Why do people fight for their own servitude as if it were their own deliverance? This is a question that has been at the heart of philosophy for a long time under the heading of voluntary servitude, ideology, or more recently, domination. The aim of this seminar is to explore how gender theories have proved capable of addressing such a problem in a way that has challenged some of the most established tenets of the Western philosophical canon. We will proceed through a close analysis of key texts of La Boetie, Spinoza, Freud, Adorno, De Beauvoir, Irigaray, Lacan, Marxist feminism, anarchafeminism, Kristeva, Preciado, as well as queer and black feminism, among others. We will then apply these readings to concrete examples of lived experience brought about by media analysis and by clinical psychoanalysis, with the aim to discover the roots of domination and what exit may be possible (if any).
Through engagement with classical philosophical texts, on the one hand, and clinical and media material, on the other, we will ask what philosophy and psychoanalysis can tell us about the specific predicament of gendered bodies and domination in today’s world. Bringing together a philosopher with a practicing psychoanalyst, this class aims to bridge the gap between theory and practice.
For all those who want to follow along, below is a reading list. It will be updated in the course of the semester with further posts and more material coming out of class discussion. In particular, we will be posting student responses to the readings.
2 February (Tues).
Introduction and rationale: see Chiara Bottici: Who is afraid of freedom?
4 February (Thurs). Dilemmas of voluntary servitude?
- La Boetie, E. de. “The discourse of voluntary servitude.” In The politics of obedience (1552), Mises, Institute, pp. 39-70
- Chanter, T. “Introduction” +“Formative Moments.” In Gender: Key Concepts in Philosophy (New York: Continuum, 2007), Ch. 1, pp. 1-31
Movie: Belle de jour, by Luis Bunuel
See Jamieson Webster “Dilemmas of Voluntary Servitude“
See Moises Ramirez “I Dreamed We Were Free”
9 February (Tues). Domination: one or many? From anarchafeminism to the politics of being queer
- Bottici, C. Bodies in plural: towards an anarchafeminist-manifesto (manuscript; also available online: https://publicseminar.org/2015/12/bodies-in-plural-toward-an-anarchafeminist-manifesto/)
- Goodman, P. “The politics of being queer.” In Anarchism. A Documentary History of Libertarian Ideas, ed. R Graham (Montreal: Black Rose, 1969), pp. 487-491 (originally published in The Second Wave, Spring 1975)
- Ehrlich, C. “Anarchism, feminism and situationism.” In Anarchism. A Documentary History of Libertarian Ideas, ed. R Graham (Montreal: Black Rose, 1977), pp. 492-499
See Laura Anderson Barbata work on Julia Pastrana
11 February (Thurs). Creating compliant subjects: rituals, ceremonies and the pleasure of obedience
- Spinoza, B. Theological-Political Treatise (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007).
- Chapter V (pp. 68-80): On the reason why ceremonies were instituted, and on the belief in the historical narratives, i.e. for what reason and for whom such belief is necessary. [in particular §§7, 8, 8, 10, 11]
- Chapter XVI (pp. 195-207): On the foundations of the state, on the natural and civil right of each person, and on the authority of the sovereign powers [in particular §§2, 3, 5, 8, 9, 10]
- Chapter XVII (pp. 208-230): Where it is shown that no one can transfer all things to the sovereign power, and that it is not necessary to do so; on the character of the Hebrew state in the time of Moses, and in the perdition after his death before the appointment of the kings; on his excellence, and on the reasons why this divine state could perish, and why it could scarcely exist without sedition [in particular §§1, 2, 4, 25]
- Oksala, J. “The neoliberal subject of feminism.” Journal of the British Society of Phenomenology (2011), pp.104-118
See: History of depilation by Elle: http://www.elle.com/beauty/makeup-skin-care/tips/g8155/history-of-hair-removal/?slide=11
Here’s a YouTube video of Scott asking Kourtney Kardashian to shave her vagina even when pregnant (note that pubic hair has “trends”) https://youtu.be/jYBZFoKGNc0
See Elena Petrovska’s Public Seminar Post, “Does a Successful Woman Need to Have a Pre-pubescent Vagina?”
See Aaron Neber’s Public Seminar Post, “Creating Compliant Subjects.”
16 February (Tues). Dialectic(s) of Enlightenment. I: liberation or domination?
- Horkheimer, M. and Adorno, T.W. “The concept of enlightenment.” In Dialectic of Enlightenment (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2002), pp. 1-34
- Amy Allen, 2016, The end of progress: decolonizing the normative foundations of critical theory, Columbia UP (Chap. 1, pp. 1-35; “Adorno, Foucault and the postcolonial”, pp. 198-203)
See Wayne Wapeemukwa’s Public Seminar Post, “Which Enlightenment for Which Primitives?”
See Dora Suarez’s Public Seminar Post, “The Earthquake, the Compass, and the Use of Genealogy.”
