Feminism

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Blurring Boundaries – ‘Anti-Gender’ Ideology Meets Feminist and LGBTIQ+ Discourses – review

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 22/03/2024 - 12:45am in

In Blurring Boundaries – ‘Anti-Gender’ Ideology Meets Feminist and LGBTIQ+ Discourses, Dorothee Beck, Adriano José Habed and Annette Henninger assemble essays that conceptualise and reflect on emerging anti-gender, anti-feminist and anti-LGBTQIA+ ideologies and explore means of resisting them. These methodologically diverse (though geographically limited) interventions offer critical insights on how blurring discursive boundaries and building coalitions can combat anti-gender and other discriminatory movements.

Blurring Boundaries – ‘Anti-Gender’ Ideology Meets Feminist and LGBTIQ+ Discourses. Dorothee Beck, Adriano José Habed and Annette Henninger. Verlag Barbara Budrich. 2024.

Grey book cover of Blurring Boundaries – ‘Anti-Gender’ Ideology Meets Feminist and LGBTIQ+ DiscoursesAs the movements against women’s and LGBTQIA+ rights continue, alarmingly, to gather momentum, how can scholars and researchers fight back? This is the question which animates the contributions collected in Blurring Boundaries – ‘Anti-Gender’ Ideology Meets Feminist and LGBTIQ+ Discourses.

In their introductory essay, editors Adriano José Habed, Annette Henninger and Dorothee Beck offer readers a comprehensive overview of the existing literature on anti-gender, anti-feminist and anti-LGBTQIA+ ideologies. Importantly, they emphasise the ethnocultural underpinnings of such discourses, arguing for “new forms of coalitional politics” to counter broader crises of governance, representation and identity within liberal democracies. Hence, the editors propose “blurring boundaries” as a means of first identifying the specific manifestations of anti-gender, anti-feminist and anti-LGBTQIA+ discourse, so as to better understand, and thus, combat them. They argue, for instance, against assuming that anti-feminism and anti-genderism do not share points of overlap with Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminism (TERF) positions on the basis of terminology (so-called “gender critical” feminists invoke the mantle of feminism, after all). They caution, too, against making value judgements as to what constitutes “good” or “bad” politics. Laudable as this critical nuance is, however, I cannot help but wonder, as a trans* reader, if sometimes we cannot simply call a spade a spade: the Holocaust denialism often espoused by TERF figures, to give but one example, is morally indefensible.

The collection’s strength lies above all in the diverse array of methodologies used. Each essay is meticulously researched, exhibiting a forensic attention to detail and a robust commitment to self-reflexivity

The collection’s strength lies above all in the diverse array of methodologies used. Each essay is meticulously researched, exhibiting a forensic attention to detail and a robust commitment to self-reflexivity. In the spirit of the editors’ introduction, the authors challenge assumed boundaries: Judith Goetz, for instance, considers the seldom-discussed role of transgender persons in far-right movements through a study of Germany’s Alternative für Deutschland (AfD). Goetz proposes the term “trans-chauvinism” to describe the racialised vision of German identity, and national superiority, which trans* individuals use to distinguish themselves from the “Muslim Other” (and, marshalling dualist, transnormative arguments, from “bad” trans* subjects, too). Patrick Wielowiejski and Edma Ajanović examine similar discursive turns in their analyses of ethnosexism (the ways in which ethnicised “Others” are painted as regressive or violent in their attitudes to sex, gender and sexuality) and femonationalism, defined by Ajanović as “the instrumentalization of feminist themes to promote racism as well as join the broader trend of Muslim and anti-migration/asylum discourses”, within the AfD and the Austrian Österreichische Volkspartei (ÖVP), respectively. In particular, Wielowiejski’s Gramscian diagnosis of a far-right, ethnosexist “common sense” proves revelatory. Elsewhere, Gadea Méndez Grueso makes a compelling argument for understanding both “anti-gender” and TERF movements through the lens of populism studies – a perspective which, going beyond the often-restrictive labels of left and right, might better equip us to combat anti-trans* and anti-LGBTQIA+ ideologies.

