Open Forum Imaginary Prohibitions: Some Preliminary Remarks on the Founding Gestures of the `New Materialism'

Ahmed, Sara. 2008. Open Forum Imaginary Prohibitions: Some Preliminary Remarks on the Founding Gestures of the `New Materialism'. European Journal of Women's Studies, 15(1), pp. 23-39. ISSN 1350-5068 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

We have no interest whatever in minimizing the continuing history of racist, sexist, homophobic, or otherwise abusive biologisms, or the urgency of their exposure, that has made the gravamen of so many contemporary projects of critique. At the same time, we fear — with installation of an automatic antibiologism as the unshifting tenet of `theory' — the loss of conceptual access to an entire thought-realm. (Sedgwick and Frank, 1995: 15)
I was left wondering what danger had been averted by the exclusion of biology. What does the nominative `biological or anatomical body' actually refer to? And what secures the separation of its inadmissible matter from the proper purview of Irigaray's textual interventions? When I asked a question to this effect it was met with a certain nervous comprehension. Deciding, perhaps, that I must still be immersed in a precritical understanding of the body, the speaker dismissed me with a revealing theatrical gesture. As if to emphasize the sheer absurdity of my question she pinched herself and commented `Well I don't mean this body'. And so it seemed with a gesture so matter of fact that it required no further comment, the fact of (the) matter was both decided and dispatched. (Kirby, 1997: 70)
Feminism has been as deeply implicated in routinized antiessentialism as any of our critical procedures. Even though questions of `the body' have become increasingly fashionable in all manner of feminist projects (surely `the body' has become, in a very short space of time, one of our most routinized theoretical gestures), the schedule of feminism's antibiologism has been little altered. In most of these projects on `the body', the body in question is pursued in its socially, experientially, or psychically constituted forms, but rarely in its physiologically, biochemically, or microbiologically constituted form, the idea of biological construction having been rendered either unintelligible or naive. Despite an avowed interest in the body, there is a persistent distaste for biological detail. (Wilson, 1998: 14—15)
These feminist theories have usually been reluctant to engage with biological data: they retain, and encourage, the fierce antibiologism that marked the emergence of second wave feminism. (Wilson, 2004: 13)
That feminist scholars are particularly prone to a `knee jerk constructivism' helps explain the reluctance of those in the humanities to engage seriously with the claims of science. (Squier, 2004: 46)
This book functions primarily as a reminder to social, political, and cultural theorists, particularly those interested in feminism, antiracism and questions of the politics of globalisation, that they have forgotten a crucial dimension of research, if not necessary to, then certainly useful for more incisively formulating the concepts on which they so heavily, if implicitly rely. It is written as a remembrance of what we have forgotten — not just the body, but that which makes it possible and which limits its actions: the precarious, accidental, contingent, expedient, striving, dynamic status of life in a messy, complicated, resistant, brute world of materiality, a world regulated by the exigencies, the forces, of space and time. We have forgotten the nature, the ontology, of the body, the conditions under which bodies are encultured, psychologized, given identity, historical location, and agency. We have forgotten where we come from. (Grosz, 2004a: 2)

Item Type:

Article

Identification Number (DOI):

https://doi.org/10.1177/1350506807084854

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Media, Communications and Cultural Studies

Dates:

DateEvent
2008Published

Item ID:

13903

Date Deposited:

06 Oct 2015 10:01

Last Modified:

22 Apr 2016 16:39

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.

URI:

http://research.gold.ac.uk/id/eprint/13903

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