Reading feminist theory as a complex imaginative achievement, Feminist Imagination considers feminist commitment through the interrogation of its philosophical, political and affective connections with the past, and especially with the ‘race’ trials of the twentieth century. The book looks at: the ‘directionlessness’ of contemporary feminist thought; the question of essentialism and embodiment; the racial tensions in the work of Simone de Beauvoir; the totalitarian character in Hannah Arendt; the ‘mimetic Jew’ and the concept of mimesis in the work of Judith Butler.

Vikki Bell provides a compelling rethinking of feminist theory as bound up with attempts to understand oppression outside a focus on ‘women’. She affirms feminism as a site and mode of making these connections.

Essentialism and Embodiment: The Politics behind the Paranoia

Essentialism and embodiment: The politics behind the paranoia

Assessing where we are now, it seems to me that feminism stands less in danger of the totalizing tendencies of feminists than of an increasingly paralyzing anxiety over falling (from what grace?) into ethnocentrism or ‘essentialism.’ (The often-present implication that such a fall indicates deeply conservative and racist tendencies, of course, intensifies such anxieties). (Susan Bordo, 1993: 225)

In this chapter I address certain questions that have hovered at the margins of the previous chapters and that turn on the concept of difference in relation to the question of embodiment. Several feminist theorists and philosophers have been engaged of late in discussions about how to adequately theorise the body. From a ...

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