Monday 12th May, 2014
Is Feminism a Bad Memory or a Virtual Future?
What is the nature of feminist memory in contesting the impoverished memory being produced for feminism, within and without the ‘feminist’ communities? Why are certain stories, tropes, and habits in representation of feminism of the later twentieth century so tenacious despite critical resistance and despite the hard evidence that things were not like that? Has feminism become, or produced for itself, a ‘bad memory’? How much is this the problem of the institutionalization of any radical ‘event’ and the structural issues of transmission? If the temporality of our current situation is the contemporary, how is this impacting on the capacity to imagine feminism as more than a historical event receding into the past, losing its relevance before ever new challenges? How can the different moments of its emergence, elaboration, retreat and reinvention over many centuries and in different sites worldwide engender different ways of understanding the point at which we find ourselves now in the becoming of feminism?
My paper will explore the potential of the feminist philosophical discourse on virtuality and hence of open futures in relation of another posture of political fidelity to the core project of thinking difference. How might we move beyond the ‘bad’ memory and enliven a sense of feminist continuities that are neither nostalgic nor disappointed, metaphorized neither by generation nor waves? Can we think the times of feminism and its commitment to the as yet unimagined beyond the limitations of such metaphors and outside the compulsive search for new fashions typical of liquid modernity? To what extent can the resources of feminist cultural thinking in and through art up to this point cease to be the historical archive deadened by our limited stories and become the resource for feminism’s lively virtuality and enabling relevance to the challenges of the unstable present?
GRISELDA POLLOCK is Professor of Social and Critical Histories of Art and Director of the Centre for Cultural Analysis, Theory and History (CENTRECATH) at the University of Leeds. Committed to developing an international, postcolonial, queer feminist analysis of the visual arts and cultures, she is currently researching issues of trauma and the aesthetic, Aby Warburg's legacies, and concentrationary memory. Her most recent publications include After-affects I After-images: Trauma and Aesthetic Transformation (Manchester, 2013); Bracha Ettinger: Art as Compassion (with Catherine de Zegher, ASA 2011); Concentrationary Memories: Totalitarian Terror and Cultural Resistance (with Max Silverman, I B Tauris, 2013); Art in the Time-Space of Memory and Migration (Freud Museum and Wild Pansy Press, 2013) and the edited collection Visual Politics of Psychoanalysis: Art & the Image in Post-traumatic Cultures (I B Tauris, 2013). Her forthcoming books include The Nameless Artist: Charlotte Salomon's Life? or Theatre? as Theatre of Memory (Yale), and From Trauma to Cultural : Representation and the Shoah / Holocaust.
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