Gadea Méndez Grueso makes a compelling argument for understanding both “anti-gender” and TERF movements through the lens of populism studies – a perspective which, going beyond the often-restrictive labels of left and right, might better equip us to combat anti-trans* and anti-LGBTQIA+ ideologies.

As Méndez Grueso’s contribution reminds us, scholarly investigation into such movements cannot afford to abstract itself from the urgent material contexts of its production and dissemination. Funda Hülagü’s chapter is a masterful example of how scholarship can, and should, speak directly to a collective project of political emancipation. Hülagü examines the “discursive entanglements” between contemporary anti-feminism and popular feminism in Turkey, offering a concise analysis of the specific modes of household formation and neoliberal governance presently operative in the country. Hülagü calls for an “offensive” activism which critically examines “the social core of very social problems” – in short, for an entirely new approach to conceptualising the ongoing “crisis of social reproduction” in the country, eschewing the psychologising and moralising frameworks of the present debate. Somewhat frustratingly, given the scope of the volume as a whole, Hülagü’s analysis says little about queer and trans* domesticities; Dilara Çalışkan’s research into the kin-making practices of transgender mothers and daughters in Istanbul, for instance, might provide an intriguing counterpoint to an otherwise heteronormative narrative, allowing us to sketch out what a trans-inclusive feminist movement might look like in the Turkish context.

The transnational dimensions of the anti-gender movement have been well documented, and whilst not entirely absent from the discussion, these broader currents merit further comparative analysis along the lines drawn

To be sure, Hülagü’s intervention is also conspicuous in that it breaks with a troubling emphasis on western European experiences in this collection. In what is perhaps a reflection of the editors’ own research networks, perspectives from German-speaking regions are somewhat overrepresented, accounting for more than half of the case studies under examination. This is not to deny the vital import of each individual contribution; nonetheless, this geographical skewing affords limited space to studies of anti-LGBTQIA+ and anti-feminist politics outside western Europe (nor, indeed, to the powerful writing emerging in Francophone and Scandinavian contexts). Instead, this project of Blurring Boundaries leaves national borders largely intact. The transnational dimensions of the anti-gender movement have been well documented, and whilst not entirely absent from the discussion, these broader currents merit further comparative analysis along the lines drawn, in this collection, by Christine M. Klapeer, Inga Nüthen and Maryna Shevtsova; forthcoming works by Judith Butler and Susan Stryker – pioneering voices in queer and trans studies, respectively – may prove useful to read alongside the essays collected in this volume.

In the continuing struggle against misogyny, transphobia and anti-LGBTQIA+ ideologies, we would do well to draw on the vigilance and care which these essays exemplify.

Hopefully, the publication of Blurring Boundaries will galvanise further research at this pivotal moment for feminism, as well as for queer and trans studies. Expanding our scholarly perspectives is essential if we are to avoid the “blind spots” of our own research, as Koen Slootmaeckers reminds us in the roundtable discussion which closes out the volume. What is less certain, however, is the role which “blurring boundaries” might come to play in this – a question broached by Henninger and Slootmaeckers in that same conversation. I am minded to agree with Slootmaeckers’ suggestion, that this somewhat nebulous phrase be taken up as an “invitation to reflect” on our own analytical approaches, rather than serving as an analytical concept in its own right. Ultimately, Blurring Boundaries is a collection of great import for scholars and activists alike. In the continuing struggle against misogyny, transphobia and anti-LGBTQIA+ ideologies, we would do well to draw on the vigilance and care which these essays exemplify. To do so is to reaffirm a shared commitment to political liberation in these most urgent of times.

Note: This post gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Image credit: Julia Tulke on Flickr.

