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Q: How did feminism start and evolve?

The history of feminism is the chronological narrative of the movements and ideologies aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights for women. While feminists around the world have differed in causes, goals, and intentions depending on time, culture, and country, most Western feminist historians assert that all movements that work to obtain women's rights should be considered feminist movements, even when they did not (or do not) apply the term to themselves.[1][page needed][2][page needed][3][4][5][6][7] Other historians limit the term to the modern feminist movement and its progeny, and instead use the label "protofeminist" to describe earlier movements.[8][examples needed] Modern Western feminist history is split into three time periods, or "waves", each with slightly different aims based on prior progress.[9][10] First-wave feminism of the 19th and early 20th centuries focused on overturning legal inequalities, particularly women's suffrage. Second-wave feminism (1960s–1980s) broadened debate to include cultural inequalities, gender norms, and the role of women in society. Third-wave feminism (1990s–2000s) refers to diverse strains of feminist activity, seen as both a continuation of the second wave and a response to its perceived failures. Women began fighting for equal rights centuries ago. In the early 1600s, French women began holding salons where educated women could interact equally with men. Women's rights movements were also influenced by the Revolutionary War and the French Revolution in the late 1700s. Then, in the 1800s, women began fighting harder to attain equal rights. When Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were denied seats in the World Anti-Slavery Convention in 1840 in London because they were women, the two organized the Seneca Falls Convention. They also wrote the Declaration of Sentiments, outlining the need for gender equality, including voting rights, thereby kicking off the suffrage movement [source: National Portrait Gallery]. According to Joan Kelly, author of "Women, History and Theory," the word "feminism" only came to the United States from France in 1910. Suffragettes fought for the right to vote, but feminism also includes issues like legal rights and financial independence. The feminist movement splintered off from suffrage-oriented groups after U.S. women were granted the right to vote under the 19th Amendment in 1920. The Women's Liberation Movement, popular in the 1960s and '70s, came about when more women began entering colleges and the workforce after World War II. They wanted to revolutionize the way women lived in terms of education, employment, domesticity and sexuality. Prominent feminists like Betty Friedan formed the National Organization for Women (NOW) in 1966. This group was made up predominantly of older, white, college-educated women. The first national feminist conference took place two years later. At the same time, energized by anti-Vietnam War movements and the Civil Rights Movement, younger and more radical feminists started a more loosely organized group called Redstockings, which "Daring to be Bad" author Alice Echols says demonstrated more militantly and more publicly than NOW.

Importance of female literary tradition:
Women's writing as a discrete area of literary studies is based on the notion that the experience of women, historically, has been shaped by their gender, and so women writers by definition are a group worthy of separate study. "Their texts emerge from and intervene in conditions usually very different from those which produced most writing by men."[1] It is not a question of the subject matter or political stance of a particular author, but of her gender: her position as a woman within the literary marketplace. Women's writing, as a discrete area of literary studies and practice, is recognized explicitly by the numbers of dedicated journals, organizations, awards, and conferences which focus mainly or exclusively on texts produced by women. The majority of English literature programmes offer courses on specific aspects of literature by women, and women's writing is generally considered an area of specialization in its own right.

The idea of discussing women's cultural contributions as a separate category has a long history. Lists of exemplary women can be found as far back as the 8th century BC, when Hesiod compiled Catalogue of Women (attr.), a list of heroines and goddesses. Plutarch listed heroic and artistic women in his Moralia. In the medieval period, Boccaccio used mythic and biblical women as moral exemplars in De mulieribus claris (On Famous Women) (1361–1375), directly inspiring Christine de Pisan to write The Book of the City of Ladies (1405). British writers, as in so many other instances, embraced the classical models and made them their own. Some of the British catalogues were moral in tone but others focused on accomplishments as well as virtues. There are many examples in the 18th century of exemplary catalogues of women writers, including George Ballard's Memoirs of Several Ladies of Great Britain Who Have Been Celebrated for their Writing or Skill in the Learned Languages, Arts, and Sciences (1752), John Duncombe's Feminiad, a catalogue of women writers, and the Biographium faemineum: the female worthies, or, Memoirs of the most illustrious ladies, of all ages and nations, who have been eminently distinguished for their magnanimity, learning, genius, virtue, piety, and other excellent endowments.[2] And as long as there has been this laudatory trend there has been a counter-trend of misogynist writings, perhaps exemplified by Richard Polwhele's The Unsex'd Females, a critique in verse of women writers at the end of the 18th century with a particular focus on Mary Wollstonecraft and her circle. Women writers themselves have long been interested in tracing a "woman's tradition" in writing. Mary Scott's The Female Advocate: A Poem Occasioned by Reading Mr Duncombe's Feminead (1774) is one of the best known such works in the 18th century, a period that saw a burgeoning of women's publishing. In 1803, Mary Hays published the six volume Female Biography. Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own (1929) exemplifies the impulse in the modern period to explore a tradition of women's writing. Woolf, however, sought to explain what she perceived as an absence; by the mid-century scholarly attention turned to finding and reclaiming "lost" writers.[3] And there were many to reclaim: it is common for the editors of dictionaries or anthologies of women's writing to refer to the difficulty in choosing from all the available material.[ In A Literature of Their Own, Elaine Showalter shows how women's literature has evolved, starting from the Victorian period to modern writing. She breaks down the movement into three stages — the Feminine, a period beginning with the use of the male pseudonym in the 1840s until 1880 with George Eliot's death; the Feminist, from 1880 till the winning of the vote in

1920; and the Female, from 1920 till the present-day, including a "new stage of self-awareness about 1960." When discussing the characteristics of each of these phases, she looks at how other literary subcultures ("such as black, Jewish... or even American") to see how they developed. A female solidarity always seemed to exist as a result of "a shared and increasingly secretive and ritualized physical experience... the entire female sexual life cycle." Female writers always wrote with this commonality and feminine awareness in mind. Therefore, women's writing and women's experiences "implied unities of culture." Showalter finds in each subculture, and thus in women's literature, first a long period of imitation of the dominant structures of tradition and an "internalization of its standards of art an its views on social roles." This Feminine phase includes women writers such as the Brontës, Elizabeth Gaskell, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Harriet Martineau, George Eliot, Florence Nightingale, and the later generation of Charlotte Yonge, Dinah Mulock Craik, Margaret Oliphant, and Elizabeth Lynn Linton. These women attempted to integrate themselves into a public sphere, a male tradition, and many of them felt a conflict of "obedience and resistance" which appears in many of their novels. Oddly enough, during the Victorian period, women flooded the novel market and comprised a healthy segment of the reading public — still, women writers were left "metaphorically paralyzed." The language with which they could fully express their experience as women and their sufferings as they still identified themselves within the confines of Victorian bourgeois propriety. In the second stage, the minority — or rather, the subordinate — lashes out against the traditional standards and values, demanding their rights and sovereignty be recognized. In this Feminist phase, women's literature had varying angles of attack. Some women wrote social commentaries, translating their own sufferings to those of the poor, the laboring class, slaves, and prostitutes, thereby venting their sense of injustice in an acceptable manner. They expanded their sphere of influence by making inroads into social work. In a completely different direction, the 1870s sensation novels of Mary Braddon, Rhoda Broughton, and Florence Marryat, "explored genuinely radical female protest against marriage and women's economic oppression, although still in the framework of feminine conventions that demanded the erring heroine's destruction." Their golden-haired doll-like paradigms of womanhood mock contemporary expectations of Angels in the House by turning out to be mad bigamists and would-be murderesses. Militant suffragists also wrote prolifically during this protest phase of literature. Women such as Sarah Grand, George Egerton, Mona Caird, Elizabeth Robins, and Olive Schreiner made "fiction the vehicle for a dramatization of wronged womanhood... demand[ing] changes in the social and political systems that would grant women male privileges and require chastity and fidelity from men." On the whole, Showalter finds these women's writings not examples of fine literature. Their projects concerned themselves more with a message than the creation of art, though their rejection of male-imposed definitions and self-imposed oppression opened the doors for the exploration of female identity, feminist theory, and the female aesthetic. The third period, then, is characterized by a self-discovery and some freedom "from some of the dependency of opposition" as a means for self-definition. Some writers end up turning inward