18 February (Thurs). Enlightenment and morality II: Kant, Sade, and Juliette
- Horkheimer, M. and Adorno, T.W. “Juliette, or Enlightenment and morality.” In Dialectic of Enlightenment (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2002), pp. 63-94
Please see Jamieson Webster’s Public Seminar post, “A Short Lecture on Adorno’s ‘Juliette, Or Enlightenment and Morality.'”
See: Jihad and girl power:
23 February (Tues). Existential feminism I. Or “Women for Obama”
- De Beauvoir, S. The Second Sex. (New York: Vintage, 2011), pp. 3-48
- How to become a woman: menstruation “a normal process leading up to being a mother”
25 February (Thurs). Existential feminism II. The myth(s) of femininity
- De Beauvoir, S. The Second Sex. (New York: Vintage, 2011), pp. 159-213
Please see Amir Sadeghi’s Public Seminar post, “Are Female Characters Impossible?”
Please see James Wheeler’s Public Sminar post, “Psychoanalysis’ Reductio Ad Sex, Beauvior’s Better Critique.”
WEEK 5 (NOTE: amended schedule for this week)
29 February (MONDAY), 8-10PM (room to be announced). Affects in Politics and Psychoanalysis
Guest Speakers Vladimir Safetle (Sao Paolo) and Marcus Coelen (Berlin)
1 March (Tues). The woman of psychoanalysis: “She doesn’t have a penis”
- Freud, S. “Femininity.” In New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis. (New York: Norton and Company, 1965), pp. 139-168
3 March (Thurs). Irigaray I: “The little girl is (only) a little boy”
- Irigaray, L. “Woman, science’s unknown,” “The little girl is (only) a little boy,” and “Is her end in her beginning?” In Speculum of the Other Woman. (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1985), pp. 13-45
8 March (Tues). Irigaray II: “Whose castration?”
- Irigaray, L. “Another cause – castration,” “Penis-envy,” and “A painful way to become a woman.” In Speculum of the Other Woman. (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1985), pp. 13-34
- Irigaray, L. “This sex which is not one.” In This Sex Which Is Not One. (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1985), pp. 46-65
See Wayne Wapeemukwa’s Public Seminar Post, “Donald Trump’s Reductio Ad Penis.”
See: Cliteracy Art Project
10 March (Thurs). The hysterical woman: Dora I
- Freud, S. Dora: An Analysis of a Case of Hysteria, with an Introduction of Philip Rieff, (New York: Touchstone, 1997), Part I: The Clinical Picture, Part II: The First Dream, pp.1-85
WEEK 7 (NOTE: amended schedule for this week)
14 March (MONDAY), 8-10PM (room to be announced). “The feminine position and the concept of ‘not-all’ (pas-toute)”
Guest Speaker Guilherme Massara Rocha (Psychoanalyst and UFMG Professor, Brazil)
15 March (Tues). The hysterical woman: Dora II
With participation of guest professor Guilherme Massara Rocha
- Freud, S. Fragment of and Analysis of a Case of Hysteria (New York: Penguin Edition, 1905), Part III: The Second Dream, Part IV: Postscript, + Hysterical phantasies and their relation to bisexuality, pp. 85-120
17 March (Thurs). Masochism and beating fantasies.
- Freud, S. “A child is being beaten.” In Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works (London: Hogarth Press, 1919), Vol. 17, pp. 179-204
- Leader, D. “Beating fantasies and sexuality.” In Freud’s Footnotes (Faber: London, 2000), pp 153-189.
Please see Amir Sadeghi’s Public Seminar Post, “‘A Child is Being Beaten,’ But Where is the Mother?”
WEEK 8: 22-24 March, SPRING BREAK – no classes
29 March (Tues). Pornography’s temptation
- (Background reading) Cornell D. “Pornography”. In The Imaginary Domain (New York: Routledge, 1995), pp. 95-163
See Dora Suarez’s Public Seminar Post, “Pornography in the Political Domain: A Citizen is Being Beaten.”
31 March (Thurs).Medusa’s head: from lack to laughing.
- Freud, S. “Medusa’s head.” In The Medusa Reader, ed. Marjorie Garber and Nancy J Vickers; trans. James Strachey (New York: Routledge, 2003), pp. 33-34
- Cixous, H. “The laugh of Medusa.” Signs (1976), Vol. 1, pp. 875-893
5 April (Tues). “Psychoanalysis needs a sex change”
- (Background reading) Gherovici, P. “Hysteria and transsexualism.” In Please Select Your Gender (New York: Routledge, 2010), pp. 185-213
7 April (Thurs). Lacan and feminine sexuality
- Rose, J. “Introduction II.” In Feminine Sexuality: Jacques Lacan and the Ecole Freudienne (New York: Norton, 1982), pp. 27-59
12 April (Tues) The mirror stage: Colonialism and exhibitionism. With Guest Speaker Wayne Wapeemukwa.
- Lacan, J. “The mirror stage as formative of the I function, as revealed in psychoanalytic experience.” In Ecrits (New York: Norton, 1949)
See Wayne Wapeemukwa’s Public Seminar Post, “Resistance and Resurgence of the Métis: The red that dies the maple leaf.”
