The child as a feminist figuration : toward a politics of privilege.

Castaneda, Claudia (2001) The child as a feminist figuration : toward a politics of privilege. Feminist Theory, 2 (1). pp. 29-53. ISSN 1741-2773

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Who or what counts as a feminist subject? This article considers the place of the child, in particular, within the framework of feminist theories of the subject. Locating these theories in a framework of 'oppositional' theory, the article asks how and when the child appears in this field of theory. Although children's oppression and representations of the child in culture have been continuously addressed in contemporary feminism at least since the 1970s, it is simultaneously the case that the child appears in feminism as well as other theories of the subject as the other to the presumed adult subject, even - and sometimes especially - when that subject is being retheorized in oppositional terms, that is, against a hegemonic order of things. The article focuses on instances of the child's appearance as a resource in feminist theories of the subject, and particularly in feminist uses of psychoanalysis. After considering male poststructuralist or postmodern uses of the child, this article contrasts their generic use of the child with feminist uses of psychoanalysis in the work of Valerie Walkerdine, Judith Butler and Teresa de Lauretis. Psychoanalysis, even in its feminist guises, emerges as a technology of childhood that figures the child as the adult's ontological origin, and as such an origin that the adult theorist can claim to know by way of psychoanalysis itself. Frequently constituted as a not-yet subject, the child stands in for this ontological origin, from which theorists of the subject, both feminist and not, refashion theories of subjective resistance to the very forms of power that make us subjects in the first place. Working both with and against feminist and other appropriations of the child by way of its ontological positioning, this article attempts to offer an alternative theorization of subjects that accounts for the differences between children and adults. While undercutting the claims to knowledge of the child as the site of human ontology, this alternative theorization also makes a claim to the transformative possibilities that have been located in ontology itself. In addressing feminist uses of the child together with theories of the feminist subject, this article speaks not only to questions of the child, but to the possibility of a feminist politics that begins from a position of privilege - that is, one that does not require subordination as a condition of its own possibility.

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Journal Article
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Feminist Theory
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13 Oct 2008 08:40
Last Modified:
19 Sep 2023 00:11