We are pleased to announce the keynote speakers for the conference will be Dr. Victoria Browne (School of Advanced Study, University of London) and Dr. Matthew Charles (University of Westminster).
Formulating Feminist Time: Progress Narratives, Futural Displacements, and Temporalities of Struggle
- Victoria Browne
Feminism is an emancipatory movement, and as such, there are some basic features common to most formulations of ‘feminist time’, namely, the hope that the future will be better than the past and present, and the conviction that oppressive sex/gender regimes are not necessarily fixed for all time. Yet, there is no innate feminist vision of the temporality of emancipatory politics and processes, and no core, united understanding of how past, present and future are related or bound to one another. In this paper, I will consider some different ways of formulating the time of feminism, and evaluate their effectiveness in terms of fostering a hopeful feminist politics which at the same time engages with the realities of struggling for change within an often hostile context and climate.
To begin, I will give a critical assessment of two common ways of formulating feminist time. The first is the progressive ‘wave model’ of feminism which has been subject to serious criticism of late, not least because it robs historical feminisms of their unsettling force by reducing them to neatly bounded positions which have been overcome and frozen in an out-of-date feminist past. The second is what I will term the ‘futural’ approach, which seeks to cultivate an openness to the unknowability of the future and focuses on the conditions for creating something radically different from what has gone before. Though it has become popular within recent feminist theory, this approach runs the risk of fetishising novelty, and of fostering a rather empty feminist politics which simply displaces the politics of time on to future time as radical alterity.
The main section of the paper will thus attempt to articulate a feminist politics of time in terms of what Chandra Talpade Mohanty refers to as a ‘temporality of struggle’ (1991): an approach which does not cling to a linear, teleological vision of progress, but neither does it simply defer the question of social transformation via futural displacements and the trope of the ‘to come’. To do so, I will draw on feminist re-workings of the concept of ‘repetition’ (e.g. Battersby 1998; 2007, Fleissner 2002), which offer ways of re-conceiving the nonlinear and ‘untimely’ trajectories of feminist politics as a site for critical reflection and re-engagement in the face of backlash retrenchments and ‘postfeminist’ ideologies.
Not Even the Dead Will Be Safe: The Catastrophic Function in Contemporary Culture
- Matthew Charles
‘The dead are “multiform” and exist in many places on the earth at the same time. For this reason, people must very seriously concern themselves, during their lifetime, with the betterment of the earth’ (L. J. B. Toureil, quoted in Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project, p5a, 2)
‘Everything begins in mysticism and ends in politics.’ (Charles Péguy, Notre Jeunesse)
The retrieval of the utopian imagination within contemporary theory and culture responds to the political impasse of a “capitalist realism”. Yet this attentiveness to what Ernst Bloch called the Utopian function in art and literature, now stripped of any Utopia, can only manifest itself as a liberal inversion of the conservative valorization of the past. Against the proliferation of Utopian visions of workless play and sentimental communality, this paper instead seeks to draw on Walter Benjamin’s concept of history to construct and utilise a pragmatic understanding of what I term the Catastrophic function as a way of interrogating the ideological dimensions of historicity within contemporary culture.
Having introduced and defended the present usefulness of the Catastrophic function, this idea will be put to work, first to delineate “the dead” as a political category within 19th and 20th century literature, and then to contrast this with a shift in the most recent representations of the “undead” within contemporary film and television, a shift symptomatic of broader changes with contemporary social and political life. What is catastrophic about contemporary representations of catastrophe, it will conclude, is that they are too utopian: that is, not catastrophic enough.
The poster is also ready! Schedule will follow very soon. Cheers!