Institute for Social Sciences and Humanities – Skopje
10–12 Sept, 2020
Summer school on Xenofeminism and other forms of realist and materialist feminism: A vantage point of a radically novel politics, September 10–12 2020 in Skopje, North Macedonia. Lecture on “Excessive Feminism and Claiming the Artificial”.
When feminism, in the broadest sense possible, is understood as the struggle against power asymmetries based on “naturalizations of inequality,” to borrow the words from Iris van der Tuin, the general project of any feminism worthy of the name, is bound to articulations of denaturalization. Such basic criteria refutes the legitimacy of ‘movements’ declaring the feminist label that do little more than corroborate inequality, such as the consumerist ‘feminism’ outlined in Nina Power’s One Dimensional Woman, or corporate feminism that urges women to become better, competitive players in the winner-take-most game of disparate wealth accumulation and value extraction. Despite indispensable differences on the specific articulations of feminism as a denaturalizing project (which are context sensitive), it is through this general premise that a possibility space opens for the construction of comradely bonds with any struggle against normative reinforcements of inequality. When upheld in this discrete (specific) and continuous (generic) formulation, feminism is about the condition of being-womxn, and is also in excess of the condition of being-womxn. Just as van der Tuin understands feminism as not seeking to do away with itself, we can also add that feminism (with the denaturalizing criteria mentioned above) is always, already more than itself.
This talk draws from a ‘discrete and continuous’ picture of feminism, while extrapolating upon legacies of feminist epistemologies in order to take up questions of coexistence at planetary dimensions. Similar to Marx’s insistence on the enmeshment of human thought with practical (not just theoretical) consequences, so too, a broad inheritance of feminist epistemologies is the persistent contestation over the hierarchical division between propositional knowledge and pragmatics, or know-how. While cognizing ‘planetarity’ is an epistemic achievement, it’s propositional status alone does not directly manifest in transformed know-how at the level of practice and social reconfiguration. Otherwise said, ‘planetarity’, as a multi-scalar, earth-systems perspective (from above), has not yet been situationally ramified as a form of life (from below). What planetary coexistential questions reveal is a need to synthetically navigate across such scales in order to remediate not only existing interhuman (gendered, racialized and sexualized) relations, but human↔nonhuman, and human↔biosphere relations as well. In this way, the condition of planetarity requires the practicable mobilization of the excessive possibility endemic to feminism alongside all struggles against socially punitive, ecologically disastrous naturalizations. Because there is no unmediated, or immediate human↔world relation, nor is there an unmediated, ‘concept-free’ mode of being-human, the crux of this struggle lies in making claims on an artificial register. Despite differences of position, or trajectories of thought within Xenofeminism, what lends it general coherence is this seizing of artificiality as a vector for the enablement of emancipatory world configurations that aren’t yet actualized in the here and now.
To speak of vantage points for novel politics requires (at least) two key elements: a site from which to see/sense, and an entity that can see/sense from that position. For coexistence at planetary dimensions, the very site from which to gaze can no longer be adequately figured within the (Vitruvian) geometric bounds of a purely human-scaled world, nor can that sensing agent be exclusively tethered to human-optimized perspectives. Where, and how is this site understood in our multi-scalar condition, who/what constitutes a sensing agent, and with what sensory limits? For seemingly impossible questions it is not sufficient to leave them in a purely negative state, somebody must begin to affirm something from somewhere. It’s on this ambitiously humble point of departure where Sylvia Wynter’s reflections are crucial in multiple ways. First is her observation that we must liberate human self-idealisation from current biological overdetermination and better narrate our hybrid ‘bios/mythoi’ (i.e. artificial or fictional) creature-status. Second, that human self-idealisation serves as a primary frame of reference from which socio-epistemic orders derive, signaling that all paradigmatic transformation is contingent on reinventing corresponding ‘genres of being human’ to institute new frames of reference for orientation. And third, for the first time in human history it is necessary to conceive of coexistence for an (uncommonly lived) environment in common, meaning it is no longer sufficient to conceive of coexistence in fragmented, isolated pockets of human groupings. As the condition of planetarity deals a trauma to humanist self-images, the site from which to begin working through such trauma is ourselves – a denaturalized human self-picturing, not in view of reiterating a human-centered world, but because of the material and structural consequences such denaturalizing interventions yield, in language, gesture, organization and relations.