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A Feminist Politics of Discursive Embodiment: Rethinking Iris M. Young's Gender Seriality

Chen, Li-Ning (2016) A Feminist Politics of Discursive Embodiment: Rethinking Iris M. Young's Gender Seriality. PhD thesis, University of Essex.


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Divergent forms of female embodiment have prompted contemporary feminist theorists to depart from gender essentialism and draw attention to the heterogeneity of gender performances in the (re)conceptualisation of 'women'. I argue feminist politics may become ossified and repressive if the public arena fails to reflect the plurality of women and their diverse political claims. Exploring the theorisation of 'women' in the context of the politics of difference, this thesis analyses the reciprocal relationship between the construction of 'women' and the pluralisation of feminist politics, by articulating a 'feminist politics of discursive embodiment'. The thesis is divided into two parts. I begin with Iris M. Young's conception of 'gender seriality' that categorises 'women' as a social series constructed through a practico-inert reality of gender and characterised by a passive member relationship, rather than as a social group with common objectives and essential attributes. I then draw on Maurice Merleau-Ponty's phenomenological concept of 'the lived body', to deepen this account and to sketch out how the female body is the material locus of gender imperatives and, hence, the primary site of politicisation. The second part of the thesis articulates a feminist politics of discursive embodiment concentrating on how the politicisation of different experiences of female embodiment pluralises feminist politics. I argue that the combination of a reworked understanding of female authority and an agonistic ethos as a political practice can facilitate democratic deliberation and can inaugurate a progressive feminist politics. The Milan Women's Bookstore Collective's depiction of 'the symbolic mother' is specifically used to demonstrate how politicising womanhood can recuperate the historically absent female relationship against patriarchy. I conclude with an exploration of agonist ethos that recognises the constitutive tension between different political claims and encourages openness and the (re)signification of each asserted 'womanhood', so ensuring the responsiveness of a democratic feminist politics.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Subjects: J Political Science > JC Political theory
Divisions: Faculty of Social Sciences > Government, Department of
Depositing User: Li-Ning Chen
Date Deposited: 05 Jun 2016 10:21
Last Modified: 05 Jun 2016 10:21

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