Technē and Feminism
Special Issue of Technophany, Edited by Katerina Kolozova and Vera Bühlmann
Scope and Invitation for Contributions:
Feminism has a strong tradition of entrusting its prospects for the emancipation of women to technological innovation and development. Ranging from women’s ‘access to history’ as a means of liberation from ‘biological fate,’ as discussed by Simone de Beauvoir, to Donna Haraway’s ‘cyborg’, which is considered as a figure of emancipation. This stance toward technology has been shared by many, Shulamith Firestone and Sylvia Wynter being two further examples. In the context of the more recent trends in new feminist materialisms and realisms, technology and scientific inquiry have taken on a prominent new role in expanding the epistemic horizon for feminist thought, but without directly and explicitly tackling some of the pressing philosophical and political issues such as reproductive rights or gender subjectivation. On the one hand, the ‘affinity of nature and technology’ has been a recurring theme in this specific feminist engagement with technology (Haraway, Braidotti). On the other hand, identity politics related theories (in particular, within the poststructuralist paradigm) have rarely explored the subject of technology except as an appendage to the discourse on the politics of emancipation. These conceptualizations need to be reviewed, especially if the post-nineties’ celebration of cyber-theory and conceptions of reality as an occasion for self-reinvention and redefinition are taken into account.
How should we respond to the new scopes of power that techno-scientific developments have brought forth, when traditional domains of abstraction are conquered by the application of information theory and quantum mechanics in the cognitive and life sciences? How are we to establish a dialogue between the humanities and the sciences without thereby repeating narratives of evolutionary ‘next steps’ in a progress-historical or naturalised manner?
Furthermore, this issue is interested in problematising the limits of poststructuralist subject-centred approaches with respect to these new scopes of power. Is there not implicated in mastering the ‘the technicalities’ at work in current technology another kind of ‘objectivity’? Can we think of notions of objectivity that are not in a dualist polarity with notions of subjectivity, notions that are more actively, more spectrally and gradually, entangled with one another? How are we to approach the works of feminist scholars like Karen Barad, Donna Haraway, Rosi Braidotti and Katherine Hayles along the proposed line of critique or questioning? Does Cary Wolf’s proposal, that the posthumanism proposed by some of the above authors ends up as a transhumanism even if only inadvertently, remain correct? Furthermore, how are we to think of the ‘rationalism’ brought forward by Xenofeminism with respect to these concerns?
How may it be possible to think of empowerment in a way that does not revolve around an individual’s subject position, one which can be chosen through one’s own free will – the liberal idea of ‘choice’ implied – and which can be declared as such and such by virtue of a presumably fully sovereign selfhood. How are we to acknowledge the limits of the so called ‘subjectively empowering reality’, which sometimes if not most of the time is blind to its material reality? Especially: how to think of the categorical status of ‘active materiality’ that is at work in technology through a feminist optics? In the poststructuralist paradigm, technology has often served the role of a superior tool, one able to assume a ‘life of its own’ or institute itself as a quasi-subjectivity. In Haraway’s tradition it has been treated as prosthesis always already hybridized with the human whose emancipatory role is not contemplated beyond what Beauvoir or Firestone considered most relevant in the emancipatory struggles – the clutches of nature.
This issue of Technophany would like to raise the question of whether and how second wave feminism’s use of the notion of technology may have been premised on a specific treatment of nature, and also whether and how poststructuralist feminism may not still be perpetuating the somatophobia so present in Western rational thought, as discussed in Irigaray’s Speculum of the Other Woman? If we still find nested, in the Xenofeminst celebration of ‘alienation ’and in their proposal of a rationalist feminism, an overcoming of ‘biological fate’ – then is this not just the same old Cartesian divide once again at work? Or to put it differently: what would be a feminist-materialist engagement with nature and its rationality? Our interest hereby concerns not so much the evaluative discussion of particular positions, but a systematic blind spot that often seems to be at work in how feminism engages with technology. Just how exactly are contemporary feminist materialisms actually materialist, if they fall prey to the urge to subjectivize matter and technology mainly in the registers of individualist emancipation, to perpetuate subjectivity-centred thinking in their epistemological approaches, and thus continue involving anthropocentrism even when claiming to do the exact opposite?
Next to these general questions, we would like to invite the authors to approach the following subject matters more specifically:
- Problem area 1: We would like to revisit the Marxian concept of ‘means of production’ in an era of automated labour. If not by seizing the means of production – by what other method could a supposed socialist feminist change of system be possible at all? We are interested in asking the question of the categorical status of the means of production, how and if they can be subjectivized; we are also interested in the dialectics of object-subject relations with respect to this both as a question of method and of ontology. With interests like these, it seems important to revisit Marx’s original discussion of the concept, as well as the Marxist legacy, in order to examine its possible reconceptualizations against the backdrop of 21st century digital ecosystems and their ‘socio-ontological’ status today.
- Problem area 2: With the above outlined overall interest in technology not only in terms of objective agents or formal actants, but also as endowed with subjective agency or material activity, we would like to revisit also ancient philosophy and the notion of technē as art and craft therein; how does the relation between technics and women feature in classical philosophy or in thought at the origin of Western rationalism? Is there perhaps a yet unheard-of voice to be sounded by rationalist philosophy in mythical persona like Pythia, a voice that speaks in tongues countering somatophobic articulations? If purging of the apparently inextricable link between rationalism and somatophobia were possible, could we learn to recognize a new kind of somatophilic rationality? Extending on these speculations and interests, we would like to invite revisiting Irigaray’s Speculum, and its discussion of Plato’s hystera (cave); let us revisit Irigaray here not only as a psychoanalyst but also as a Marxist feminist, let us think about her proposed reversal of the subject-object dialectics through a feminist take on metaphysics that attempts to come to terms with an optics of what we could better call ‘diffractive screening’ rather than ‘authorship’; what would be at stake here is coming to terms with an optics that strokes unheard of spectral (information technological) scales that are yet to be sounded in new materialist keys.
We invite contributions in the form of academic articles from across disciplines, in particular those departing from the stance of deep, integrative interdisciplinarity. The average required length of a contribution is 6000 words, accompanied by a 200-word abstract. Interested contributors please send their abstracts to the editors (firstname.lastname@example.org) before 15th February 2022; once accepted, the authors will have 9 months to complete their article. As for the house style of formatting (style of referencing and related issues), and the submission process itself, please follow the Technophany submission guidelines: http://journal.philosophyandtechnology.network/submission-guidelines/