The SAGE Handbook of Feminist Theory

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Edited by: Mary Evans, Clare Hemmings, Marsha Henry, Hazel Johnstone, Sumi Madhok, Ania Plomien & Sadie Wearing

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  • Part I: Epistemology and Marginality

    Part II: Literary, Visual and Cultural Representation

    Part III: Sexuality

    Part IV: Economy

    Part V: War, Violence and Militarization

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    Notes on the Editors and Contributors

    The Editors

    Mary Evans is currently a Centennial Professor at the London School of Economics. She has published work on feminist theory as well as on women writers (Jane Austen and Simone de Beauvoir) and various genres of literature, most recently detective fiction. For fifteen years she co-edited the European Journal of Women's Studies and is now working on a study of the persistence of gender inequality.

    Clare Hemmings is Professor of Feminist Theory at the LSE Gender Institute, London School of Economics, where she has worked for fifteen years. Her primary interests are in transnational feminist and sexuality studies, and she is particularly interested in how stories about gender and sexuality become popular, how they are institutionalized, how they move across time and space (or don't move) and how we are affected by them. She is the author of Bisexual Spaces (2002), Why Stories Matter (2011), and articles on feminist theory and politics, affect and femininity. Her current research is in two related areas: the contemporary life of Emma Goldman and the affective life of gender.

    Marsha Henry is Associate Professor at the LSE Gender Institute, London School of Economics. She has previously worked at the University of Bristol, the Open University, Warwick University and the University of British Columbia. Her research interests are in gender, culture and development; space, security and peacekeeping; and gender and militarization.

    Hazel Johnstone is the Departmental Manager of the LSE Gender Institute, London School of Economics. She has worked at the Gender Institute since it was a working group and has overall responsibility for its day-to-day operational management. She is also managing editor of the European Journal of Women's Studies.

    Sumi Madhok is Associate Professor at the LSE Gender Institute, London School of Economics. Her research and publications lie at the intersection of feminist political theory and philosophy, gender theories, transnational activism, rights/human rights, citizenship, activism, postcoloniality, developmentalism and feminist ethnographies. She is the author of Rethinking Agency: Developmentalism, Gender and Rights (2013) and co-editor with Anne Phillips and Kalpana Wilson of Gender, Agency and Coercion, also published in 2013. She is currently working on a book on vernacular rights cultures in Southern Asia.

    Ania Plomien is Assistant Professor at the LSE Gender Institute, London School of Economics, a member of the UK Women's Budget Group and a member of the European Network of Experts on Gender Equality (ENEGE). Her research interests focus on the relationship between institutional structures and gender relations and outcomes in the context of transition, particularly in Central Eastern Europe and at the European Union level. Her analysis centres on economic, social and labour market patterns and policies. Her most recent book is Gender, Migration and Domestic Work: Masculinities, male labour and fathering in the UK and USA (with Majella Kilkey and Diane Perrons, 2013).

    Sadie Wearing is Lecturer in Gender Theory, Culture and Media at the LSE Gender Institute, London School of Economics. She has published widely in the area of gender and popular culture with particular emphasis on contemporary representations and constructions of aging. She is author (with Niall Richardson) of Key Concerns: Gender and Media (Palgrave, forthcoming) and is currently working on a monograph on aging and gender in contemporary culture.

    The Contributors

    Rutvica Andrijasevic works at the School of Management, University of Leicester, UK. She is the author of Migration, Agency and Citizenship in Sex Trafficking (Palgrave, 2010) and has published widely on the impact of migration on labour relations and labour markets, with particular emphasis on gender and sexuality; on the relationship between migration, work and changes in citizenship in Europe; and on informal recruitment practices such as those in human trafficking. She is a member of the editorial collective of Feminist Review.

    Drucilla K. Barker (PhD, University of Illinois, 1988) is Professor in the Department of Anthropology and Director of Women's and Gender Studies at the University of South Carolina. Her research interests are gender and globalization, feminist political economy and feminist methodology. Her work ranges from explorations of the gendered nature of economic efficiency to poststructuralist and interdisciplinary explorations of social science methodologies. She is a founding member of the International Association for Feminist Economics and was the founding director of the Gender and Women's Studies Program at Hollins University.

    Karen Boyle is Professor of Feminist Media Studies at the University of Stirling, where she is Co-Director of the Centre for Gender and Feminist Studies, and programme leader for the MLitt/ MSc in Gender Studies (Applied). She is the editor of Everyday Pornography (Routledge, 2010) and author of Media and Violence: Gendering the Debates (Sage, 2005). In recent work she has been particularly interested in debates about the mainstreaming of pornography and has a range of articles on this theme in journals including Feminist Media Studies and Women's Studies International Forum. She has been a member of the Board of Directors of the Women's Support Project for more than ten years and is energized and inspired by their work challenging commercial sexual exploitation.

    Gilbert Caluya is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the International Centre for Muslim and non-Muslim Understanding at the University of South Australia. He has published articles and book chapters in the fields of cultural geography, diaspora studies, cultural studies and queer studies. His current research interests include affect, senses and the body; the cultural politics of intimacy; the politics and philosophy of everyday security; and Muslim diasporas.

    Kirsten Campbell is a Lecturer in the Department of Sociology at Goldsmiths College. She is currently undertaking an ERC-funded project on the prosecution of sexual violence in armed conflict. This research develops her recently completed feminist study of models of persons and sociality in international criminal law. Kirsten's current research builds on her longstanding work on forms of subjectivity and sociality in feminist ideas and practices of social justice, including her book, Jacques Lacan and Feminist Epistemology (Routledge, 2004).

    Lorraine Code is Distinguished Research Professor Emerita in the Department of Philosophy at York University, Toronto Canada, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. She has published Epistemic Responsibility (1987); What Can She Know? Feminist Theory and the Construction of Knowledge (1991); Rhetorical Spaces: Essays on Gendered Locations (1995); and Ecological Thinking (2006). She is General Editor of the Routledge Encyclopedia of Feminist Theories (2000). She is currently working on questions of gender, social justice, ignorance, and testimony with reference to the ‘manufactured ignorance’ that fuels refusals to know about ecological damage, both literal and metaphorical. Funded by an Insight Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the project is titled “‘Manufactured Uncertainty‘ and Epistemic Responsibility: Implications for Climate-Change Skepticism”.

