Date: 14 November 2012, 5.00pm
Location: Seminar Room, Beech Grove House
Centre for Interdisciplinary Gender Studies Seminar Series
Dr João Manuel de Oliveira: Birkbeck Institute for Social Research and University of Porto
In the past two years, I have been working on a book on gender historiography trying to make sense of the multiple entanglements between feminism and gender theory. I have used the work of Benjamin, Derrida, Foucault and lately Deleuze and Guattari to understand how to tell a story of gender that : (a) is not based on an epistemology of history that only celebrates the winners, (b) takes gender as a pharmakon, ie, simultaneously medicine and poison for feminism; (c) uses the genealogy of gender as way to understand relations of power embedded in discourses; (d) allows an understanding of the mutations of the concept, its de-territorializations and re-territorializations, ultimately treating gender not as a concept, but as a rhizome.
Taking into account parts of the works of these philosophers I will present the cartography of three different accounts of this de-territorialized gender coming from a Western tradition of accounting for the ontology of masculinity and femininity. Using Avery Gordon’s (2008) proposal of a sociology of ghosts and haunting and Freud’s account of the uncanny, I will summon some ghosts of gender theory – the invert, the hermaphrodite, the transsexual and the feminist – to ground my several possible narratives using figurations and their material-semiotic contexts (Haraway, 2008).
The last part of the talk will show how these ghosts are present in the work of Judith Butler, who has actively summoned these ghosts and figures, creating a unique body of work on gender studies and feminist epistemology. This work of reframing the history of gender refusing to tell it as history, but rather as a cartography of several genealogies, provides a possibility of training the imagination for epistemological performance (Spivak, 2011), a basic condition to understand the promiscuity of the concept of gender and its multiple effects on feminist theory.