Feminism is for Nonbinary People, Too

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 02/03/2024 - 9:18am in

The reason why I waited so long to come out as nonbinary was because I thought it would ostracize me even further from other feminists. As a person disabled by chronic pain and fatigue from fibromyalgia, I’d already been made to feel out of place within feminism for the entirety of both my professional and academic careers. I’d also developed my writing voice during the so-called heyday of…

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Late Fascism: Race, Capitalism and the Politics of Crisis – review

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 22/02/2024 - 12:14am in

In Late Fascism: Race, Capitalism and the Politics of Crisis, Alberto Toscano unpacks the rise of contemporary far-right movements that have emerged amid capitalist crises and appropriated liberal freedoms while perpetuating systemic forms of violence. According to Dimitri Vouros, Toscano’s penetrating, theoretically grounded analysis is an essential resource for understanding and confronting the resurgence of reactionary ideologies.

Late Fascism: Race, Capitalism and the Politics of Crisis. Alberto Toscano. Verso. 2023. 

Toscano Late Fascism book cover black with white writingObserving the leftwing populism that emerged after the 2007 financial crash, a perceptive critical theorist may have predicted that this hope-inspiring movement would quickly be reintegrated into the neoliberal order. They might further have predicted that a counter-revolution would arise in the vacuum left by the failed leftist movement and as a reaction to continuing economic difficulties. Indeed, in the last decade the rise of the populist right has been both steady and near universal.

[Toscano] sets out to explain why the spectre of the extreme right is not merely haunting us, but gaining political purchase across the globe

In Late Fascism, Alberto Toscano, who has been instrumental in the resurgence of Marxist and materialist sociocultural analysis over the past twenty years, offers an important theory of fascism for our current historical juncture. He sets out to explain why the spectre of the extreme right is not merely haunting us, but gaining political purchase across the globe. The measured, lapidary style of Toscano’s argument, which draws on the 20th century’s “rich archives” of antifascist thought (155), most of it Marxist or marxisant, treats the deep, structural aspects of the political often ignored by other analyses. He does this by leaning on a style of literary-philosophical excavation and elucidation more often found in classical critical theory like that of Theodor Adorno and Walter Benjamin.

One of the marks of fascism is to amalgamate seemingly incompatible positions. Indeed, it is a complex phenomenon, “scavenging the ideological terrain for usable materials”, including many currents on the left (155). Toscano does not follow mainstream political theory in conflating fascism with totalitarianism, command economies, and brute force. He argues that late fascism is “disanalogous” with historical fascisms. Instead, he focuses on the implicit forms of violence and repression – colonial, racial, sexual, and gender-based – that inform late fascism. This kind of hidden violence becomes especially noticeable, and acute, when capitalism faces financial and other crises.

As well as developing the idea that reactionary ideologies emerge out of capitalist crisis, notably as the co-option of working-class movements by the right as soon as the opportunity arises, Toscano notes the role capitalist exchange relations play in the epistemological foundation of fascist-adjacent ideologies. Yet the most original thesis in the book is that the touted freedoms of liberalism and free-market capitalism are also appropriated by late fascism. In fact, late fascism is only nominally attached to liberal ideals such as “individual action” and “free speech”. Its claim to be on the side of the individual and their political agency is clearly false, its objective really being to reproduce prior forms of subjection and create new forms of subjugation. Jessica Whyte has also suggested a similar dissimulation in the neoliberal support for human rights.

The rapid rise of this ideology may also be tied to online culture, although Toscano avoids elaborating on the political ramifications of this development. Instead, he gives a historical outline of classical Marxist arguments against reactionary thought and movements. As the subtitle of his book indicates, understanding the ideology of the far right must include a theory of the systemic reproduction of colonialism, racism and sexism. Toscano writes, “Whoever is not willing to talk about anti-capitalism should also keep quiet about anti-fascism” (158). Yet understanding fascism as a tendency within capitalism that merely continues what critical theory calls “identity thinking” is part of a critical venture “inseparable from the collective forging of ways of living that can undo lethal romances of identity, hierarchy and domination that capitalist crisis throws up with grim regularity” (158).