14 April (Thurs). Lacan, the phallus, and fashion
- Lacan, J. “The signification of the phallus.” In Ecrits (New York: Norton, 1958)
- Slide presentation on fashion from Gherovici and Webster: “Dressing up the Death Drive”
19 April (Tues). Kristeva, or the subject on trial (sujet en process)
- Kristeva, J. Revolution in Poetic Language. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1984), Part I, Ch. 1, 2, 5, 6, 8, 10
- Oliver, K. “Kristeva’s revolutions.” In The Portable Kristeva. (New York: Columbia University Press, 2002), pp. xi-xxvii (especially recommended for those who have never read Kristeva)
21 April (Thurs). Kristeva II. “Is the mother still there?” Maternity and female sexuality between literature and music.
- Kristeva, J. “The maternal body” and “Stabat mater.” In The Portable Kristeva. (New York: Columbia University Press, 2002), pp. 303-333
- Also read the medieval hymn “Stabat mater” and listen to Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater
See Moises Ramirez’s Public Seminar Piece, “Kristeva on Maternal Self-Mourning.”
See Elena Petrovska’s Public Seminar Piece, “Does Nicki Minaj Portray the Image of a Phallic Mother?”
26 April (Tues). Butler I. “Gender in drag”: is there still a “subject” of feminism?
- Butler, J. 2011. “Gender is Burning.” In Bodies that Matter on the Discursive Limits of “Sex.” (New York: Routledge), pp. 81-99
See film: Paris Is Burning, directed by Jennie Livingston
28 April (Thurs). Butler II. Melancholic gender
- Butler, J. “Melancholy gender/refused identifications.” In The Psychic Life of Power (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1997), pp. 132-167; available at
See: musician Anthony and the Johnsons and TV Reality Series “Drag Race”
Please see Dora Suarez’s Public Seminar Post, “On Unity and Feminist Struggle: A Response to Judith Butler.”
Please See Tiago Lima’s Public Seminar Post, “Judith Butler and The Many Subjects of Feminist Theory.”
3 May (Tues). Black feminism: mammies, matriarchs, and hoochies
- Hill Collins, P. “The social construction of black feminist thought.” In Black Feminist Thought. (New York: Routledge, 2000), pp. 1-19, 39-43
- Hill Collins, P. “Mammies, matriarchs and other controlling images.” In Black Feminist Thought. (New York: Routledge, 2000), pp. 69-96
Please see Kyle O’Dowd’s Public Seminar piece, “The Dangers of White Feminism.”
Please see Jordan Huston’s Public Seminar piece, “Lessons from Black Feminism on Textual Identity.”
Please see Taylor Mugavin’s Public Seminar Piece, “Beyoncé and the Sexual Objectification of Lemonade: The Most Neglected Person in America is the Black Woman.”
Please see Aaron Neber’s Public Seminar Piece, “Recognizing One’s Oppression: On Collins’ Emerging Process.”
Please see Moises Ramirez’s Public Seminar Piece, “Black Feminist Thought And The Pitfalls Of A Critical Mass.”
See Film: Princess and the frog (Disney)
5 May (Thurs). The biopolitical condition: sex, drugs and biopolitics
- Preciado, B. “Introduction,” “Your death,” and “ The pharmacopornographic era.” In Testo junkie. (New York: Feminist Press, 2013), pp. 11-54, 68-82.
See James Wheeler’s Public Seminar Post, “Records of Planetary Suicide”
10 May (Tues). Feminism, capitalism and critique
- Fraser, N. “Against symbolicism” and “Feminism, capitalism and the cunning of history.” In Fortunes of feminism: from state-managed capitalism to neoliberal crisis.” (New York: Verso, 2013), pp. 139-159, 209-227
See James Wheeler’s Public Seminar Post, “On Nancy Fraser’s Two Dimensional Conception of Politics.”
See Amir Sadeghi’s Public Seminar Post, “Toward A Feminism Beyond The Additive Model.”
See Rebecca Solnit, “Men Explain Things to Me”: https://www.guernicamag.com/daily/rebecca-solnit-men-explain-things-to-me/
12 May (Thurs). Rape Jokes: Performance Artist Vanessa Place’s “If I Wanted Your Opinion, I’d Remove the Duct Tape”
- Panel Discussion on “The Ontology of Rape Jokes.” In Studies in Gender and Sexuality with Q. Lee, J. Dolven, J. Webster, and G. Salomon (Forthcoming, 2016)