during the subsequent search for identity. In the early half of Female phase of writing, it "carried... the double legacy of feminine self-hatred and feminist withdrawal... [turning] more and more toward a separatist literature of inner space." Dorothy Richardson, Katherine Mansfield, and Virginia Woolf worked towards a female aesthetic, elevating sexuality to a world-polarizing determination. Moreover, the female experience and its creative processes held mystic implications — both transcendental and self-destructive vulnerability. These women "applied the cultural analysis of the feminists [before them] to words, sentences, and structures of language in the novel." However, Showalter criticizes their works for their androgynistic natures. For all its concern with sexual connotations and sexuality, the writing avoids actual contact with the body, disengaging from people into "a room of one's own." This changed when the female novel entered a new stage in the 1960s. With twentieth-century Freudian and Marxist analysis and two centuries of female tradition, writers such as Iris Murdoch, Muriel Spark, Doris Lessing, Margaret Drabble, A.S. Byatt, and Beryl Bainbridge access women's experiences. Using previously taboo language and situations, "anger and sexuality are accepted... as sources of female creative power." Showalter's analysis shows how the progress of women's writing reached this phase and expresses all the conflicts and struggles still influencing the current of women's literature.

How feminism differs from liberal humanism: The problem here is that even the word ―feminism‖ is inherently sexist. It’s a word meaning to promote gender equality, yet the word itself has a single gender assigned to it. Just like ―masculinism‖ is sexist… Men and women should be fighting for equality, not just the rights of their own gender. You seldom see any feminist organizations fighting towards gender equality in the selective service, which is arguably the most sexist organization that exists in the American society. They day feminism starts truly fighting for equality, rather than just the promotion of females while ignoring the problems that exist for men, they will no longer call themselves feminists.
Another problem I have with non-feminists wondering why we don’t call ourselves “humanist” is that although “humanist” has several meanings, I don’t want to associate myself with those which imply that human beings are sacred, or superior to animals.

a) To assume that what any person claiming themselves to be feminist believes and argues is representative of ALL feminists everywhere is, at best, extremely problematic. At worst, it’s a demonstration of one of the issues feminists specifically stand against: The notion an awful lot of men have, and which our culture heartily encourages, that women don’t really, truly have unique individual personalities, and that, deep down, women are basically all the same. We all think the same, we all like the same things, we all want the same things; if you’re single and want to get a girlfriend, there are specific ways to behave which must be learned like a secret code, which, once you have it, will get you whichever woman you’re interested in (because we all want

apparently). I’m not seeing how not going out of one’s way to help men specifically = actively oppressing men. Feminist practice and theory directly inform each other to displace both humanist and postmodern conceptions of the subject. if you’re an employer. The model of feminism as humanist in practice and postmodern in theory is inadequate.‖ we are not truly capable of having individual points of view. etc. Beyond humanism and postmodernism: Theorizing a feminist practice. children – and all women take time off for childrearing and men don’t. as women and especially as members of a subgroup regarded as inherently ―female. because. Ahmed. you assume that all women who don’t already have children will have them (because all women want.exactly the same things in men – and all want men. of course. But. b) While the position you quoted is one rather lacking in tact/empathy. Hypatia. Sara. anything that isn’t explicitly for men is seen as implicitly against them. 11(2):71-93. To assume that ALL feminists want to oppress men is to assume that we all think and believe exactly the same things. where it goes unspoken that men and men’s issues are more important and worthy of attention than women and women’s issues. in a culture of male privilege. apparently) and treat them accordingly. 1996 Spring Abstract The model of feminism as humanist in practice and postmodern in theory is inadequate. and can have. Feminist Practice and theory directly inform each other to displace both humanist and postmodern conceptions of the subject. An examination of feminism's use of rights discourse suggests that feminist Practice questions the humanist conception of the subject as a .

feminism has been seen as straddling the disjunction between humanism (in its need for a discourse based on women's rights as sovereign subjects) and postmodernism (in its theoretical critique of any such discourse of rights and sovereignty). Feminism has been viewed as split between the practical need for humanism and the theoretical attraction of postmodernism. The construction of feminism as inherently contradictory. Jean Grimshaw in her article "Autonomy and Identity in Feminist Thinking" (1988). feminist theory is necessarily postmodern). This contradiction relates to a perceived split between humanist and postmodern elements within feminism. as based. feminist theory undermines the postmodern emphasis on the constitutive instability and indeterminacy of the subject. affirmative and humanist aspirations as well as on postmodern forms of resistance. for example. Likewise. In other words. argues that feminism . is readily apparent in recent feminist cultural criticism and philosophy. on realist. In this essay. A disjunction is constructed between feminist humanist practice and feminist postmodern theory and is implicitly understood in terms of an inherent contradiction between the demands of practice and theory (feminist practice is necessarily humanist.self-identity. I discuss the relationship between feminist theory and practice. I consider the implications of a model of feminist practice that creates a necessary disjunction or contradiction between it and feminist theory.

Regina Gagnier in "Feminist Postmodernism: The End of Feminism or the Ends of Theory" (1990) argues that feminism cannot undermine its normative ground in humanism given that it presupposes that the oppression of women exists and that its project is to make the world better for women. 24). Likewise. Here.' which recognize the power of desire and fantasy and the problem of supposing any 'original' unity in the self. 105). These contradictory tendencies take place as a . and there is no attempt made to pose the problem of reconciling these agendas and attitudes into a single position. its emphasis on the culturally overdetermined constitution of the gendered subject (Gagnier 1990. feminism is constructed as having a dual agenda that derives from alternative and contradictory attitudes towards the subject.needs "to engage with those theories which deconstruct the distinction between the 'individual' and the 'social. I think what we have in these representations of feminism is a demand for a limit to be imposed to the process of postmodern critique in order that feminism can maintain an unproblematic relation to social reality and in order that feminism can practically exploit the humanist construction of the subject as a knowing agent Feminism becomes then humanism with limits and postmodernism with limits. while at the same time preserving its concern with lived experience and the practical and material struggles of women to achieve more autonomy and control in their lives" (1988. at the same time. Yet. Gagnier argues that feminism is pushed toward a postmodern ethics and politics via its very critique of gender identity.

