Elizabeth Grosz: The Future of Feminist Theory: Dreams for New Knowledges

This fascinating talk by feminist theorist Elizabeth Grosz was recorded in Duke in 2007 as part of a 2 day feminist theory workshop there that year.  This talk was the keynote, offering a ‘utopian’ future vision and direction for feminist theory.  Her vision is largely Deleuzian, foregrounding events, becoming and the importance of concepts for feminist and social theory.  One aspect in this vision that I particularly liked is the necessity for feminist theory to transcend discourse and representation; to finally engage with the real, ‘which exists before texts and allows texts to refer’.  Perhaps unexpectedly, Grosz, here and elsewhere, aims to reintroduce Darwin as a ‘radical social thinker’.  Her conclusion rests on a number of recommended ‘displacements’ necessary for the future of feminist theory, which are based on the turn from identity politics and the ‘subject’.  She recommends a ‘five-year moratorium on speaking on the ‘self'”, for example’.  Secondly, she suggests a turn from epistemology toward ontology; for a thinking of the real over and against representation.  A thinking of real matter, force and energy etc.  Finally, Grosz recommends not an affirmation of the subject subjectified by culture, but rather an affirmation of the in-human; of animal becoming and microbial becoming, and to think what this means for sexual difference.

My only comment is that Whitehead might also be deployed in this project.  Most of what is said here is decidedly Whiteheadian as much as it is Deleuzian, if not more so. There are also echos of Latour and Stengers, two well known champions of Whitehead, in this new feminist future.  I wonder, in the five years since this talk was recorded, if much progress has been made in this, I think correct, direction?  Or has the lure of anthropomorphism and ‘the subject’ proved too strong?

Accepting what A.R. Ammons called ‘the becoming thought’ is nevertheless where theoretical thinking  appears to be currently at.  It would be interesting to read a Whiteheadian feminist theory in place of the more common Deleuzian one.  Perhaps that will fall to Butler in the future.