    Robin Dunford is a Lecturer in Politics and International Relations at University of Exeter. His area of specialism lies in Political Theory, but he looks to bring theoretical accounts of justice, rights and democracy into relation with contemporary political events. His PhD research developed a ‘new materialist’ account of constituent power, and he has broader research interests in democracy and social movements.

    Maria Eriksson Baaz is Associate Professor in Peace and Development Research at the School of Global Studies, University of Gothenburg and a senior researcher at the Nordic Africa Institute, Sweden. Her research interests are in civil-military relations, gender and security, politics of identity and post-colonial theory. She is the co-author of Sexual Violence as a Weapon of War? Perceptions, Prescriptions, Problems in the Congo and Beyond (Zed Books, 2013) and the author of The Paternalism of Partnership: A Postcolonial Reading of Identity in Development Aid (Zed Books, 2005). Additionally, her articles have appeared in numerous international peer-reviewed journals.

    Maria S. Floro is Associate Professor of economics at American University in Washington DC, and has received her doctorate from Stanford University. Her publications include the books Informal Credit Markets and the New Institutional Economics and Women's Work in the World Economy and monographs and journal articles on vulnerability, informal employment, urban food security, time use and unpaid work, financial crises, urban poverty, households savings, credit and asset ownership. She has collaborated with researchers, women's groups and community organizations in Thailand, the Philippines, Ecuador and Bolivia in developing gender-sensitive research methods and in conducting surveys in urban poor communities. She is a co-director of the Graduate Program on Gender Analysis in Economics at American University and member of the International Association for Feminist Economics (IAFFE).

    Jennifer Germon is a Lecturer in Gender and Cultural Studies. She has a PhD in Gender Studies (Sydney) and a BA and MA in Sociology (Auckland). Her recently published book Gender: A Genealogy of an Idea (2009) offers a conceptual history of gender intertwined with a history of intersex in the ‘modern era’. Prior to entering the academy, she worked for more than ten years in the health and community sectors (disability support services, women and children's refuge services, social housing). That experience informs both her research interests and her approach to research.

    Sabine Grenz is a Research Associate/Assistant Professor in Gender Studies at the Georg-August-Universität Göttingen as well as the Comenius Institute (Münster) in Germany. After her PhD on the construction of masculine heterosexual identity in prostitution in 2004, she was a Postdoctoral Fellow at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (Germany) and Gothenburg University (Sweden) working on a project on negotiations of femininity constructions in diaries written by German women in Germany during the transition between National Socialism and allied military occupation. Furthermore, she was an active member of the Athena Network (Thematic Sokrates network for European Women's and Gender Studies) and recently coordinated the interdisciplinary European network GenderAct. Recent English publications include: ‘One course, nine teachers and nine pedagogical approaches: Teaching with a lack of time’, EJWS, 19(1) (2012) and ‘German Women Writing about the End of the Second World War – A Feminist Analysis’, GJSS, 4(2) (2007) (http://www.gjss.org/).

    Edeltraud Hanappi-Egger holds a PhD in Computer Science from the Technical University (TU) of Vienna. From 1993 to 1996 she was a scholar of the Austrian Academy of Science and in 1996 she got her habilitation for Applied Computer Science at TU Vienna. She was guest researcher at several international universities and research institutions with a research focus on the social shaping of technology and gender impacts. Since 2002 she has been Full Professor for Gender and Diversity in Organizations at the Vienna University of Economics and Business (WU). In 2011 she was visiting senior research fellow at the Gender Institute of LSE. She has published more than 300 articles, book chapters and books and received several awards for her research. Currently her research focus is on gendered organizations and management myths.

    Sîan Hawthorne is a Lecturer in Critical Theory and the Study of Religions at SOAS, University of London. Her research interests are focused on intellectual history in the study of religions, feminism and secularism and the application of gender, postcolonial and feminist theories to the study of religions.

    Rosemary Hennessy is L.H. Favrot Professor of Humanities, Professor of English, and Director of the Center for the Study of Women, Gender, and Sexuality at Rice University. She is the author of Fires on the Border: The Passionate Politics of Labor Organizing on the Mexican Frontera (2013); Profit and Pleasure: Sexual Identities in Late Capitalism (2000); and Materialist Feminism and the Politics of Discourse (1993); and co-editor of NAFTA from Below: Maquiladora Workers, Campesinos, and Indigenous Communities Speak Out on the Impact of Free Trade in Mexico (2007) and Materialist Feminism: A Reader in Class, Difference, and Women's Lives (1997).

    Susan Himmelweit is Professor of Economics at the Open University. Her research interests include the economics of the household, the economics of caring, feminist economics and the gender implications of economic policy. She is a member and past president of the International Association for Feminist Economics. She is a former chair of the UK Women's Budget Group and now coordinates its Policy Advisory Group.

    Amber Jacobs works on feminist theories and philosophies, film and visual culture, Ancient Greek myth, tragedy and philosophy and post-Lacanian psychoanalytic theories. Her book On Matricide: Myth, Psychoanalysis and the Law of the Mother came out in 2008 with Columbia University Press (New York). She currently teaches in the department of psychosocial studies, Birkbeck, University of London.

    Adam Jones is Professor of Political Science at the University of British Columbia in Kelowna, Canada. He is the author of Genocide: A Comprehensive Introduction (2nd edition, 2010), and author or editor of numerous other books on genocide and crimes against humanity, gender and international relations, and mass media and political transition. His recent works include The Scourge of Genocide: Essays and Reflections (2013), Gender Inclusive: Essays on Violence, Men, and Feminist International Relations (2009), Gendercide and Genocide (editor, 2004) and Men of the Global South: A Reader (editor, 2004). He is executive director of Gendercide Watch (http://www.gendercide.org), a Web-based educational initiative that confronts gender-selective atrocities against men and women worldwide.

    Elisabeth Klatzer has a PhD in Economics from Vienna University of Economics and Business, Austria, and an MPA from Harvard University. She is a feminist political economist working as a researcher, consultant and activist, both on a freelance basis and partly affiliated with the Vienna University of Economics and Business. She currently teaches feminist economics and Gender Responsive Budgeting in Austria and in the frame of the United Nations University Gender Equality Studies Programme at the University of Iceland. She is a founding member of the European Gender Budgeting Network. Her main fields of interest include feminist macroeconomics, public finance and Gender Responsive Budgeting, as well as promoting sustainable democratic, social and feminist alternatives to neoliberal globalization and hegemony.