Understanding the ideology of the far right must include a theory of the systemic reproduction of colonialism, racism and sexism

Four key ideas explain late fascism. Firstly, it “cannot be understood without the “fascisms before fascism” that accompanied the imperialist consolidation of a capitalist world-system”, namely, the political and economic domination of the world by Europe, peaking in the 18th and 19th centuries, made possible by the material exploitation of its various colonial strongholds. Secondly, it can only be understood “across axes of race, gender and sexuality”. Thirdly, it includes the “desire for ethnonational rebirth or revanche stoked by the imminence of a threat projected as civilizational, demographic and existential”. Lastly, it involves “the production of identifications and subjectivities, desires and forms of life, which do not simply demand obedience to despotic power but draw on a sui generis idea of freedom” (156-57). These four aspects of late fascism are developed in some detail with a breadth that will satisfy anyone interested in the history of antifascist thought and resistance.

Each chapter provides a different window onto the ideology of fascism and explains why understanding it is imperative. The first chapter looks at the temporally destabilising aspects of fascist ideology, with its archaisms, anachronisms, and wrong-headed projections of majestic, uncorrupted futures. The second focuses on the dynamics of capitalism and race, mainly how the Black liberation struggles of the 1960s provide a template for understanding the racial nature of capitalism, with its continuing repression of minorities and punitive carceral system. The third chapter provides an overview of how the populist right appropriates the classical liberal understanding of individual freedom and toleration for its own purposes. It inverts such individualism, supporting the dominant narrative of equality; namely, the freedom to accumulate property and social power (the latter being skewed along racial and sexual lines, ie, white, male or heteronormative).

The fourth chapter, the most difficult, looks at the political subterfuge manifested by the “real abstractions” within a totalised exchange society. The references to Alfred Sohn-Rethel and Henri Lefevbre are especially illuminating. These latter two authors argue that capitalist ideology views everyday social relations upside down, as first pointed out by Marx in his theory of commodity fetishism and alienation. The central point is that the ends of capital and profit are prioritised over labour, the labourer being merely a commodity on the market, and ensuring capital accumulation.

Toscano demonstrates how the ‘scavenger ideology’ of fascism, which draws on Romanticism, political decisionism, a fascination with technology, and even socialism, is a pressing danger.

The fifth chapter deals again with temporality but this time through the philosophical understanding of “repetition”. Toscano singles out and censures Martin Heiddeger’s fundamental ontology”, which is concerned with “being” and the naturalised historical subject, as leading to a reactionary, “counter-revolutionary” politics. Toscano demonstrates how the “scavenger ideology” of fascism, which draws on Romanticism, political decisionism, a fascination with technology, and even socialism, is a pressing danger. This danger is magnified by its ability “to weaponise a kind of structured incoherence in its political and temporal imaginaries, modulating them to enlist and energise different class fractions, thereby capturing, diverting and corrupting popular aspirations” (110).

Based on a reading of the writings of the Italian Germanist and mythologist Furio Jesi, the sixth chapter deals with the far right’s version of the philosophy of religio mortis, a fascination with myth, sacrifice, and death, but updated for a technological (and now digital) era. Drawing on the idea of a “micropolitical antifascist struggle”, as found in the works of Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari, and Michel Foucault, the last chapter deals with the ambivalent erotics of fascist ideology, arguing that the libidinal introjection of violence reinforces various forms of social power. Here, Toscano also draws on the feminism of Maria Antonietta Macciocchi, claiming that the Nazi “antipolitical politicization of women” (148) resonates with current modalities of “fascist feminism” that seek “to violently secure and affirm a normative, if not necessarily heteropatriarchal, figure of woman, and which invests desire and libido in its narratives about the imminent threat of the erasure of women and even feminism by ‘gender ideology’ and ‘transness’” (150).

Toscano’s archaeology of 20th-century antifascist theory is an essential springboard for understanding the current political moment. It is a boon for those thinkers and activists interested in human emancipation and the struggle for real, rather than merely abstract, freedom. It alerts them to the threat posed to such projects by that deeply prejudicial ideology that arises alongside capitalism in crisis – late fascism.

This post gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Image credit: Alexandros Michailidis on Shutterstock.

