Voyou Désœuvré

As I understand it, radical feminism, particularly as developed by MacKinnon, is based on a binary account of power in which having, or not having, power, is what defines gender. It’s paradoxical, then, that one of the main criticisms radical feminists make of post-modern feminists is that the posties, in critiquing the idea of the subject, deprive women of agency; it’s surprising, because hadn’t the radical feminists, albeit unintentionally, already done that? I’ve been wanting to think about this question for some time, and more generally about the questions about agency and subjectivity that are raised by debates between radical feminists, feminists of color, postmodern feminists, queer theorists, and others. As luck would have it, I also need to pick a “special topic” for a forthcoming exam on contemporary political theory; so, “Feminist political theory from 1980 to the present” it is. I’ve made a preliminary reading list, mostly obvious texts, with a couple of additions I happened to find in second-hand book stores. Any recommendations you have (for things to read or, indeed, for things to avoid) would be gratefully received:

  • Andrea Dworkin, Intercourse
  • Catherine MacKinnon, Towards a Feminist Theory of the State (and maybe Only Words).
  • Wendy Brown, Manhood and Politics
  • bell hooks, Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center
  • Cherrie Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa (ed) This Bridge Called My Back
  • Luce Irigaray, This Sex Which Is Not One (and/or Julia Kristeva, Powers of Horror, depending on how much French feminism I want to read).
  • Judith Butler, Bodies That Matter (or Gender Trouble)
  • Saba Mahmood, Politics of Piety
  • Seyla Benhabib, Judith Butler, Nancy Fraser and Drucilla Cornel, Feminist Contentions: A Philosophical Exchange
  • Linda Martín Alcoff, ed., Feminist Epistemologies


  1. Catherine Ryan, 2:11 am, June 12, 2007

    How about Wittig’s The Straight Mind?

  2. geo, 1:58 am, June 13, 2007

    I would say Anzaldua’s Borderlands/La Frontera fo sho.

  3. bat020, 6:40 am, June 13, 2007

    Denise Thompson’s Radical Feminism Today is an exceptionally lucid statement of the radical feminist case and addresses many of the arguments you mention.

  4. geo, 9:50 am, June 15, 2007

    Hey man, definitely check out the recent work on wages for housework (a key demand of the Italian hot autumn), spearheaded by Selma James (co-author with Mariarosa della Costa) and Nora Castaneda, who worked closely in the crafting of Article 88 of the Venezuelan constitution.

    Nora’s book: http://www.globalwomenstrike.net/English2006/NoraBookEng.htm

  5. voyou, 8:40 pm, June 16, 2007

    Thanks for the recommendations. I was actually thinking of reading the Wittig too, and the Thompson looks very interesting. The Anzaldua I know is interesting; I assigned a bit of it to my intro to comparative politics section last year, because I thought the idea of mestiza consciousness would be a good counterweight to the reified idea of the nation-state that comparative politics is based on.

Post a comment