    Sonia Kruks is the Robert S. Danforth Professor of Politics at Oberlin College, USA. She teaches Political Theory and has served as the Director of the Women's Studies Program. Her research has, for many years, focused on French existential phenomenology and its intersections with feminist theory. Her publications include Situation and Human Existence: Freedom, Subjectivity and Society (Unwin Hyman/Routledge, 1990); Retrieving Experience: Subjectivity and Recognition in Feminist Politics (Cornell University Press, 2001); and Simone de Beauvoir and the Politics of the Ambiguity (Oxford University Press, 2012), as well as many articles on French and feminist theory. She presently serves on the editorial boards of Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy and Sartre Studies International.

    Edith Kuiper is a feminist economist in the Economics Department and the Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program of the State University of New York at New Paltz. She received her PhD from the University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands. She is past president of the International Association for Feminist Economics (IAFFE) and member of the editorial board of Feminist Economics. Her research is in the history and philosophy of economics. She co-edited Out of the Margin. Feminist Perspectives on Economics with Jolande Sap (Routledge, 1995), and Toward a Feminist Philosophy of Economics (2003), Feminist Economics and the World Bank (2006) and Feminist Economics: Critical Concepts (2010) with Drucilla Barker. Her current research is on women's economic writing in eighteenth-century Europe and the US.

    Gayle Letherby researches and writes in a variety of areas, including reproductive and non/ parental identity; working and learning in higher education; crime and deviance; and travel mobilities. She is also interested in all things methodological, particularly the politics of the research process and product. Publications focusing on methodological concerns include Feminist Research in Theory and Practice (Buckingham: Open University, 2003); edited with P. Bywaters, Extending Social Research: application, implementation, presentation (Buckingham: Open University, 2007); and with J. Scott and M. Williams, Objectivity and Subjectivity in Social Research (London: Sage, 2013).

    Sam McBean is Lecturer in Modernist and Contemporary Literature at Queen Mary, University of London. Prior to this post, she held a Visiting Fellowship at the Gender Institute, LSE. Her research is broadly interested in queer and feminist literary, media and cultural theory and questions of temporality. Her first monograph is forthcoming with Routledge, to be included in their Transformations series. She has published on the topics of contemporary women's writing, feminism's futurity, queer temporality, and lesbian intimacy in journals including Feminist Review, Camera Obscura, Feminist Theory, and the Journal of Lesbian Studies. She is currently working on exploring remediation and intimacy in online spaces as well as in contemporary women's writing.

    Astrida Neimanis is a Researcher with the Posthumanities Hub (Gender/Environment) at Linköping University, Sweden. Her work takes up the intersections of embodiment, ecology and posthumanism from a feminist perspective, with a particular focus on water and climate change. Recent publications have appeared in Feminist Review, NORA, Hypatia, Janus Head, philoSOPHIA, and various edited collections. She is also co-editor of the cultural theory anthology Thinking with Water (2013). Her practice includes critical and creative collaborations with artists, poets, and designers, most recently with bio-artists and eco-artists around questions of anthropogenic change in sub-arctic and Baltic Sea ecologies.

    Hatty Oliver is a Lecturer in Cultural and Historical Studies at London College of Fashion. She completed her PhD, ‘News and Shoes: Consumption, femininity and journalistic professional identity’, in the Media and Communications department at Goldsmiths College in February 2011. Her thesis explored the production of contemporary lifestyle journalism and contributed to debates on gendered journalistic cultures, the imbrication of journalism, advertising and public relations, the nature and definition of the journalistic profession and the relationship between femininity and consumption. She is currently working on publishing elements of her PhD research.

    Swati Parashar is a Lecturer in Politics and International Relations at the School of Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts, Monash University in Australia. She has previously worked at the University of Wollongong in Australia and at the University of Limerick in Ireland. Her research publications and teaching focus on terrorism and counter-terrorism; critical security and war studies; feminist international relations; women militants and combatants; and conflict, security and development in South Asia. She is the author of Women and Militant Wars: The Politics of Injury (2014), London: Routledge.

    Jane Parpart is Visiting Professor in the Department of Conflict Resolution, Human Security and Global Governance at the University of Massachusetts Boston. She is also professor emeritus at Dalhousie University and visiting professor at Aalborg University, Denmark; London School of Economics, Gender Institute; and Stellenbosch University, Political Science. She has written extensively on gender and development; gender mainstreaming and empowerment; masculinities and conflict; urban life in Southern Africa; and gender, agency and voice in dangerous times. Her recent writings include the edited collection Rethinking the Man Question, with Marysia Zalewski (2008), a special collection on gender, conflict and human security with Rebecca Tiessen and Miriam Grant in the Canadian Journal of African Studies (2010), and a re-evaluation of gender and security in Africa in S. Cornelissen, F. Cheru and T. M. Shasw, Africa and International Relations in the 21st Century (2011).

    Kevin Partridge is a PhD student at Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario whose current research is focused on ideas and practices of masculinities among gender activists in Canada. Part of this research involves investigations of masculinities as embodied by men, women and other genders within presumably masculine institutions such as the military. His previous research includes an MA thesis (Simon Fraser University) based on life-history interviews with women involved in the punk rock scene in Vancouver, BC, an (auto)ethnography of members of a car club in that province, and research on police misconduct within the department of criminology and police studies at SFU.

    Diane Perrons is Professor of Economic Geography and Gender Studies at the London School of Economics and the Director of the LSE Gender Institute. She is a member of IAFFE and the UK's Women's Budget Group, author of Globalization and Social Change: People and Places in a Divided World (Routledge, 2004) and co-author of Gender, Migration and Domestic Work: Masculinities, Male Labour and Fathering in the UK and USA (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013) with Majela Kilkey and Ania Plomien and with a contribution from Pierrette Hondagneu-Sotelo and Hernan Ramirez.