As such. This other discourse may involve the simultaneous displacement of humanism and postmodernism at the level of both practice and theory. to the degree that it implies that theory itself is uninformed by the problems and contingencies of practical politics. Understanding feminism in terms of an inherent disjunction between practice and theory is problematic insofar as it undermines the importance of theory to the articulation of political choice and. perhaps even more so. this essay will construct a dialectical relationship between feminist practice and theory which is based on an acceptance that a position which foregrounds the social relation of gender will radically displace those positions which are structurally indifferent.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 radically displace. In other words. feminism's concern with understanding and transforming relations of gender inequality has both practical and theoretical implications: . These conceptions of feminism hence construct a disjunction between what feminism needs (the demands of practice) and its theoretical tendencies. which transforms and displaces both positions through the focus on gender relations such that they become an-other discourse. Rather than accepting this disjunction. I suggest that the co-existence within feminism of (liberal) humanist and postmodern tendencies moves towards an alternative and constructive approach.

feminism cannot simply inhabit discourses which marginalize the question of gender. the difference in feminism: the way in which feminism itself is an unstable term that names diverse practices and theories. 187). feminist practice and theory merge together in their joint de-stabilization and displacement of humanism and postmodernism. to that discourse (Gatens 1991. and concurrently. contested. The difference of feminism does not negate. Feminism hence has an active role in displacing both previous conceptualizations of the social world and models of social transformation. themselves. to inhabit the terms of any other particular discourse. specificity and structural difference of feminism is simply displayed by its inability to be humanist in practice or postmodern in theory. between practice and theory. the exclusion of gender from any political or theoretical discourse (an exclusion that often operates through the assumption of that discourse's universality or generalizability) cannot be seen as incidental. Indeed. My argument implies that feminism exceeds the very terms of the disjunction between humanism and postmodernism. however much the boundaries of this discursive space are. I then consider how feminist theory may occupy a relation of critical tension with postmodernism. . As a result. I first discuss ways in which feminist practice cannot be seen as simply inhabiting the discourse of humanism. that is. In this essay. but structural. however.

Post Enlightenment humanist thought. I will try and demonstrate that. manifest most importantly in liberal . 11) This may imply that humanism itself is an irreducible component of any given practice.BEYOND HUMANISM!: RE-THINKING A FEMINIST PRACTICE Does feminist need humanism at the level of practice! Is feminist practice necessarily humanist! These questions may be slightly misleading. this is not to say that it cannot be problematized or resisted: politics and language cannot themselves be reduced to humanism. feminist practice (and not just feminist theory) may actually problematize the humanist subject. Indeed. as such. I need firstly to delineate more precisely what I mean by humanism and consider the historical limits of its production. rather than simply needing humanism. But in order to consider the relation between feminist practice and humanism. although humanism may be irreducible and unavoidable in the sense of defining the terrain of the subject. It is quite apparent that humanism has defined the terrain of intelligibility for politics (the centering of the subject in political discourse) and communicative language in general (the distinction between subject and object in speech) and. cannot be simply transcended or negated Gayatri Spivak suggests that the centering of the subject is irreducible and inevitable (Spivak 1990. However.

64-65). If the concept of rights has to be extended. by processes of logical extension of the discourse of universal rights such that they include women. It may seem that a feminist practice would perpetuate the assumption that individual rights are essential and universal. Liberal humanism has a definite and important link with a universalist epistemology and ethics. constitutes an emphasis on the primacy of the subject over the "objective" world of social relations (Grosz 1990. 144-45). Liberal feminism attempts to supplement liberalism proper. The humanist self is thus a disembodied and unitary category whose rights are guaranteed as natural or intrinsic properties.ideology. then its status as universal and self-evident is called into question. A way of analyzing this is to . liberal feminism exposes the deficiency of the original. insofar as the normative project of feminism could be described as the claiming of such rights for women. Rather than rights being intrinsic. But in keeping with the logic of the supplement. But given that liberal feminism reveals that the construction of a universal. theorize it in terms of the Derridean supplement (see Derrida 1976. insofar as it presupposes that universal rights have their foundation in the subject as a self-identity that is prior to the contingent realms of history and culture. intrinsic right has entailed processes of exclusion and selection (that universal suffrage equals male suffrage) it exposes humanism as an ideological legitimation of power (perhaps despite itself). they become at once historically produced and defined along exclusive and partial criteria (in .

stratified social group that is exclusive of others. . they are institutionally defined rules specifying what people can do -in relation to one another. rights become productive of the very process of group differentiation. To refuse the universalism of this rights discourse would be precisely to make visible its role in the differentiation and hierarchization of social groups.this case the criteria is shown to be gendered). Indeed. through the very act of constituting that group as a universal. Within a classical liberal framework. it becomes at once divisive or differential and historically embedded. As a result. Rights are relationships not things. As Iris Marian Young has stressed. and has property) is always already the subject of a demarcated. whereby the legitimate subject of rights (the subject who is proper. A feminist focus on the structural effects that actual relations of inequality may have on the realization of "rights" involves a stress on the way in which the mobility of subjects is constituted through the process whereby rights differentiate one group from another. feminist practice may serve to de-stabilize the distinction between the subject and what is outside it (its historical situatedness) which is essential to humanism. "rights" defined "men" as a group (or "fraternity") which excluded women. Rather than the subject being unified and transhistorical. "Rights are not fruitfully conceived as possessions. The focus on the group or the collective is central to a feminist discourse of rights.

Instead. 23). and restoring to rights talk. The linkage of rights and subjectivities with the hierarchization of social groups may constitute in itself a refusal of the liberal politics of equality of opportunity. which might at first seem to inform feminist practice most concretely. The central feature of (classical) liberalism is its emphasis on formal rights. This constitutes a major . that is. and the struggle for equitable conditions. the realm of historically situated and bodily experience. which assumes that the subject can be separated from the social relations within which it operates and that the degree of separation functions as a measure of its freedom.Rights refer to doing rather than having. But a feminist concept of equality (taking as its basis the understanding of the differential position of subjects) may displace this ideology of autonomy. A subject experiences equality. Therefore a feminist practice ultimately transforms liberal humanism by pointing to the arbitrary nature of the liberal formal self. the right to equal opportunity rather than equal conditions. equality in this particular feminist discourse constructs the subject as relational. as existing in connection with other subjects in a network of human relations. to social relationships that enable or constrain action" (Young 1990. not when it operates without external influence (as the formal equality of opportunity). the latter assuming the actual relations between subjects as its measure. but only when those external relations themselves are equal.

feminism is at once stressing that subject positions become intelligible only within structures of power and that change requires a politics of alliance which recognizes and reveals structures of domination and subordination. By stressing collectivity. such that women's experiences of power . But doesn't feminism's commitment to representing women as collective subjects perpetuate the assumptions and 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. 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. as a social relation. feminism is not necessarily committed to women as a unity even if it is committed to women as collective The acceptance of difference has become a strategic as well as a theoretical choice. Furthermore.break with humanism. as sealed off from external relations. intersects with other social relations such as class and race. as it undermines the concept of the subject as a self-identity. 163). Gender. This feminist reworking of the discourse of rights parallels the model offered by Michael Ryan in Politics and Culture (1989). and doesn't it therefore pre-suppose humanism as a politics of identity! But the emphasis on the collective qualifies this apparent pre-supposition.

