The Case for Working with Feminist New Materialisms against the Dualisms That Divide Us

Proceedings of The 2nd International Conference on Gender Studies and Sexuality

Year: 2022



The Case for Working with Feminist New Materialisms against the Dualisms That Divide Us

Ștefania Chihaia



The present paper provides a theoretical overview \of the conceptual structure of dualisms which lies at the foundation of Western thought, in an attempt to delineate the fundamental contribution that feminist new materialisms bring to sociological theory, research, and practice. In doing so, I will draw on the influential works of ecofeminist Val Plumwood, science studies scholar and feminist Donna Haraway, and feminist theorist Karen Barad within the material turn. The exploration begins with an analysis of the Cartesian subject-object dichotomy rejected by posthumanists and new materialists, dichotomy which spawns many others, and continues with a mapping of the ‘crisis of reason’ that Western thought is confronting. The materialising effects of this crisis include the domination, oppression, and exploitation of bodies human and nonhuman, justified and rationalised through the uneven valorization of mind/spirit/masculine/culture over matter/body/feminine/nature. I then provide a brief outline of the material turn’s proposal for situated, embodied knowledges, which entails a consistent nondualist philosophy, and its urgent relevance in the contemporary global context. A parallel is drawn with the phenomenology of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, whose insights complement the epistemological work of feminist new materialisms and their call for situated, embodied knowledges, thus providing a fertile ground for exploration in the areas of “exclusion” between the disciplines of sociology and philosophy. The aim of this paper is to offer new avenues for critical interdisciplinary thinking meant to re-assess and reconfigure the underlying assumptions of the Western system of thought.

keywords: crisis of reason, critical materialism, ecofeminism, material turn, situated knowledges.