    Elspeth Probyn (Fellow of the Australian Academy of Humanities and Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia) is Professor of Gender and Cultural Studies at the University of Sydney. She has taught media and cultural studies and sociology at universities in Canada and the USA, and has held several prestigious visiting appointments. She is the author of several groundbreaking monographs and over a hundred articles and chapters. Her current research focuses on the role of place and community within the transglobal food system, and is particularly focused on the sustainability of the production and consumption of fish, the results of which will be published in a new book, Oceanic Entanglements (Duke University Press, forthcoming).

    Jyoti Puri is Professor of Sociology at Simmons College, Boston. She writes and teaches in the areas of sexualities, states, nationalisms and transnational and post-colonial feminisms. She has written Woman, Body, Desire in Post-colonial India (Routledge, 1999) and Encountering Nationalism (Blackwell Publishers, 2004), And has had numerous related articles and chapters published in journals and edited volumes on sexuality and gender. She has also co-edited a special issue on gender, sexuality, state and nation for Gender and Society (April 2005) and another one on sexuality and the state for Rethinking Marxism (October 2012). Her current book, Sexual States: Governance and the Anti-Sodomy Law in India's Present, is under contract with Duke University. She is a co-editor of the journal Foucault Studies.

    Anna Reading is Professor of Cultural and Creative Industries at Kings College, London. She is the author of Polish Women, Solidarity and Feminism (Macmillan, 1992) and The Social Inheritance of the Holocaust: Gender, Culture and Memory (Palgrave, 2002); researched Communism, Capitalism and the Mass Media (Sage, 1998) with Colin Sparks; and is a joint editor of The Media in Britain (Macmillan, 1999) and Save As… Digital Memory (Palgrave, 2009) with Andrew Hoskins and Joanne Garde-Hansen. She is a joint editor of the journal Media, Culture and Society and on the board of Memory Studies. She contributed to national UK debates on gender and the media between 2002–2010 as a Partner to The Women's National Commission (UK Cabinet Office). She is also a playwright whose feminist plays re-centring women's stories are commissioned and performed in the UK and abroad. She is currently writing a book on gender, memory and digital cultures, and co-editing a book on cultural memories of feminism and nonviolent struggle.

    Corina Rodríguez Enríquez is a Researcher at the Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (Conicet) [National Council of Scientific and Technical Research] and at the Centro Interdisciplinario para el Estudio de Políticas Públicas (Ciepp) [Interdisciplinary Centre for the Study of Public Policy] in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She is the member of Gem-Lac (Grupo de Género y Macroeconomía de América Latina/Latin American Gender and Macroeconomic Group) and a board member of the International Association for Feminist Economics (IAFFE).

    Christa Schlager studied economics at Vienna University of Economics and Business and at the Copenhagen Business School. Since 1999 she has been an economist at the Vienna Chamber of Labour, Department of Economics and Statistics. Her main fields of interest include European Union budgets, fiscal policies, distributional policies and feminist economics. She is a member of the Austrian Government Debt Committee and of the editorial board of the socioeconomic Journal Kurswechsel.

    Wendy Sigle-Rushton has a PhD in Economics from Brown University. She is a Professor in Gender and Family Studies and an Associate at the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion (CASE) at the London School of Economics, where she teaches a range of courses that examine population and social policy concerns and convenes an MSc programme in Gender, Policy and Inequalities. She has published extensively on the relationship between family structure and the well-being of children and adults. Ongoing work considers the interaction of family structure and ethnic status in the production of child health outcomes in the US and the UK. She is also interested in issues surrounding men's unpaid work and care. Recent publications include an examination of the relationship between fathers' unpaid work and divorce in the United Kingdom and an assessment of the gendered and classed incentive effects of (apparently) path-deviant innovations in Swedish family policy.

    Laura Sjoberg is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Florida with an affiliation in women's and gender studies. She holds a BA from the University of Chicago, a PhD from the University of Southern California School of International Relations and a JD from Boston College Law School. Her research on gender and international security has been published in more than two dozen journals in political science and gender studies, including, most recently, Feminist Review and International Studies Review. Her most recent book, Gendering Global Conflict: Towards a Feminist Theory of War (Columbia University Press, 2013) asks feminist questions about International Relations' analyses of war and conflict.

    Emma Spruce is a PhD candidate at the Gender Institute in the London School of Economics. Her doctoral research uses theoretical and empirical work to critically explore progress narratives, arguing that they are crucial to our understanding of localized and internationalized discussions of gay identity and gay rights. Her broader research interests focus on the geopolitics of sexuality, gentrification and urban politics, feminist ethnography, and queer temporalities. Coming from a background in political science and French, and having worked as a graduate teaching assistant in the LSE Sociology Department, Emma brings an interdisciplinary perspective to the forefront in her work. She has contributed book reviews to Feminist Review and to LSE Review of Books, and blogs for Engenderings.

    Maria Stern is Professor in Peace and Development Research at the School of Global Studies and a board member of the Gothenburg Centre of Globalization and Development (GCGD), University of Gothenburg, Sweden. Her research interests are in security studies, the security-development nexus, politics of identity and feminist theory. She is the co-author of Sexual Violence as a Weapon of War? Perceptions, Prescriptions, Problems in the Congo and Beyond (Zed Books, 2013), co-editor FeministMethodologies for International Relations (Cambridge University Press, 2006) and the author of Naming Security – Constructing Identity (Manchester University Press, 2005). Additionally, her articles have appeared in numerous international peer-reviewed journals.

    Vron Ware is Professor of Sociology and Gender Studies at Kingston University. She has been writing about the politics of race and gender for over three decades. Her books include Beyond the Pale: white women, racism and history (Verso, 1992), Out of Whiteness: color, politics and culture with Les Back (University of Chicago Press, 2002) and, most recently, Military Migrants: Fighting for YOUR country (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012).

    Imelda Whelehan is Professor of English and Gender Studies at the University of Tasmania, Australia. Her research focuses on feminist thought, popular fiction and film, and adaptation studies. Recent books include Screen Adaptation (with D. Cartmell, Palgrave Macmillan 2010), The Cambridge Companion to Literature on Screen (ed. with D. Cartmell, Cambridge University Press, 2007) and The Feminist Bestseller (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005). She is also co-editor of the journal Adaptation (OUP) and Associate Editor for Contemporary Women's Writing (OUP). She is currently writing on bras, ageing and postfeminism.