a point that links universalizing discourses with exclusion and power (Butler 1990. as limited by the personal/social economies that shape them. Spelman draws our. She calls for an approach that is attentive to the complications and contradictions that are involved in the construction of social . The development of a politics of difference is one way of reconsidering how feminism may displace humanism at a strategic level. is to misrepresent by posing a false and oppressive unity. or to a pre-existing model of woman as subject. For difference is not something that can simply be "added on" to a pre-existing model of subjectivity. ix). To do otherwise. 1-6). Spelman argues that the notion of a generic "woman" functions in feminist theory in much the way the notion of a generic "man" has functioned in Western philosophy. The way in which differences must displace a model of a unitary and discrete subject/woman is outlined by Elizabeth Spelman. That is.and disempowerment are divergent. attention to the dangers of an additive analysis of differences (race + gender + class). Feminist positions that are committed to women as a collective (a structure of social alliance) must accept their status as partial interventions. as Judith Butler points out in Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. 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.

suggests that the raped woman is socially and culturally constructed as "white. Busia.A. and racially marked as white: such that the dominant media construction of sexual violence is of a white .identities (115). 288). Catharine MacKinnon argues that "what women experience as degrading and defiling when we are raped includes as much that is distinctive to us as is our experience of sex" (MacKinnon 1987. then we may begin to recognize the way in which a feminist politics of rape may work to complicate the category of "women's experiences." Abena P. as lacking the appropriate feminine virtues which would make the concept of rape and violation make sense (Busia 1993. The problem of assuming woman as an essential and foundational category is precisely that this assumption works to exclude a pragmatic analysis of the complex and difficult intersections that trouble as well as shape subject positions The importance of recognizing the way in which the existence of differences between women may effect our understanding of gendered subjectivities in practice is evident when we consider the example of sexual violence. 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. But if we consider how sexual violence may be dependent upon race as well as gender. Vron Ware in Beyond the Pale discusses the way in which vulnerability is both sexed as woman. for example." while black women are constructed as morally unrapeable. 87).

leave us in a situation of a defeatist relativism! Will it become impossible to defend one ethical position over another." If feminism were to deny the otherness that divides the concept "women's experience" then feminism would implicitly support a racist economy. ae the same time. Black women who experience rape hence cannot be simply included within a notion of women's collective experience of rape.woman threatened by the aggression of black men (Ware 1992. to defend a critique of sexism. by allowing the differential position of black women in reaction to sexual violence to remain invisible And yet. the knowledge of rape as a relation of gender and dominance may enable feminism to forge connections between seemingly disparate social phenomena: to construct alliances through (rather than despite). 7). or a critique of racism? First. they are also removed from the conceptualization of woman as a victim of violence. we can defend the . for example. as Chantal Mouffe points out in her article "Radical Democracy: Modem or Postmodern" (1988). But despite the importance of working through a politics of difference. differences. The position of black women in relation to sexual violence is hence differential and divided: at once an object of violence. doesn't the refusal of humanist thought. The social relations of sex and race divide and intersect with each other--so preventing the securing of any shared totality of "women's experiences. and the model of individual rights as having essential foundations.

32-33). it is the very undecidability of what is essential which locates the dynamics of such conflicts. This may entail accepting that the criteria for negotiating between ethical positions are themselves culturally mediated and that the validity of such criteria can be measured only in terms of their practical effects and consequences. based an either the notion of the rights and autonomy of the mother. nonfoundationalist or pragmatic justifications to democratic demands can be sought. For example. Second. which points to the fact that these criteria must be open to constant revision. that is. although ethical disputes function superficially as controversies over what is essentially the case or what is essentially valuable. In other words. attached to the body of a social subject. The conflict. its constitution within and through the social itself. becomes centered upon whether the fetus constitutes a subject with proprietal rights.political project of modernity while abandoning the notion that it must be based on a specific form of rationality. The abortion conflict is characterized by competing rights claims. means that the fetus. over what constitutes a subject with proprietal rights (Johnson 1987. does not . the conflict over abortion can be redefined as a conflict over what is essential. or the rights and autonomy of the fetus. 193-94). dealt with as a rights conflict. or on some ultimate universalist or essentialist foundation (Mouffe 1988. A feminist approach could argue that the sociality of the subject.

constitute a subject (with rights). her proper self!). as he lack of bodily integrity (and hence the instability of the boundaries of the social subject) leaves us without a proper subject to actualize its rights in a freedom of will and action. The impossibility of answering this question without neglecting the instability of the boundaries of the mother's body and status as a social subject does not simply negate the autonomy of the mother. the impossibility of deciding whether the 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. which is perhaps how we can define Rosalind Pollack Petchesky's argument in "Morality and Personhood: A Feminist Perspective" (Petchesky 1992. Alternatively. 419). a feminist approach could shift the debate around abortion from one of abstract rights to one of power. More precisely. By showing how the problematic of pregnancy declares The non-availability of a notion of autonomy grounded on the integrity or rights of the subject. a feminist approach could base itself on the undecidability of where the body of the woman ends. A feminist approach could conclude that the argument against women's choice is based on an illegitimate model of rights. The question of the fetus becomes a question of the integrity of the mother (Is it inside or outside the body! Is it an aspect of. . or external to.

Wade (1973). because it protects domestic and marital relations from scrutiny and from intervention by government or social agencies" (Poovey 1992. in the light of their interrogation of Roe vs. 358). it is apparent that a feminist approach does not strategically require ' a model of women's rights as true. This concept of the private is precisely that which conceals the political nature of the gendered subject's access to resources. in the form of the appropriation and control of women's bodies. This example may serve to suggest that is not enough in any pragmatic context to simply defend one's position as being based on an essential truth or right. As Catharine MacKinnon and Mary Poovey have both pointed out. As Poovey argues.Indeed. This is because individual rights are framed in terms of "privacy" (noninterference from public bodies). and could function by pointing out the various limitations the removal of choice would have on women as a collective. essential or proper. the feminist use of the discourse of individual rights (the right to choose) can be problematic. It shifts the question from one of autonomy to one of power. as well as abortion procedures (MacKinnon 1992. such as information and guidance on contraception. the notion of individual rights framed in terms of the ideology of privacy. "may actually exacerbate sexual oppression. The disruption of the discourse of individual rights may situate the very potential of a feminist approach. What is required is a more general argument or approach . 290).

it suffices to posit an egalitarian logic whose limits of operation are given by the concrete argumentative practices existing in a society" (Laclau 1988. then this would not lead us to a situation where the defense of a position is impossible or unlikely. and group dynamics to any radicalized .. Furthermore. As Ernesto Laclau points out in "Politics and the Limits of Modernity." the "discourse of equality and rights . Nancy Fraser argues that we may be more able to argue for out position precisely because we would not have recourse to any Simplistic and ultimately limited foundations (Fraser 1989. each intervention in the public sphere.which justifies one's own conception of what is essential in the first place. need not rely on a common human essence as their foundation.. that is. We need to consider the empirical issue of who organizes or dominates. disclaiming any disinterested knowledge or ethics. be in the same situation of having to justify our interpretation. 181). We would be. or which locates the effects of various models of essence on the distributive relation of power between subjects. In fact. and what effects are implied by.. needs to remain attentive to the interests that structure all forms of discursive exchange. a pragmatically oriented feminist practice. 81). So if we were to assume a position (such as pro-choice or pro-life in the abortion conflict) that has recourse to absolute foundations to be untenable and implausible. ethical procedures. Such a consideration would restore an awareness of the importance of institutions.

