Feminist Critical Theory

Term: Spring 2010

Subject Code: GPHI

Course Number: 6107

In most recent debates, feminist critical theorists have encounter the need to meet the challenge of changing social arrangements in order to establish fairer ways in which to fight against exclusion. They involve not only identifying how social perceptions need to be changed, but also, different ways in which certain specific transformations can be capable of redefining social institutions, while also contributing to new ways of thinking about the agents of social change. Feminist critical theories were until now engaged in thinking about the transformation of social institutions, or finding new definitions of social agents based in two different and almost irreconcilable strategies: the agonistic model, which helped create new ways of defining social agents; and the normative model which helped to redefined justice and autonomy. The strategies of the normative kind have struggled against old definitions of the self and the critique of cultural and social institutions and practices posing the accent on transformation. The strategies about resistance seek to comprehend the complexity of power and domination by analyzing the different technologies and practices of subjection that are constitutive of our social order. The first position highlights the role of autonomy and freedom. The second one highlights the role of power and determinism. Both are needed in critical theory but feminists have until now presented these arguments against one another. The aim of the course will be to consider how these two strategies need not be seen as contradictory but they need to be mediated. By presenting empirical examples which illustrate those tensions between power and agency we will be able to understand the categories of agonistic agency and normative critique. We will also examine the most recent literature arguing to develop fully such a position (Lara, Cooke, Allen). I will be able to define those strategies as a complex dialectic of self-creation devices and resistance from power.

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