    Michelle M. Wright teaches courses on blackness and black identity in the US, Europe and the African Diaspora. She is the author of Becoming Black: Creating Identity in the African Diaspora (Duke University Press, 2004) and is currently working on The Physics of Blackness: Rethinking the African Diaspora in the Postwar Era. She is the author of a number of articles and essays, as well as co-editor, with Faith Wilding and Maria Fernandez, of Domain Errors! A Cyberfeminist Handbook (Autonomedia Press, 2003) and, with Tina M. Campt, of Reading the Black German Experience: A Special Issue of Callaloo (Johns Hopkins Press, 2003) as well as Blackness and Sexualities, edited with Antje Schuhmann (Lit Verlag Berlin, 2006). She is currently an Associate Professor of African American Studies at Northwestern University.

    Introduction

    MaryEvans

    This Handbook attests to the richness, across continents and academic disciplines, of feminist theory in the second decade of the twenty-first century. The five individual sections of this Handbook have been edited by Clare Hemmings, Marsha Henry, Sumi Madhok, Ania Plomien and Sadie Wearing, all colleagues, together with Hazel Johnstone, the editorial manager of the collection, at the Gender Institute of the London School of Economics. The various sections contain essays on diverse subjects from writers across the globe. These essays are brought together by the conviction that feminist theory offers important and radical possibilities for the understanding of many of the major intellectual and social issues of the twenty-first century. Thus a central characteristic of this Handbook is that the authors whose work is presented here all recognize that the concerns of feminist theory reach across subjects, issues and locations. Feminist theory does not exist within narrow perimeters of concern and engagement; the impact of feminist theory has become evident both within and outside the academy. The concerns of feminist theory and its subject matter of gender relations are now an explicit, and pivotal, aspect of the world of the twenty-first century.

    But that statement should not be taken to imply that the authors whose work makes up the Handbook see the present state of feminist theory in terms of those problematic terms of ‘growth’ and ‘development’. Both these words carry with them implicit assumptions of movement away from some form of infant state towards a desired situation of maturity and adulthood. It would be foolish to deny that there are more people engaged with feminist theory, both within and outside the academy, in the twenty-first century than in the twentieth, but from this we should not assume that feminist theory fits neatly into a chronological intellectual history or that forms of technological and institutional change have rendered certain questions redundant. Hence it is important to establish here that the history of feminist theory is not that of a linear progress from absence to presence and that if we cling to a chronological model of feminist theory we are in danger of situating it within an account of social change that accords too easily with concepts of the ‘modern’ and ‘progress’. In linking the history of feminist theory with these terms, feminist theory is too easily assumed to be a part of those political and ideological aspects of the twenty-first century that in many ways refuse some of the more difficult questions about gender and its social forms. If we argue, for example, that feminist theory is an aspect of the ‘emancipation’ of women in the global north we marginalize or exclude those aspects of women's agency that exist elsewhere today or have existed in the past. Feminist theory, that general concern with the order of gender relations, invites us to re-think not just the present but also the past; it is at its best when it is not collusive with a particular model of social development or social relations.1

    Thus readers of this Handbook should not expect to find within these pages accounts of feminist theory that invoke an intellectual progress narrative from a point in the historical past to a point in the historical present. All academic work builds on existing paradigms but this should not be taken to assume that the issues and the questions that form the core of any subject matter necessarily change or disappear because the theoretical interventions on those subjects become more sophisticated or part of both academic and more general discussion. Questions of the gender of power, for example, remain as central today as they did in any previous century and the fact of an accumulated literature on this, or any other subject, does not in itself demonstrate the disappearance of a relation of subjection or inequality. A significant body of feminist theory (as the section edited by Ania Plomien makes clear) is engaged with questions of material reality and this case demonstrates to us that we should not confuse changes in the everyday circumstances of our lives with changes in the underlying structure of human relationships. ‘Change’, in the sense of both material and technological development as well as the re-ordering of social relations consequent upon changing cultures and politics, does not inevitably bring with it changes in the social relations of power, privilege and authority.

    Despite this proviso the Handbook is also a testament to the liberating intellectual challenges and possibilities of feminist theory, as important now as at any point in the past. Those possibilities take three major forms: of engagement with the various forms of politics of the worlds in which we live, the fusion of academic disciplines and the many possibilities of cross-disciplinary research and – a way in which feminist theory is often particularly liberating – the sense of personal involvement and recognition that working within, and with, feminist theory allows.2 All these possibilities cross time and continents: they allow people from diverse personal and social circumstances to work together and feminist theory has, again for longer than is often recognized, created a sense of theoretical community between those with similar commitments and interests. The well-attended conferences organized around feminist theory in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries are part of a tradition of the making of feminist theory that has its roots in the various meetings of women, across national and racial boundaries, that have met and discussed questions both of specific interest to women and to men and women on subjects such as slavery and disarmament.3 As in all cases where individuals have come together to discuss a particular subject there are implicit, as well as explicit, theories that underlie the meetings: ‘theory’ is not just a subject for academic debate but also takes the form of that complex mix of the empirically known and the taken-for-granted assumption that makes up the way in which individuals interpret the world.

    But over and above these important considerations is the role of feminist theory as a challenge to much of what has existed as knowledge which is supported by the implicit and unspoken authority of men, a form of authority that has existed across time and place. In all societies there is what is described as either a normative order or dominant knowledge, ontologies which carry with them the expectation of social obedience and compliance. Dissent from these assumptions can carry penalties from mortal danger to various forms of more, or less, significant exclusion. Yet what complicates this account, as far as this volume is concerned, is that there is no straightforward alliance between gender and authoritative knowledge: men have dissented against the views of other men, women have maintained, upheld and sanctioned dominant views.4 So, again, we cannot write a history of feminism that overlooks the ways in which ‘gendered knowledge’ has not always taken the form of knowledge that is written by men and for male interests and excludes women and the recognition of the feminine. At the same time, and certainly in the context of western traditions of intellectual life, it is essential to recognize the longstanding identification of the human with the biologically male (and usually white and privileged) human, not least because what has been derived from this are feminist traditions that have been formed through the assertion of the radical relevance of gender difference.