for verbal agents do not characteristically enter it from positions of equal advantage or conduct their transactions on equal footing" (Herrnstein Smith 1988. Indeed. A feminist practice does not then necessarily rely on a humanist assumption of absolute foundations to individual rights as the intrinsic property of a unitary subject. a radical politics needs to acknowledge that "the linguistic market can be no more a 'free' one than any other market. and the plurality of historically changing discursive sites and practices (Fraser 1990. 100). 17). which is shaped by a belief that "the only constraints to linguistic practice are conversational ones. Such a pragmatist perspective is not linked to the school of thought identified with Richard Rorty. Rather a feminist pragmatic historicism points to the fact that social and linguistic practices and conceptual systems are sites of contestation and are overdetermined by an unequal ." therefore assuming that such practices can in themselves guarantee and legitimate ethical choice (Rorty 1982. feminism moves toward a pragmatic historicism which Nancy Fraser defines as an insistence on the social context and practice of all truth positions. 165).model of political action. Such an approach has immediate practical implications: egalitarianism may be possible only when space is allocated institutionally for those subjects/groups who have less discursive or material power in order that their interests can become heard within the public sphere. Instead.

more egalitarian distributions of power and resources. Feminism itself can be understood as a body of theoretical work which is. But in fact the feminist displacement of liberal humanism can be linked to the displacement of the postmodern subject. hence repeating some of the problems of the liberal humanist position. and to affirming alternative. Both feminists and . and is so pushed toward a seemingly postmodern recognition of the textual or constructed nature of subjectivity. As such. by exposing that the liberal humanist model of the self reifies the culturally specific. feminism is committed to interrogating the ways in which gender inequality is produced within linguistic practices and institutional norms. It can be concluded that the contingencies of feminist practice entail a displacement of humanism. and it intervenes in these sites with a variety of interpretative and communicative strategies in order to engage the possibility of social change. I will argue that the subject of postmodernism tends to be undifferentiated and undetermined. a form of praxis--it interprets the multiplicity of sites that constitute social relations as being organized around the dominance of men over women. It must be stressed that to argue that feminism displaces some of the assumptions of postmodernism does not mean that there are no continuities between their theories of the subject. differential status of the subject. Feminism seems to be committed to refusing a model of the subject as having intrinsic properties. at once.distribution of power. in particular.

postmodernists have argued for the textual and constructed nature of subjectivity. I will. The problem with the nomenclature of "postmodernism" is that it implies a unity or sameness between all critical readings of modernity and humanism. Such a question. in an attempt to ask what the discourse of postmodernism does. through my critique of some paradigmatic postmodern texts. The subject can be textualized in many different ways with different political implications. point out analogies between postmodernism and other political ideologies such as liberalism. he suggests. to engage with that term's conditions of production and its practical effects (Connor 1989. To displace postmodernism is not necessarily then to return o a form of humanism. function within specific fields of utterance. Critiques of modernity. 10). This is the sort of question raised by Steven Connor in Postmodernist Cultures (1989). That is. therefore. and humanist thought in particular. will help us to focus on the very conditions which determine that a particular term be circulated for debate and. rather than simply ask what it means or what it is. rather than as an umbrella . By asking the question "what does the discourse of postmodernism do!" I will be able to theorize "postmodernism" as a discursive space which has boundaries (however much they areunstable and contested). a need to see postmodernism (that is. 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 modern.

such as feminism and post-colonial theory. 276). This approach may protect the alterity of other discursive formations that are structured by an ambivalence to humanism and modernity. no more prohibitions. behind the liberation of its discourse" (1990. Seduction begins: "Nothing is less certain today than sex. Baudrillard's texts are hence very important to any articulation of the political limits of postmodernism as a theoretical discourse. the Notes to Contributors from Body Invaders: Sexuality and the Postmodern Condition describe Baudrillard as "himself the postmodern scene" (Kroker and Kroker 1988. and . My analysis will help undermine postmodernism's problematic tendency of encompassing and containing many differential.term for all such critiques." Indeed. The crucial text by Baudrillard for feminist readers is Seduction (1990) which is explicitly concerned with theorizing the sexed subject. He suggests that we are immersed in a "sexual indetermination" where there is "no more want. BEYOND POSTMODERNISM?: READING SEDUCTION AND THEORIZING THE SEXED SUBJECT Jean Baudrillard has been read as the "ultimate postmodern. Baudrillard argues here that the proliferation of images of "sex" is approaching total loss. and that the principle of uncertainty has extended from political and economic reason to sexual reason (5). antagonistic politics under the unity of its name. 5). so emptying them of the potential for a radical difference.

Such a flotation is represented as a passage toward seduction. Seduction is associated with the feminine. and the dispersal of truth ideologies. for artifice. which rather than being considered the negation or opposite of masculinity. The passage from determination to "general indetermination" and to the neutralization of structure entails. a "flotation of the law that regulates the difference between the sexes" (6). Seduction "continues to appear to all orthodoxies as malefice and artifice. Baudrillard hence rejects ideologies which argue that the subject is determined in the last instance. appearance. he suggests that Marxism takes class to be fully determining. an exaltation of the malicious use of signs. is defined in terms of the deconstruction of the masculine/feminine sexual hierarchy. and that feminism takes gender to be fully determining. a black magic for the deviation of all truths. According to Baudrillard's reading. Seduction becomes a metaphor for that which resists nature and essentialism. But it is here that the postmodern gesture . the subject in and of free play. in his thesis. Freudian psychoanalysis assumes that anatomy fully determines the subject's destiny (as in "anatomy is destiny"). 2). a conspiracy of signs" (Baudrillard I990.no more limits: it is the loss of every referential principle" (5). Concurrently. It becomes a sign for the indeterminable and undifferentiated subject.

Baudrillard's interpretation of transvestism. the concept of determination in the last instance. refuses to recognize actual power as operative within the determination of subjectivity . but by nothing positive which exceeds it or is beyond it. He argues that "seduction is destiny" (Baudrillard 1990. As such. but sees the subject as governed only by the radical free play of its own (in)difference. as the exposure by the male of the artifice of femininity (not the female subject but that non-referential other of sexuality and production). class. rather than as a rejection of its limits. 180). The subject is determined then by its own undetermined possibilities. That is. for example. Baudrillard's postmodernism can be read as a normative and positive reading of the subject. Rather than recognizing the subject as an effect of discourse and power (and in this sense as being positioned and relational) this approach ontologizes and autonomizes the subject by rendering it primary at the same time as emptying it of any determinate content.can itself be problematized. a reading which refuses to recognize the determining influence of structures of power. For rather than refusing the concept of destiny. by its own limitless potential for dispersal and betrayal. the very structure of free play becomes the normative account of subjectivity. Baudrillard offers an alternative. The subject is determined by indeterminacy (rather than anatomy. or gender). The subject is determined (it has a destiny).

and ritual game. They appear obsessed with games of sex. The absence of a referent does not mean that signs are not determined. 12-13) In Baudrillard's argument transvestism involves the seduction of the sign itself: a process that leaves the sign indeterminate rather than referential. (Baudrillard 1990. sensual. but they are obsessed. gestural. itself. first of all. The transvestite radically refuses the regimes of truth and production and hence signifies the free floating of the sign. I will not disagree with the analysis of transvestism (or sexuality more broadly) as a signifying system rather than as referential. But the opposition implied here. Baudrillard writes: What transvestites love is this game of signs. and if their lives appear more sexually endowed than our own.(Baudrillard 1990. I am quite in agreement with this textualization of the sexual subject. however pragmatically. 12-17). patriarchy is a mere trivial and pathetic defense against the austere power of the feminine to disperse and betray truth itself). a false one. and seduction. an exalted but ironic invocation. between indeterminacy and referentiality is. With them everything is makeup. in stratified . what excites them is to seduce the signs themselves. The transvestite is radical and powerful insofar as it retrieves the symbolic power of the feminine (for Baudrillard. theater. Now. it is because they make sex into total. with play itself.