 

How a Feminist Blog is Born

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 14/02/2024 - 9:00am in

I didn’t deign to call myself a feminist until I was nineteen years old, in my second year of college. Before then, I just wanted to be a writer. Reading Judy Blume and the Baby-Sitters Club books obsessively as a kid, I decided I wanted to be an “author” when I grew up, and started writing my own poems and young adult novels in fourth grade (a baby poet at heart, I could never get past chapter…

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Q and A with Caroline Derry on Agatha Christie, lesbians and criminal courts

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 14/02/2024 - 1:29am in

Lesbian relationships in Britain were regulated and silenced for centuries, through the courts and though wider patriarchal structures. In an interview with Anna D’Alton (LSE Review of Books), Caroline Derry speaks about research from her book, Lesbianism and the Criminal Law: Three centuries of regulation in England and Wales (2020) and what the portrayal of same-sex relationships in Agatha Christie’s novels reveals about attitudes towards homosexuality – and specifically lesbianism – in post-war Britain.

Caroline Derry will speak at a hybrid event hosted by LSE Library, Agatha Christie, lesbians, and criminal courts on Thursday 15 February at 6.00 pm.

Lesbianism and the criminal law by caroline derry book coverQ: In your book, Lesbianism and the Criminal Law: Three Centuries of Legal Regulation in England and Wales, you speak of lesbianism being silenced in upper-class British society “because of acute anxieties about female sexual autonomy.” Where did these anxieties stem from? 

Women’s autonomy posed a profound threat to patriarchal structures. Marriage, particularly for elite men, was central to maintaining those structures: transfer of property, inheritance, and control over their household all depended upon it. Legally, the wife’s existence was subsumed in her husband’s, giving him power over her property, actions, and sexuality. This was not only true in the 18th century, when the book begins; it persisted through the 19th century and has only slowly been dismantled over the past century and a half. For example, the legal rule that a man could not be convicted of raping his wife was finally abolished in 1991.

There was anxiety that if women ‘discovered’ lesbianism, both individual marriages and the institution itself would be undermined.

There was anxiety that if women “discovered” lesbianism, both individual marriages and the institution itself would be undermined. That was explicitly stated by lawmakers at various points in history. In 1811, Scottish judge Lord Meadowbank said that “the virtues, the comforts, and the freedom of domestic intercourse, mainly depend on the purity of female manners”.  In 1921, judge and MP Sir Ernest Wild asserted in Parliament that “it is a well-known fact that any woman who indulges in this vice will have nothing whatever to do with the other sex”. And the 1957 Wolfenden Report, which proposed reform of the law on male homosexuality, spoke of lesbianism as damaging to “the basic unit of society”, marriage.

Q: Why do you write in Lesbianism and the Criminal Law that “Patriarchal oppression […] made the criminalisation of lesbianism almost redundant”? 

There were many other ways of regulating women’s lives and relationships that could offer more effective control and less public scandal. These included economic constraints: in the 18th and 19th centuries, married women of all classes had little or no legal control of their own money. Single women without private incomes were little better off. For example, servants’ employers regulated most aspects of their lives under threat of dismissal without a reference.

Social norms set strict limits for unmarried women’s behaviour and gave families a great deal of control over them – although this could sometimes be evaded, as we know from Anne Lister’s diaries! Religious regulation of moral conduct was important, while medicalisation became more significant from the 19th century. Lesbian relationships were pathologised as a symptom of mental illness and the consequences could be awful: an extreme example was the use of clitoridectomy by surgeon Dr Isaac Baker Brown in the 1860s. In the 20th century, “treatments” included aversion therapies and even brain surgery. And until relatively recently, the courts themselves had the power to detain young women in “moral danger”.

Q: Although lesbianism may not have been strictly outlawed, you refer to a “regulation by silencing” of lesbianism within the British court systems. How did this operate? 

Legal silencing was based on the assumption that if women – particularly “respectable”, higher class, white, British women – were not told that lesbianism existed, they probably wouldn’t try it. Eighteenth-century models of sexuality assumed women craved men’s greater “heat”, while 19th-century models (which still influence today’s courts) emphasised women’s passivity and lack of independent desire. It was unlikely that two passive and desireless creatures would discover lesbian sex for themselves.

19th-century models (which still influence today’s courts) emphasised women’s passivity and lack of independent desire.