    We need, therefore, to both assign ‘feminist theory’ to a long and complex life and to consider the way in which what we now recognize as ‘theory’ is part of a tradition and carries with it many of the complexities and the contradictions of the past. In this Handbook many of the essays are written by individuals who are employed within the academy, a place of work that has presented (certainly in the countries of the global north) various obstacles and refusals to the presence of women, as either those studied or those studying. Many of these aspects of the rejection of various forms of the feminine have now disappeared but what has been left are a number of ways in which what is identified (by others and by itself) as ‘feminist’ theory attracts critiques of, crucially, marginality and partiality. Despite the theoretical pluralism that is a consequence and characteristic of post-modernism there remains a sense in which, however much ‘grand narratives’ are supposed to have become redundant, the conventional narratives of the western meta-theoretical still have a central symbolic as well as a practical importance and authority.

    This issue, of the authority and the meaning of theory, is one that raises two questions which transcend all aspects of feminist theory: the meaning and the status of the term ‘theory’ and the disciplinary origins of feminist theory. To take the second question first, we should note that from the time of the western Enlightenment the discipline outside the natural sciences which has had the greatest status within universities and public intellectual life has been that of philosophy (a discipline that, we should also note, has aspects of its intellectual heritage in theology, and hence with questions of absolute knowledge). The disciplinary authority of philosophy is important because two of the most influential writers on questions of gender in the twentieth century, Simone de Beauvoir and Judith Butler, have been students and subsequently teachers of that discipline. This is not to say that very powerful interventions by feminists have not been made from and within other disciplines and other forms of social engagement (for example, in fiction and in political organizing) but within the academy both Beauvoir and Butler have inspired work outside the confines of philosophy. This has had interesting and important consequences for the ways in which feminist ‘theory’ is conceived and these various manifestations of the ‘theoretical’ are all evident here. This takes us to the first question raised above, that of the definition of ‘theory’ itself, with the accompanying issues of the tensions between what is defined as theory and what is defined as the ‘empirical’ or the ‘material’ and the ways in which it is possible (if at all) to define the distinctive features of feminist theory.

    To take the first of these questions: the definition, and the implications of that definition, of the term ‘theory’, a word so confidently part of the title of this volume. Dictionary definitions aside, the word usually carries with it the expectation that what a theory can do is to explain, to account for, an aspect of the social or the physical world. ‘Theories’ about the relationship of the earth to the sun, the form of matter and energy or, in another context, the making and the components of the human psyche all figure large in most accounts of the history of the global north. To live in a world without theory is often taken to imply that people live in worlds in which the very possibility of explanation has not been encountered, let alone pursued in that classic form of scientific experiment: thesis, exploration and demonstration, and then conclusion. But this very method, generally referred to as ‘scientific’, has raised considerable concerns and controversies. The question of ‘how do we know’ is recognized as important and yet certain disciplines (and philosophy is a particularly good example here) know in ways and with different forms of certainty that is sometimes not the case within other disciplines. When Beauvoir wrote that ‘One is not born, but rather becomes, woman’ she made an assertion, a form of comment about the world, that could be regarded with scepticism. Beauvoir went on to support her argument with material from both the ‘real’ and the imagined worlds. In both cases the evidence that she produced is immediately questionable: individual works of literature are produced by authors from specific circumstances and with little allowance that other authors might suggest very different ideas, and her references to the ‘real’ world were drawn from her own experiences of a limited social context and without any qualifying recognition of those limitations. In all, what might be said of Beauvoir's much repeated remark is that it is an assertion supported by some very partial and limited evidence. Nevertheless, the central argument of The Second Sex(that, in western cultures, women constitute ‘the other’) has come to be accepted as ‘theory’ and as a starting point for subsequent theoretical explorations. As Sonia Kruks writes in an Introduction to an essay by Beauvoir entitled Right Wing Thought Today:

    she (Beauvoir) is highly attuned … to the Eurocentric and masculinist tones of Western elite thought, describing it as a thought that ‘monopolizes the supreme category – the human’ for itself. (Kruks, 2012: 10)5

    That comment by Beauvoir – that Western elite thought conflates the human with the masculine – is crucial to both the history and the present of feminist theory. Moreover, unlike the assertion about how women ‘become’ there is, as a glance at any literature of any subject of the past 200 years would suggest, no shortage of corroborative evidence. In the history of feminist theory it has been the starting place for feminist interventions: the starting point that asks the question about the authority of judgements made without the recognition of gender difference. Just as important is the identification of the male with the human today: in the work of Judith Butler we can perceive the way in which the ‘trouble with gender’ became the starting point for Butler's determination to refuse the resolution of the question by Beauvoir (identification with the male) by constructing an account of gender that disallowed the presence of gender as anything other than a learned (and repeated) performative practice. Indeed, Butler's account of gender renders it as a fiction in which achieved gender status is a fiction rather than an absolute state supported by fiction, which is the case in the work of Beauvoir.

    It is thus that Judith Butler, again a philosopher by education and professional affiliation and again a writer whose work moves (as many of her critics have pointed out) rapidly from theoretical assertion to engagements with the ‘real’ world that various writers have found problematic, suggests a way through the various confines that binary accounts of gender implicitly offer. The punctuation that explicitly challenges straightforward assumptions of the way in which we read ‘the real’ is to indicate an essential part of Butler's argument: that the real world is no more or less than our capacity to re-affirm or to destabilize it. The many arguments around Butler's work (arguments which engage with the trajectory of her work from Gender Trouble to more recent work on state violence) have been the subject of various volumes but here what is important is to note, as this volume will demonstrate, the range of Butler's influence. At the same time, both Butler and Beauvoir raise questions for feminist theory that are less about the explanatory authority and vitality of their work and more about the issues presented to feminist theory by writers whose very discipline poses problems about the relationship of theory to practice. Those problems are explicit in the work of both writers: the Simone de Beauvoir who wrote The Second Sex would not, at the time of the book's publication in 1949, have regarded herself as a feminist, in the same way Butler resists the term ‘feminist’ when associated only with women because of the essentialist connotations of the term. This would seem to present feminist theory, in the case of both Beauvoir and Judith Butler, with a theoretical tradition in which two of its most influential writers have complex relationships with that tradition.