as obvious forms of disruption and displacement from the commodified structure of woman as . the dynamics of the transvestite subject occupy and repeat the power divisions within which the gendered subject is always already negotiated. hence entail the delimitation of the play of their meaning via their occupation in an already determined cultural space. then what Baudrillard is celebrating (in his idealization of the transvestite subject) is precisely women's status as signs and commodities circulated by and for male spectators and consumers. political. femininity). and ethical situations (Derrida 1988. In this sense. 148). although unstable. The signs used by the transvestite subject (as the signs of a fully negotiated. They form part of a generalized discursive economy that stabilizes meanings in the form of the delimitation of subject positions. one may ask why the transvestite is a man playing at being a woman as women are produced under patriarchy.discursive (rhetorical/syntactical). Given this. I argue that the signs intrinsic to the production of the transvestite subject are material and determined. In contrast to Baudrillard. If the feminine as artifice and women as "artificial" connect. This is not to argue that the transvestite subject is necessarily conservative. pretense) represents the production of femininity by the symbolic and political order: the man is mimicking what women become and are within patriarchy. For what Baudrillard interprets as radical artifice (makeup.

A feminist analysis may interpret the system of gender as relatively stable. I simply want to suggest that the transvestite subject's performance is overdetermined by a broader signifying system. rather than functioning at another order suspended from material effects and determinate meanings. entailing the negotiated hierarchy masculine/feminine) from which a play in its terms is made possible. it is interesting to note the shift in Judith Butler's work from a model of transvestism as a quasi-voluntaristic performance that disrupts a system of differences in Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (1990) to an emphasis on the regulatory and normative mechanisms through which subjects are identified as sexed and which may delimit: the potential for transgression through the reincorporation of difference into systematicity in Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of "Sex" (1993). and which hence delimits or constrains the play and significance of its performance. The absence of a referent to secure the regime of sexual difference (as the sign of . with the gendered subject constituted within an overdetermined structure (perhaps named as patriarchy.sign could take place in specific negotiations. in a feminist analysis. In contrast. from which its politics cannot be simply disassociated. overdetermining the subject effects produced by a signifying system. Indeed. transvestism may be shown to be functioning at the level of the material dynamic of the sign.

here. they are attached to determinate subject positions and invested interests via their status as commodities. white. it is separated from social relations via the very stress on indeterminacy. which may share the assumption that sexuality involves the . Black. This attachment is most aptly reflected in the use of female bodies as vehicles for advertising products. middle class) implicit to the sexing. Also in his text the circulation of signs is reified. racializing. and as such idealizes the very symbolic power of capital itself to displace the possibilities of value and utility. It is quite clear that the signs in the postmodern world of the "simulacra" are not free-floating. but its stabilization is pragmatically and normatively regulated through the very structures of identification (woman. to a mere "flotation" of the law regulating sexual difference. In fact. man.gender). his postmodern subject repeats rather than transforms the status of the subject under liberal ideology. Baudrillard's postmodern vision of signs as proliferating and neutralizing connects with the very nature of money as a signifier which can only quantify. That law may not be a referent. working class. Baudrillard's use of transvestism suggests that his version of postmodernism works within the ideology of liberalism. A feminist reading of Baudrillard. does not lead. Indeed. in its freedom from determination by regimes of truth and power to determine freely the conspiracy of signs (one could add commodities to complete he analogy). and classing of subjects.

Lyotard's report on knowledge is concerned with what he defines as a crisis of legitimation--a crisis in modern philosophy.textual negotiation of meanings. The ten modern is used "to designate any science that legitimates itself with reference to a metadiscourse of this kind. such as the dialectics of Spirit. PRAGMATICS AND ETHICS IN THE POSTMODERN CONDITION AND THE DIFFEREND Jean-Francois Lyotard's The Postmodern Condition (1989) represents one of the most influential theses on what constitutes postmodernism. may want to critique his model of sex as indetermination by showing how this model disassociates sexual difference from the reproduction of power inequalities. The term postmodern . making an explicit appeal to some grand narrative. I have decided to use the word postmodern to describe that condition" (1989. the hermeneutics of meaning. or the creation of wealth" (xxiii). This mode of discourse characterizes the bulk of the first part of the text and situates his thesis on "the postmodern condition. the emancipation of the rational or working subject. BEYOND POSTMODERNISM?: POWER. xxiii). Lyotard's opening sentences begin: 'The object of this study is the condition of knowledge in the most highly developed societies." Hence. As a "report on knowledge" Lyotard's text describes phenomena within a particular historical period.

He concludes that a truly postmodern legitimation is only possible when science is conceived as operating within a paralogic context. It is being dispersed in clouds of narrative language elements" (xxiv). Here. So the criterion of performance as the goal of "an optimal contribution of higher education to the best performativity of the social system" (48) functions as the discourse of power. and will continue to be. a major--perhaps the major-stake in the worldwide competition for power" (Lyotard 1989. where the . In the first version. its great dangers. its great goal. 54). the relation between them being somewhat unclear. its great hero. progress in the sciences (xxiv). discourses are legitimated according to the criterion of utility which is at once the criterion of capital. Knowledges are perpetuated only if they are economically viable propositions. 5). its great voyages. and presupposed by. But Lyotard then argues that performance cannot be considered a postmodern form of legitimation because it assumes the stability and predictability of the system as a "positivist" philosophy (Lyotard 1989. Lyotard comments at an earlier point that "knowledge in the form of an informational commodity indispensable to productive power is already. "the narrative function is losing its functors.is used to designate an incredulity toward metanarratives which is simultaneously a product of. Lyotard constructs two versions of science in a postmodern age.

Knowledge may still be tied to certain concrete social interests (and therefore the intent or criteria of efficiency). but is continually transformed by the introduction of new and antagonistic claims. It could be argued in defense of Lyotard that this criticism is a false . postmodern legitimation is local or context-immanent. As such. So although performance may contradict the heterogeneity of language games. one could argue that power may still be a motive or operational principle even if knowledge production and transmission are problematized by contradiction and indeterminacy. concepts of performance and power become. Performance may still function to overdetermine the production of scientific knowledge in the postmodern world. it may still function to regulate that heterogeneity as a form of power legitimation. impossible. like the narration by the Cashinahua storyteller which obeys only the rules that define the pragmatics of its transmission (20). even if its own boundaries are indeterminate or undecidable. Science is not determined by anything other than the transforming boundaries of its own production.structure it inhabits is not intact or stable. it can only emerge from within a given linguistic practice and communicational interaction (41). at one and the same time. What are the problems in Lyotard's rejection of the idea of power as determinate in favor for a postmodern pragmatics! First.

at times postmodernism is used to designate a state of affairs (produced in particular by the impact of certain technologies on knowledge and the content of certain sciences such as quantum physics) while elsewhere it is used quite clearly to define a new ethics based on paralogy. in fact. Second. So in arguing against performance and for paralogy the dimension is simultaneously ethical and normative or descriptive. As such. The problem with Lyotard's paralogy is thus the same problem with free market theories. where antagonistic and competing interests are defined as the only basis for human relations within an unstructured and undetermined context. his final designation of performance and power as nonpostmodern or antipostmodern carries the implication that they are not determining forms of legitimation in the contemporary production of knowledge. Certainly. In its very aestheticism and formalism it fails to recognize that local situations or events are overdetermined within .one. as it takes a prescriptive mode of address for a descriptive one--that Lyotard's model of the paralogic functions as a preferred strategy of legitimation rather than as a characterization of what strategies are in use. This points. which is the tendency to confuse these two modes. to a problem in Lyotard's text. this concept of paralogy repeats the liberal concept of the free market. Indeed. Lyotard's concept of paralogy as an internal form of legitimation can provide a rationale for the perpetuation of such power interests.

