Feminist subjects: issues of sexual politics and the problem of subjectivity
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This dissertation sets out to re-describe (hetero)sexuality as a theoretical and political problem for feminism. I pursue this task two ways: by historicising both heterosexuality and feminist sexual politics, and by critically assessing the effects of the conceptions of subjectivity and power that have shaped primary feminist approaches to sexuality. I begin this project by examining a specific feminist attitude of antagonism towards post-structuralist theories, and drawing out its underlying ideal of feminism as a closed and coherent theoretical and political system. I argue that this conception of ‘proper’ feminist theory and politics has significant bearing on how sexuality – especially heterosexuality – can be conceived and dealt with. I also take up alternative feminist responses to post-structuralist theories: engagements which reflect very different notions of feminism generally, of subjectivity and power, and consequently, of (hetero)sexual politics. In the last two chapters, I examine some specific problems of sexuality, including anti-rape politics, and debates over the sexualisation of culture, in order to test the utility of the post-structuralist-influenced approach I have developed. Throughout the dissertation, I avoid a sole focus on corrective, theoretical critique, aiming to also acknowledge the significance of emotional affect, and historical location.
Thesis (PhD Doctorate)
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
School of Humanities
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