    At this point it is worth turning to two other great theoretical traditions of the western post-Enlightenment world: Marxism and psychoanalysis. Each tradition is associated with those often abused figures of ‘founding fathers’, and both have long traditions of considerable social engagement and diverse contributors. But what is interesting about these traditions – psychoanalysis scorned by Beauvoir, Marxism largely irrelevant to Butler – is that they are formed around and through intense engagement with the study of the real, material world, be it the means of production in the case of Marx or individual human beings in the case of Freud. Both men too, in common with Butler and Beauvoir, never assumed the human condition to be ‘natural’; the contingent is too powerful a part of social existence for there ever to be a fixed or final state of being human. Yet what is distinct in the work of Marx and Freud is that in the making of the human both detected patterns in which the individual and the social combined to form connections that were predictable and beyond individual control. The child and the resolution of the Oedipal drama and the person born with only labour to provide for herself or himself constitute the (almost) general condition of human beings; circumstances in which agency may well come to exist but is not absolute or inevitable. Marx, despite the origins of his work in Hegelian idealism (and that particular presence in what has become known as the ‘young’ Marx), subsequently came to locate the dialectical implications of his account of political economy within precise historical conditions. What remained constant in his work (and in that of Freud) was the recognition of that dialectic between human beings and their circumstances, in which both parties change and are changed through their relationship.

    This is arguably not the case for Beauvoir nor, indeed, for Butler. In The Second Sex biologically female people may well ‘become’ women but that becoming is a process in which the female is the made person, never the subject who makes. Indeed, for Beauvoir, it would seem that the only way in which women can acquire agency is through the reproduction of the male, in terms of both social presence and abstract understanding. This binary is not, however, one of a dialectical relationship: there is no mutual change, only a making of ‘woman’ in terms from which the only escape is that of the masculine. From this, it is possible to surmise that what is arguably the case about Beauvoir's resolution of the apparent theoretical powerlessness of women, a lack of power which arises from the ways in which literal women are seen as passive occupiers of their given social (and epistemological) space, might also be said about feminist theory: that in its identity with the feminine and the female arise questions about the extent to which the epistemological status of feminist theory is that of amendment or addition to theory per se. This issue underlies many of the questions raised in the section in the Handbook edited by Sumi Madhok and myself on Epistemology and Marginality, in which the link between knowledge and marginal status and identity is explored.

    In the history of western feminism there are numerous examples of campaigns by women (both with and without the support of men) for access to those institutions from which we have been excluded. At the same time there have also been notable interventions by women about re-thinking the very nature of public life, be it intellectual, institutional or political. All these interventions have been generated by the assumption that the various privileges of the world, not the least of which is power over both the self and others, have been more generally owned and assumed by men. This has placed individuals who wish to challenge and change the gendered distribution of power in the situation of both needing to demonstrate forms of inequality and at the same time account for the differential. The ‘natural’ as a form of social explanation has largely lost some of its legitimacy in the west, even if neo-liberalism has achieved (and particularly since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991) the feat of establishing the authority of the assumption that the market economy is the ‘natural’ form of political economy. Yet if relations between human beings other than the economic are in no sense ‘natural’, feminism has to account for various social differences both between women and men as well as for the meaning of those categories of the masculine and masculinity and the feminine and femininity. It is ‘theory’, in the most general rather than feminist sense, that has allowed us to consider the ways in which biologically male and female people are ‘made’.

    But of the theories that most forcefully question the ways in which the human condition is made and reproduced it is Marxism and psychoanalysis that have best retained their relevance through decades of shifts in intellectual paradigms. Marx and Freud were products of nineteenth-century western modernity, their work hugely informed by, and located within, the history of the west and its longstanding cultural traditions. Freud is nothing without Ancient Greek mythology, Marx depends upon an account of history stretching back to the most technologically simple societies for his vision of the ways in which political economies evolve. Both men have been widely criticized by feminists: Freud for his views on psycho-sexual development, Marx for what is read as his refusal to consider gender inequality in his account of social inequality.6 Yet from the same context – that of feminist theory – there have come important defences and use of the work of both Marx and Freud; many feminist accounts of works of the imagination, as the section edited by Sadie Wearing on Literary, Visual and Cultural Representation makes apparent, owe a considerable debt to Freud. That Freudian presence is equally evident in the section on Sexuality edited by Clare Hemmings; it is not, in either case, that the various authors are ‘reading’ works of literature or aspects of sexual behaviour through a particular authorial authority but rather through the further exposition of the possibilities of the method, and the intrinsic connections, that Freud explored. Throughout much of the twentieth century both Freud and Marx were interpreted, often with very considerable hostility, as definitive and certain in their conclusions. One of the few (in the view of this writer) positive features of what is described as post-modernism is that it has given a greater status within intellectual life to the ambiguous and the imprecise: in this way the work of both Freud and Marx has regained that element of the speculative that can be detected through a lens which is not distorted by over-determined conclusions about the narratives and circumstances of history.

    That space for speculation and ambiguity, a characteristic of the imaginative work of modernism that took some considerable time to manifest itself within formal academic disciplines, was significantly assisted by women and by those men who were not afraid to consider openly the extent of the range and complexity of human emotions and relations. In this context, a context formed by the work of writers such as Virginia Woolf, psychoanalysts such as Anna Freud and Melanie Klein, political figures such as Rosa Luxembourg and artists such as Kathy Kollwitz, the feminine as a collective status was given agency and presence. In the work of the German artist Kathy Kollwitz we see the way in which a perception of the world, inspired by that sense of being an ‘outsider’ that was derived from being a woman in a world dominated by men, brought together both resistance and rejection of aspects of that world together with an assertion of those connections – between violence and sexuality – that inform the section edited by Marsha Henry on War, Violence and Militarization. Those forms of violence, as Kollwitz attempted to bring together in her drawings and etchings, were various, from the murder of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht to the ‘everyday’ violence of poverty.7