" the resources and structures needed to mediate. which would necessitate collecting subjects together under the recognition of shared and (relatively) stable or determinate positions of inequality. such as represented by the categories of gender. Such social change would both presuppose and entail the emergence of larger political structures and movements. and hence reinforce. and even conceals. It refuses to recognize. such as represented by the gender division. it could be argued that 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.broader structures or social relations characterized by systematic inequality. Lyotard model of paralogy negates the (gendered) power imbalance under which all forms of human activity are already determined. and strengthen the values and practices which maximize democracy and socialist pluralism cannot spring solely from the boundaries of local communities formed on a loose alliance (Frankel 1990. such inequalities. race. 98). In contrast. and that local forms of legitimation will be determined by. feminist philosophers of science have engaged in their critique: of scientific rationalism by focusing on the way in which the . that subjects are always already differentiated from each other in terms of power and resources. As Boris Frankel argues in "The Cultural Contradictions of Postmodernity. and class. Furthermore. facilitate.

and transcendental truths" do in fact "bear the mark of their collective and individual creators. and a set of interests and values that tend to reflect and justify such a division. As Sandra Harding establishes in The Science Question in Feminism (1986) such ideals function. That is. A feminist interpretation may stress that the production of scientific knowledge is stabilized by its immersion in dynamics of power. entailing the gendering. class. Lyotard's postmodern paralogy can be seen to neglect the way in which science legitimates the exclusion and repression of the feminine and women via the "ideals" of impartiality and objectivity. race and culture" (Harding 1986.production of knowledge is overdetermined by the social positions and interests of scientists. ideologically to conceal or disguise the status of science as a social institution with a division of labor that marginalizes women. This departs from a postmodern model of paralogy in that . Elizabeth Fee (1983). and Evelyn Fox Keller (1982). classing. theories. This involves a recognition that it does matter "who" defines the boundaries of scientific knowledge In the light of the work by Sandra Harding (1986). and the creators in turn have been distinctively marked as to gender. the very metanarrative of scientific rationalism itself. concepts. and racializing of what is knowable within and beyond science. She suggests that what we took to be "humanly inclusive problematics. 15). Lyotard's postmodern paralogy can also be considered to ignore the relation between scientific knowledge and structures of patriarchy. objective methodologies. Donna Haraway (1990).

The story is introduced . Lyotard comes to this position by focusing on the naming function of the narrative. Lyotard links the authority of the narrator or story-teller to the prior post of being a listener: "The narrator's only claim to competence for telling the story is the fact that he has heard it himself. he argues. or family or professional . the passage itself works to complicate the terms of such an opposition. group" are hence excluded from his model of the pragmatics of the transmission of narratives (20).science is positioned as over determined by broader structural and power relations. However. Details such as the assignment of the role of the narrator "to certain categories on the basis of age. 20). which will lead us finally to the issue of ethics.. The contrast or opposition that this passage from The Postmodern Condition sets up is between the intrinsic and the extrinsic (as institutional). The current narrative gains potential access to the same authority simply by listening" (Lyotard 1989. At one Point in The Postmodern Condition Lyotard distinguishes a pragmatic analysis of the narrative function from one which focuses on extrinsic details such as the institutional assignment of subject positions (Lyotard 1989. 20)i The pragmatics of the Cashinahua narratives. The various problems associated with Lyotard's concept of paralogy are also implicit to his analysis of narrative pragmatics. sex. are "intrinsic" to them.

the positions of the narrator and the hero are not fluid. and it is ended with the name of the narrator. he is necessarily such a hero because he bears a name. The transmission of the narrative takes place then within a social context that becomes intrinsic to its effect. This identifies the hero with the narrator and implies a possible interchange: "In fact. and that name was given to him in conformity with the canonic narrative legitimating the assignment of patronyms among the Cashinahua" (21). sex. I think. .with the name of its hero. declined at the end of his narration. professional group) from his model of narrative pragmatics Such contradictions enable us to consider how The Postmodern. they are overdetermined by the social divisions of power which assign the proper name (as transcendental signifier) to the male. This blurs the distinction between the intrinsic and extrinsic that Lyotard uses to exclude an analysis of social structures (age. or determined "simply" by the pragmatics of the narrative's transmission. In this sense. This closure or delimitation simultaneously takes place in narrative (the assignment of patronyms) and beyond narrative (in the gendering of subject positions within institutional structures). The assignment of patronyms (naming from the father) brings into play the narrative's constitution within a broader social structure organized around the authority of the father. family. be problematized. Lyotard's interpretation of the naming process as intrinsic to the canonic narrative can. open.

The pragmatics of a narrative's transmission are therefore inseparable from the divisions of power that give certain subjects or social groups authority to speak. sex. family. but complicates the very separation of narratives from institutions. Here. The Diferend (1988). a . Lyotard also attends to the example of the Cashinahua narratives. It is interesting to consider that in his text concerned less with postmodernism but more explicitly with questions of justice and ethics. professional group. Such an incommensurability. This autonomization of the narrative function from the social organization of power has quite clear ideological implications. Such authority cannot be seen as intrinsic to narratives. It conceals how posts in language are overdetermined by prior and relatively stable social assignments such as represented by those groups the text itself identifies: age. It: neutralizes the political effects of discourse and implies the fluidity of narrative in the form of the interchangeability of positions of discursive authority.Condition separates linguistic exchanges from broader structures of social differentiation The authority of the storyteller becomes inseparable from (even if it remains irreducible to) the authority of the father and the transmission of the father's name. the example is used in order to elaborate a theory of the incommensurability of phrase regimes.

I think we need to consider the fact that Lyotard's and text still works as a narrative that positions or enlists the Cashinahua in a certain way. What I want to consider more closely here is the inadequacy of Lyotard's conception of ethics (as the ethics of the differend) for dealing with institutional (and gendered) power differences. xi). First. Lyotard points out that authority within these narratives rests on a paradox: the subject that is named has authority. involving in some sense the "translation" . Lyotard argues that a wrong occurs when a single rule of judgment is applied in the case of a differend. is defined as a differend: a conflict that cannot be resolved due to the "lack of a rule of judgment applicable to both arguments" (1988.refusal of one phrase to translate into the terms of another. In relation to the Cashinahua narratives. I have already considered the problems implicit to Lyotard's refusal to acknowledge how the gendering of the Cashinahua's narratives may alter our understanding of the (pragmatic) relation between narrative and the institutional assignment of subject positions. His basic point is that "a universal rule of judgment between heterogeneous games is lacking in general" (xi). The differend occurs when the Cashinahua subject (narrative) is judged in relation to the universal story of "man" (156). and the subject with authority has the power to name (156) The self-determining nature of these "small narratives" cannot be reconciled into universal (his) story of "man" as a subject who translates across narratives.