In the criminal courts, silencing worked in several ways. The most obvious was to avoid criminal prosecutions altogether, because court hearings are public and could be reported in the press. So, there has never been a specific offence criminalising sex between women (unlike sex between men, which was wholly illegal until 1967). However, when a prosecution did seem necessary, silencing could be maintained by choosing an offence which concealed the sexual element of the case. There is a long history of prosecutions for fraud where one partner presented as male (cases relevant to both lesbian and transgender history). In the 18th century, this was supposed financial fraud to obtain a “wife’s” possessions; in the later 19th and 20th centuries, making false statements on official documents. And throughout these periods, women have been brought before magistrates for disorderly behaviour and breach of the peace – although few records survive.

Q: What does analysis of the defamation case Woods and Pirie v. Cumming Gordon (1810-1812) reveal about how legal discourses defined morality in relation to race and class? 

This Scottish case offers a really potent example of those discourses. A half-Scottish, half-Indian teenager, Jane Cumming, told her grandmother Lady Helen Cumming Gordon that her schoolmistresses were having a sexual relationship. Cumming Gordon urged other families to withdraw their daughters, forcing the school to close, and the teachers brought a defamation claim for their lost livelihood.

The court had to wrestle with difficult questions: could two middle-class women of good character have done what was alleged? If not, how did their accuser come to know of such things? At the initial hearings, the judge’s answer was that the story must been invented by a working-class maid. But when witness evidence was heard, it became apparent that the story originated with Jane Cumming. Attention then shifted to her early life in India. The climate, the supposedly immoral culture, her race, or – in a mixture of race and class discourses – the bad influence of “native’” servants were all blamed.

This supposed contrast between Indian immorality and British, Christian morality was no accident. In the early 19th century, there was a shift in justifications of British imperialism.

This supposed contrast between Indian immorality and British, Christian morality was no accident. In the early 19th century, there was a shift in justifications of British imperialism. Greater awareness of the horrors of violence, corruption and exploitation by the East India Company made it difficult to present their activities as legitimate trading. Instead, a moral justification was claimed: that Indian people needed to be rescued from iniquity by the imposition of superior British law and standards, exemplified by virtuous British womanhood. Many of the judges and witnesses in this case had connections to India, so it is unsurprising that these discourses made a particularly powerful appearance here.

Q: What were the legal implications of the 1957 Wolfenden report for homosexual activity in Britain? What did the report (or its omissions) reveal about attitudes towards women’s sexuality? 

The Wolfenden Report recommended partially decriminalising sex between men, but barely acknowledged sex between women. The few mentions implied that lesbianism was “less libidinous” and thus less of a threat to public order. That was important because politically, equality for gay men through full decriminalisation was not attainable at that time. Wolfenden therefore took the pragmatic approach of silencing lesbianism as far as possible, to avoid the question of why women were treated differently by the law, and focusing on arguments specific to male homosexuality. It was successful: Parliament eventually implemented the recommendations in the Sexual Offences Act 1967.

Wolfenden […] took the pragmatic approach of silencing lesbianism as far as possible, to avoid the question of why women were treated differently by the law

Nonetheless, the Report was a watershed event in the legal regulation of lesbianism. Until then, the law had treated male and female sexuality as very different things. Wolfenden introduced the term “homosexuality” into law, and lesbianism became seen as “female homosexuality”. Combined with the Report’s characterisation of lesbians as less sexual than gay men, this meant that lesbianism was treated as a lesser variant of male homosexuality – an attitude that has never gone away.

Q: Was it remarkable that Agatha Christie included or suggested homosexuality in her novels? 

Yes and no. These were not issues that were generally discussed in polite conversation. At the same time, lesbian (and gay) people were a fact of life, even if not directly acknowledged. In 1950, most people knew of women living quietly living together like Miss Hinchcliffe and Miss Murgatroyd in A Murder is Announced. Christie walked a careful line in that book, portraying an intimate and deeply loving relationship but showing nothing explicitly sexual about it.

By 1971, when [Christie] wrote of one woman’s love for another in Nemesis, it was no longer possible to directly silence lesbianism in law or society.

