some formof regulativestructureif any ethical effect is to be negotiable. if difference is to be transformations in the distrirealizable. Respecting differencesand the criteriafordefendingthe otheress of the other may involve both adjudicating "value"of difference in cases of dispute. Those redistributions may entail the very compromising of difference-they may entail "collective policy decisions"and the formation of "largerpolitical movements. a radicalpolitics may requirea policy decision to allocate institutionalspacesfor those with less powerso that their interestscan be articulatedin the public sphere.insofaras it resiststhe complicationsthat arisein the practiceand negotiation of everyday ethical differencesand conflict. This belief recognizes the delimitation of difference and possibilitiesby structuralrelations of power and constraint.90 Hypatia justice may only be made possible by varying proceduresthat require the structuraldelimitation of difference as a value. The equation between justice and the value of difference embedded in Lyotard's narrativeof the differendis practicallyunsustainable and requiresdismantlingthrough an understanding of the complicated relations between value. we need to acknowledgethe an ethical the between and gap principle effect-rendering necessarydialogue and consensusover procedure. This postmodem ethics can only sustainitself as being againstany regulativeor totalizingstructure.then certain institutionalor structural bution of resourcesneed to take place. Feminism'sconstitutive belief that gender inequality structuresall aspects of social life (from which many deviations and differencesexist between feminists) has certain theoretical implications.Here. as well as developing institutional proceduresthat would make it possible for various "phraseregimes"to confront each other on more equitableterms. and effect.The existence of such power inequality would mean that simply respecting the differendcould not ensure or make possible a transformationin social relations. The ethic of the differendcannot be sustained. process. as I discussedin the firstsection. Forexample.Furthermore. The inadequacyof Lyotard's postmodem ethics for dealing with structural is hence power inequalities apparent. the political (as the macroas well as micro adjudicationof powerrelations) inflects what can and cannot be consideredthe domain of ethics and justice. I have suggested and Lyotardstress the instabilityand indeterminacyof that both Baudrillard .

I have problematized Baudrillard's shift from the argumentthat sexuality is nonreferentialto the conclusion that sexual difference is indeterminate: a site of play that is unbounded.and the recognitionof the ideologicalinvestment in the construction of a universalsubject. Humanismis displacedvia the focus on the historicaland partialcharacterof the subject. Postmoderism is displaced via the focus on the differentiatedand determinedstatusof the social subject.In relation to The Postmodern Condition and The Differend.and our collective ambitions.A feminist approachwould requirean analysisof how power relationsare stabilizedin specifichistoricalmoments(in the empiricalformof male dominance). The interrogationof gender inequality in linguistic practices and institutional norms involves the critical transformationof both discourses. it would interruptor displace their stress on indeterminacyand instability.our rhetoric.What appearsto be a contradiction between humanist feminist practiceand postmodemfeminist theory maynot exist.My critical readand Lyotard ings of Baudrillard may suggestthat any introductionof feminism to such postmodem narrativeswould effect a major shift in their terms.by the force of our own strategies. then. I have model of knowledgeas determinedonly by the boundsuggestedthat Lyotard's aries of its own production(paralogy)and his model of ethics as reducibleto the value of radicaldifferenceand othemess (the differend)are inadequatefor dealing with large-scaleinstitutionaland power inequalities. So feminismcannot be in the last instance either humanistor postmodem (which is not to create any absolutediscontinuitybetween feminismand these discursivespaces). however much that stability is relative or provisional and itself open to contestation and change by the very discourseof feminism. Feminist theories of the production of knowledgesand subject positions are finally.and the recognition of the ideological investment in the idea that subjectivities.SaraAhmed 91 signifying structures in a way that makes broad-scale categories such as "gender" impossible.and values are free from determination by relations of power and constraint. at odds with these discourses.Feministtheory and practice affirmthroughtheir very recognition and critique of such structures the possibilityand necessity of reconstructingsocial relationsand subjectivities along moreegalitarianor equitablelines. if we interrogate these discoursesfor the historical and political limits of their production.They stress that the (gendered) subject is always differentiatedwithin linguistic practices and institutional norms and that such structures representhegemonic sites of contestation and are overdeterminedby an unequaldistributionof power. In the case of Seduction. Feministpracticemay not be humanistand feminist theorymaynot be postmodem.knowledges. .

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