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Cutting Edge: Queer Feminism and the Art of Masochism

Cutting Edge: Queer Feminism and the Art of Masochism

J. Halberstam
Professor, University of Southern California
Author of Skin Shows, Female Masculinity, and In a Queer Time and Place

Wednesday, April 15, 2009
7:00 p.m.
Science Ctr. 101

In this talk, we will argue against the idea of a "subject of feminism" and propose that feminism is best served by a refusal of the very notion of a political subject. We will chart a genealogy of an anti-social or anti-humanist or counter-intuitive feminism that arises out of queer, post-colonial, and Black feminisms and that thinks in terms of the negation of the subject rather than her formation.

In this queer feminist genealogy, which could be said to stretch from Gayatri Spivak's meditations on female suicide in "Can the Subaltern Speak" to Saidiya Hartman's notions of "fanciful" and "excessive" "quotidian acts" in Scenes of Subjection, from Toni Morrison's ghosts to Jamaica Kincaid anti-heroines and passes through the territories of silence, stubbornness, self-abnegation and sacrifice, we find no feminist subject but only subjects who cannot speak, who refuse to speak; subjects who unravel, who refuse to cohere; subjects who refuse "being" where being has already been defined in terms of a self-activating, self-knowing, liberal subject.  If we refuse to become women, we might ask, what happens to feminism?