And of course, Christie was a rather more daring writer than people often realise: it’s unfair to treat her as a narrowly conservative author of formulaic novels. By 1971, when she wrote of one woman’s love for another in Nemesis, it was no longer possible to directly silence lesbianism in law or society. But Christie was in any event happy to engage with difficult issues in her work, even quite taboo ones like child murderers.

Q: What insights do these portrayals provide into the criminal justice system’s attitudes to lesbianism in post-war England? 

Christie’s novels reflect wider middle-class attitudes at the specific times they were written, so they offer insights that we can’t get from court reports alone. They also come from a woman’s perspective rather than that of the elite men who mostly made the law, and gender does make a difference here. Men were convinced that respectable women did not know of such things, but women didn’t necessarily agree!

The novels reveal how the extent to which the courts were keeping pace with wider societal attitudes and understandings.

In particular, the novels reveal how the extent to which the courts were keeping pace with wider societal attitudes and understandings. If we look at medical, psychological and sexological work on women’s same-sex relationships in post-war Britain, the courts seem hopelessly old-fashioned in comparison. But Christie’s books show us that outside expert circles, attitudes were indeed decades behind the latest science. In other words, the courts were reflecting and contributing to mainstream opinions, not falling behind them.

Note: This interview gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Image credit: A still from the the episode, “A Murder is Announced” of the BBC Miss Marple series (1984 to 1992), adapted from Agatha Christie’s novels, featuring Joan Hickson as Miss Marple (left) and Paola Dionisotti as Miss Hinchcliffe (right). This image is reproduced under the “Fair Dealing” exception to UK Copyright law.

 

Why Abortion Alone Does Not Make Women Free

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 30/01/2024 - 4:29am in

A conversation with Felicia Kornbluh on Roe v. Wade. Let’s recap how abortion, after almost 50 years, once again became a matter of state law. ...

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My experience with geopolitics of knowledge in political philosophy so far

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 02/01/2024 - 3:04am in

Geopolitics of knowledge is a fact. Only few (conservative) colleagues would contend otherwise. Ingrid Robeyns wrote an entry for this blog dealing with this problem. There, Ingrid dealt mostly with the absence of non-Anglophone colleagues in political philosophy books and journals from the Anglophone centre. I want to stress that this is not a problem of language, for there are other centres from which we, philosophers from the “Global South” working in the “Global South”, are excluded. In political philosophy, the centre is composed of the Anglophone world and three European countries: Italy, France, and Germany. From my own experience, the rest of us do not qualify as political philosophers, for we are, it seems, unable to speak in universal terms. We are, at best, providers of particular cases and data for Europeans and Anglophones to study and produce their own philosophical and universal theories. I think most of you who are reading are already familiar with the concept of epistemic extractivism, of which this phenomenon is a case. (If not, you should; in case you don’t read Spanish, there is this).

Critical political philosophy is one of the fields where the unequal distribution of epistemic authority is more striking. I say “striking” because it would seem, prima facie, that political philosophers with a critical inclination (Marxists, feminists, anti-imperialists, etc.) are people more prone to recognising injustice than people from other disciplines and tendencies. But no one lives outside a system of injustice and no one is a priori completely exempt from reproducing patterns of silencing. Not even ourselves, living and working in the “Global Southern” places of the world. Many political philosophers working and living in Latin America don’t even bother to read and cite their own colleagues. This is, to be sure, a shame, but there is a rationale behind this self-destructive practice. Latin American scholars know that their papers have even lesser chances of being sent to a reviewing process (we are usually desk-rejected) if they cite “too many” pieces in Spanish and by authors working outside of the academic centre.