While it is important to . cautious. what is required is a more pragmatic. which refuse the "otherness" of the other (humanist and modem) o narratives which resist that toalization by respecting the other as radically other (anti-humanist and postmodern). We would no longer work with an opposition between narratives which totalize. Instead. My point here would not be to accuse Lyotard of "wronging" the Cashinahua community according to the ethics of the differend he has delineated (to accuse him in this sense of being a failed postmodernist) Rather I want to argue that this conception of an ethical practice as being a respect for the differend is an impossible one. Accepting that violence against the other is irreducible may alter how we relate narrative to ethics. an understanding of the difference between narratives as a matter of degree What follows from an alternative analysis of ethics in relation to an economy of differences between narratives is that injustice cannot simply be identified with a violence against radical difference. and contingent model of how different ethical practices deal with "the other" in cases of conflict or dispute. even in the event of "taking" incommensurability as an ethical ideal. The very demands of narrative and argument mean that incommensurability is already violated.of the Cashinahua into an example in an argument. I do not think that justice can be simply identified with respecting the other as a radical other. What we have instead is an economy.

one could frequently find some common belief. 85). This point does not exclude the possibility that discourses may be incommensurable. As Nicholson argues: "It is not as though the abandonment of the search for foundational means of adjudication entails the admission of no means of adjudication. But it suggests that incommensurability may not be radical. Linda Nicholson has argued in contrast to Lyotard that the availability of criteria for adjudicating between disputes may come from the pragmatic and hence contingent fact of the existence of cross-cultural mediating standards of validity (Nicholson 1992. So for example. it is also important to consider that a radical incommensurability between discourses may not be the case in pragmatic situations. value. as the very fact that discourses are conflicting or competing means that they exist in some form of relationship to each other. we may ask: How egalitarian are the procedures for resolving conflicts? How much do they attend to .recognize that such an identification of justice and radical otherness would be a logical impossibility (the evaluative demand implicit to "the just" may already negate the supposed radicality of otherness). This may imply that there will be some degree of continuity between conflicting discourses. Particularly when the communicative conflict occurs between participants who share a common history. however much that continuity is inflected with otherness and difference. or criterion of adjudication to resolve the conflict" (88). It may also be significant to recognize that some ways of adjudicating in the case of dispute between discourses may be less unjust than others.

if difference is to be realizable. . as I discussed in the first section. Those redistributions may entail the very compromising of difference--they may entail "collective policy decisions" and the formation of "larger political movements. and whose interests are at stake.structural power differences! Refusing simply to conceive of ethics in terms of the respect for radical differences may allow us to focus more on the specificities of ethical conflicts: who they involve. "we" need to "agree" on the value of difference and this agreement may have the status of a pragmatic consensus or even a meta-prescription. an attention to the institutionalized power differences through which varying discourses compete (and one can recall here the power structure that enables the Western ethnographer to speak of the Cashinahua narratives in the first place) may complicate the model of justice which equates "wrong" with a violence against difference." Indeed. Furthermore. then certain institutional or structural transformations in the distribution of resources need to take place. That is. For example. whom adjudicates them. Recognizing that power inequalities already position what can happen in cases of discursive conflict means that justice may only be made possible by varying procedures that require the structural delimitation of difference as a value. a radical politics may require a policy decision to allocate institutional spaces for those with less power so that their interests can be articulated in the public sphere. Furthermore.

The existence of such power inequality would mean that simply respecting the differend could not ensure or make possible a transformation in social relations. Respecting differences and the otherness of the other may involve both adjudicating criteria for defending the "value" of difference in cases of dispute. Here. and effect. The equation between justice and the value of difference embedded in Lyotard's narrative of the differend is practically unsustainable and requires dismantling through an understanding of the complicated relations between value. This postmodern ethics can only sustain itself as being against any regulative or totalizing structure. process. The inadequacy of Lyotard's postmodern ethics for dealing with structural power inequalities' is hence apparent. the political (as the macro as well as micro adjudication of . The ethic of the differend cannot be sustained.we need to acknowledge the gap between an ethical principle and the effect--rendering necessary dialogue and consensus over procedure. as well as developing institutional procedures that would make it possible for various "phrase regimes" to confront each other on more equitable terms. insofar as it resists the complications that arise in the practice and negotiation of everyday ethical differences and conflict. for it fails to acknowledge the implications of such a gap and the demand such a gap puts in place for some form of regulative structure if any ethical effect is to be negotiable.

This belief recognizes the delimitation of difference and possibilities by structural relations of power and constraint. I have suggested that both Baudrillard and Lyotard stress the instability and indeterminacy of signifying structures in a way that makes broad-scale categories such as "gender" impossible. I have suggested that Lyotard's model of knowledge as determined only by the boundaries of its own production (paralogy) and his model of ethics as reducible to the value of radical difference and otherness (the differend) are inadequate for dealing with large-scale institutional and power inequalities.power relations) inflects what can and cannot be considered the domain of ethics and justice. Feminism's constitutive belief that gender inequality structures all aspects of social life (from which many deviations and differences exist between feminists) has certain theoretical implications. In relation to The postmodern Condition and The Diferend. In the case of Seduction. I have problematized Baudrillard's shift from the argument that sexuality is non referential to the conclusion that sexual difference is indeterminate a site of play that is unbounded. CONCLUSION My readings of Baudrillard's and Lyotard's postmodern narratives have suggested that the terms on which the postmodern is constructed are antagonistic to the aims of feminist theory and practice. My .

What appears to be a contradiction between humanist feminist practice and postmodern feminist theory may not exist. and our collective ambitions. our rhetoric. by the force of our own strategies. So feminism cannot be in the last instance either humanist or postmodern (which is not td create any absolute discontinuity between feminism and these discursive spaces). and the recognition of the ideological investment in the construction of a universal subject. A feminist approach would require an analysis of how power relations are stabilized in specific historical moments (in the empirical form of male dominance). Humanism is displaced via the focus on the historical and partial character of the subject. however much that stability is relative or provisional and itself open to contestation and change by the very discourse of feminism. Postmodernism is displaced via the focus on the differentiated and determined status of the social subject. and the . The interrogation of gender inequality in linguistic practices and institutional norms involves the critical transformation of both discourses. it would interrupt or displace their stress on indeterminacy and instability. if we interrogate these discourses for the historical and political limits of their production.critical readings of Baudrillard and Lyotard may suggest that any introduction of feminism to such postmodern narratives would effect a major shift in their terms. Feminist practice may not be humanist and feminist theory may not be postmodern.

Feminist theory and practice affirm through their very recognition and critique of such structures the possibility and necessity of reconstructing social relations and subjectivities along more egalitarian or equitable lines. and values are free from determination by relations of power and constraint. They Stress that the (gendered) subject is always differentiated within linguistic practices and institutional norms and that such structures represent hegemonic sites of contestation and are overdetermined by an unequal distribution of power. Feminist theories of the production of knowledges and subject positions are finally. then. knowledges. at odds with these discourses. .recognition of the ideological investment in the idea that subjectivities.