    In an early edition of Feminist Review an article appeared with the title ‘Wiping the Floor with Theory’ (Kaluzynska, 1980: 27-54). The essay was a contribution to debates in feminism in the last decades of the twentieth century about questions of feminist politics and feminist theory, many women arguing that the over-theorization of feminism and feminist issues would make feminism a province of the well-educated and privileged. The now considerable presence of feminist scholars in universities throughout much of the world would suggest (while also acknowledging that employment in the academy is a privileged form of work) that some of this prediction has come true. But two arguments also intrude, both of which disturb comfortable assumptions about the meaning of feminism and accusations that suggest its ‘betrayal’. The first is that feminism and feminists were never entirely explicitly hostile to the economic order of industrial capitalism; indeed, for many feminists the crucial engagements were with culture; what Michele Barrett described as the ‘cultural turn’ in sociology was indicative of the way in which there was a considerable consensus in the late twentieth century that what was somewhat euphemistically known as the ‘mixed’ economy was the inevitable form of political economy (Barrett, 1992: 201-19). What disappeared (or became less publicly present) at this time was that tradition in feminism that had linked structural inequality with gender equality. In an unsigned editorial published in 1982 various writers in Feminist Review reflected, with regret, on the erosion of the relationship between feminism and socialism. In a sentence that is as relevant today as it was then they wrote:

    The continuing development of multi-national firms answerable to no government is leading to the pauperisation of vast sectors of the globe.8

    What this comment demonstrates particularly clearly – as well as the ability of writers in Feminist Review to define central and ongoing trajectories of social life – is that feminism has never been afraid to engage with issues apart from those of gender difference. The point is crucial for our understanding of feminist theory: it is a theoretical position which casts its remit across diverse contexts of analysis. The analysis may ‘read’ aspects of the social world through the lens of gender but the focus is varied and wide-ranging.

    But, to many people (certainly in the global north), the new battleground around gender was that of cultural change, of the ‘empowerment’ of women and the more active integration into the model of actively independent economic individual. Rafts of legislation about gender equality reinforced a sense of progress about the relevance of that model for changes in gender relations. In this, feminists could rightly claim considerable credit for organizing and mobilizing to ensure that these changes took place. However, from this emerged three assumptions, all of them questionable and questioned. First, that the site of feminist intervention should be concentrated rather more in the global south, a view which has attracted considerable criticism and fury from feminists across the planet who see in this a new form of cultural imperialism.9 A second assumption was closely aligned to this: the view that feminism in the global north had become redundant; in the face of the brave new world of ‘modern’, ‘emancipated’ women there was no need for further intervention. The third was that feminism, and its principles, had become so structurally engrained in the institutions and institutional practices of the global north that institutions and institutional practice now enshrined feminist principles (Walby, 2011: chs 4 and 5). All these issues have attracted considerable debate. But what remains is the question of the extent to which there are aspects of feminism and feminist theory that are entirely compatible with neo-liberalism (Fraser, 2009: 97-117). Among those points of coincidence are the theoretical validation of the individual and an agenda that legitimates choice. Individual choice is the key ideological and rhetorical formulation for the status of the individual in a neo-liberal market economy just as much as ideas about ‘choice’ have always been, from the Enlightenment onwards, a central part of the vocabulary of feminism.

    From this it is possible to visualize feminism, and feminist theory, as part of the flowering of ‘mature’ capitalism, a form of political economy that can allow at least some flowers to bloom. Such a picture, which some might read as evidence of the ultimately positive virtue of the market economy, can, however, also be read as both a detraction and an under-estimation of the potential, both achieved and inherent, of feminist theory. To make one immediate point: the heavy weight of conservatism that sits on all societies will always attempt to minimize what radical visions of the politics of the Left have achieved. The other – but in this case similar – side of this coin is the intense anxiety created about various kinds of possibilities of change in various forms of the gender order: if a government in Saudi Arabia can countenance the idea that women driving cars will undermine an entire social world or if, in the case of some groups in the United States, the view that civil marriages for people of the same biological sex will destroy the very fabric of society can be entertained, it is possible to see how considerable are concerns around the organization of gender.

    It is in the light of these – and other – cases where a ‘natural’ order of gender is asserted and legitimated through various forms of quasi-rational argument that the need for feminist theory is particularly apparent. But it is also in cases such as these that the theoretical acquires its most valuable identity: where it is not an exercise in semantics or an intervention in obscure debate but an exercise that unites passionate and informed rationality with the wish to reach goals other than those which are of immediate value to a particular individual. In this sense, feminist theory (despite attempts to extend the signification of the term ‘feminist’ to contexts of rampant self-enrichment) has at its core a concern with both the identification and the transformation of those ideas which regulate and enforce gender equality. This locates feminist theory as a truly transcendent form of knowledge: one that speaks of individual cases (be they the subjects of development policies or Hollywood films) but does so in the dialectical terms of practice and reflection that unite people, circumstances and understanding.

    Notes

    1 See the discussion in Hemmings, 2011 and Madhok et al., 2013.

    2 There are various accounts of the ways in which feminism has become an integral part of individual biographies. See, for example, Segal, 2007; Wilson, 1979 and Rowbotham, 1989.

    3 See, for example, Midgley, 1992; 2007 and Alonso, 1993; and on more recent protests see Roseneil, 1995; 2000.

    4 An important account of the various alliances of gender and race is given in Feimster, 2009.

    5 In that same volume Beauvoir makes a particularly interesting comment about the cultural politics of the west. She writes: ‘The only reality that the bourgeois writer seeks to take into account is the inner life’ (Simons and Timmerman, 2012: 175).

    6 The attacks – and defences – of Marx and Freud by feminists are legion and there is no single account which adequately represents them. However, important attempts to make the case for the relevance of Freud were Juliet Mitchell's Psychoanalysis and Feminism (1974) and the essays by Jacqueline Rose collected in Sexuality in the Field of Vision (1986). Many of the articles published in Feminist Review between 1980 and 1990 discussed the question of the relationship between socialism and feminism and important essays were published by (among others) Mary McIntosh, Angela Weir, Anne Phillips and Michelle Barrett. In an editorial of 1982 the editors wrote (of contemporary politics) ‘What can happen to women if our interests are not clearly and explicitly defended in the course of revolutionary struggle?’, a rhetorical question which retains its importance to this day.

    7 Writing of her 1920 drawing, The Sick Woman and her Children, Kollwitz wrote ‘Malnutrition has made this woman very sick. She could be cured with proper care. The food to save her life is available in this country, but she cannot afford the exorbitant prices asked for it. What will become of her children? Every day profiteers are sapping the strength of countless people and preparing them for a premature grave’ (Kearns, 1976: 163).

    8 Anon., 1982.

    9 Two of the many important – and now canonical – contributions here are Mohanty, 2003:17-42 and Spivak, 1999.

    References
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