In many reviews I’ve received in my career, I have been told to cite books by people from the centre just because they are trending or are being cited in the most prestigious Anglophone journals, even if they would contribute nothing to my piece and research. I have frequently been told by reviewers to give more information about the “particular” social-historical context I am writing from because readers don’t know a lot about it. This is an almost verbatim phrase from a review I got recently. I wonder if readers of Anglophone prestigious, Q1 journals stop being professional researchers the instant they start reading about José Carlos Mariátegui or Argentina’s last right-wing dictatorship. Why can’t they just do the research by themselves, why should we have to waste characters and words to educate an overeducated public? This is as tiresome as it is offensive. When I cite the work of non-Anglophone authors from outside of the imperial centres (UK, USA, Italy, Germany, and France, no matter the language they use to write), reviewers almost always demand that I include a reference to some famous native Anglophone (or Italian / German / French, without considering gender or race; the power differential here is simple geographical procedence) author who said similar things but decades after the authors I am quoting. I’ve read all your authors. Why haven’t they read “mine”? And why do they feel they have to suggest something else instead of just learning about “our” authors? This is what I want to reply to the reviewers. Of course, I don’t. I dilligently put the references they demand. I shouldn’t have to, but if I don’t, I don’t get published. There’s the imperial trick again.

English is also always a problem, but not for everyone who is not Anglophone. In 2020 I was in London doing research at LSE. I attended a lecture by a European political theorist. They gave the talk in English. Although they work at a United Statian University, their English was poor. The room was packed. The lecture was mediocre. I was annoyed. “Why do they feel they don’t have to make an effort to pronounce in an intelligible way?”, I thought. When I speak they don’t listen to me like that, with concentrated attention and making an effort to understand me. The reason is in plain view: coloniality of power. If you come from powerful European countries, you don’t need to ask for permission. You don’t need to excel. You don’t need to have something absolutely original to say. You just show up and talk. If you are from, let’s say, Argentina, and you work there (here), you have to adapt to the traditional analytic way of writing and arguing so typical in Anglophone contexts, including citing their literature, if you want to enter the room in the first place. You are not even allowed to use neologisms, although the omnipresent use of English as a lingua franca should have already made this practice at least tolerated. One cannot expect everyone to speak English and English to remain “English” all the same. Inclusion changes the game, if it doesn’t, then it is not isegoria what is going on but cultural homogenisation. (Here is a proposal for inclusive practices regarding Enlgish as a lingua franca). The manifest “Rethinking English as a lingua franca in scientific-academic contexts” offers a detailed critique of the idea and imposition of English as a lingua franca. I endorse it 100 %. (Here in Spanish, open access; here in Portuguese).

In my particular case, I am frequently invited to the academic centre, sometimes to write book chapters, encyclopaedia entries, and papers for special issues, sometimes to give talks and lectures. Not once have I not thought it was not tokenism. Maybe it is my own inferiority complex distorting my perception of reality, but we know from Frantz Fanon which is the origin of this inferiorisation.

I used to be pretty annoyed by this whole situation until I realised that I don’t need to try to enter conversations where I am not going to be heard, understood, or taken seriously. The fact is that we don’t need to be recognised as philosophers by those who willingly ignore our political philosophy. And this is why it is hard for me to participate in forums such as this blog. I just don’t want to receive the same comments I get when I send a paper to an Anglophone, Q1 journal, to put it simply.

But I also want to keep trying, not to feel accepted and to belong, but because I do believe in transnational solidarity and the collective production of emancipatory knowledge. It is a matter of recognition, and a question of whether it is possible for the coloniser to recognise the colonised, to name Fanon once more.

Little Women

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 22/12/2023 - 6:00am in

Tags 

Feminism


Let me try my hand at one of those conditionals: If Alcott has always been interested in how people bargain with forces bigger than them, then Emergency is about what happens when women bet against themselves; when women use their own autonomy as a bargaining chip in a wager that might gain them some power within a system inherently built against them.

Where In the World Is Merze Tate?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 19/12/2023 - 5:50am in

In this episode of "Why Now?," Claire Potter and Barbara D. Savage discuss the life of trailblazing Black academic Vernie Merze Tate....

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What does it mean to do generous research?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 13/12/2023 - 10:01pm in

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Featured, Feminism

Academia is often thought to function as a reciprocal gift economy, but do its methods and styles always work this way? Rachelle Chadwick draws on her recent research to consider what it means to take generosity as a serious academic position. We normally think of generosity as an individual character trait. At first glance, generosity … Continued

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