On Thursday 3 November, Mechthild Nagel, Professor of Philosophy at State University New York, will give a public lecture entitled: “State Violence and Feminist Discourses”. The talk will take place in Gimli 102, The University of Iceland, at 11.00-12.00. The lecture is hosted by EDDA – Center of Excellence in collaboration with the Philosophy Institute at the University of Iceland.
Western, white feminist discourses from the time of Wollstonecraft (Vindication of the Rights of Women) have tended to focus on a individualized, personal narrative of violence and conflict. Surely, the rallying cry “The Personal is Political” has been a powerful motivator for several waves of feminism around the globe to demand societal change around sexual mores, reproductive rights, to reshape and undermine a cult of domesticity. However, so much of the private sphere focus (see Elshtain) has come at the expense of the lives of those who never had access to domesticity ideology—e.g., Black women under slavery and post-civil war up to the present, or all working class women, who defied the passive, docile, pious image that developed with the advent of the industrial revolution and got popularized through Hollywood and mass media across the globe. So, one of the questions I wish to ask why has there been such amnesia about state violence? Is it due to the strong liberal feminist roots of women’s rights that the quite solitary focus on personal violence was inevitable? And here’s a more discomforting questions—is it because of the white solipsism that haunts much of feminist discourse today?
Mechthild Nagel is professor of philosophy and Director of the Center for Gender and Intercultural Studies (CGIS) at the State University of New York, College at Cortland, and a Senior Visiting Fellow at the Institute for African Development at Cornell University. She is author of a number of books: Masking the Abject: A Genealogy of Play (Lexington, 2002), co-editor of Race, Class, and Community Identity (Humanities, 2000), The Hydropolitics of Africa: A Contemporary Challenge (Cambridge Scholars Press, 2007) including Prisons and Punishment: Reconsidering Global Penality (Africa World Press, 2007), and Dancing with Iris: The Philosophy of Iris Marion Young (Oxford University Press, 2010). She has taught in men’s state prisons for a number of years and is active in a variety of women’s associations as well as legal/civil rights associations. Dr. Nagel is editor-in-chief of the onlinejournal Wagadu: A Journal of Transnational Women’s and Gender Studies (wagadu.org).