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 headings of voluntary servitude, ideology, and more recently domination. The aim of this seminar is to explore how gender theories have proved capable of addressing this question in ways that have challenged some of the most established tenets of the Western philosophical canon. In particular, we aim to explore the role that the body plays in domination. We will proceed through a close analysis of key texts of Marxist feminism, anarchafeminism, psychoanalytic feminism, queer and postcolonial theory, and we will apply these readings to concrete examples of lived experience through media analysis and clinical psychoanalysis. In particular, we will explore the heralded return of the gender wars (thinking of issues surrounding rape and the discourse around sex), the commercialization of transgenderism and queer culture, and the abundance of TV shows that focus on women, especially reality television shows, some of which have exposed the place of domination in women’s lives while others have exhibited new forms of domination as spectacle.
The following is the reading list for each week, accompanied by links to the material discussed and student responses to the readings.
Introduction and organization of the course.
Vanessa Place, RAPE JOKES, in class presentation.
8 September. 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 (for those who do not have a background in gender theory)
See: Foot binding: https://youtu.be/P56LAPlFfgk (traditional)
Movie: Belle de jour, by Luis Bunuel
15 September. 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 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 A Documentary History of Libertarian Ideas, ed. R Graham (Montreal: Black Rose, 1977), pp. 492-499
See: Laura Anderson Barbata work on Julia Pastrana
See Sarah Chant’s Public Seminar post, “The Plurality and Quasi-Anarchism of Drag”
22 September. Dialectic(s) of Enlightenment: 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
- Horkheimer, M. and Adorno, T.W. “Juliette, or Enlightenment and morality.” In Dialectic of Enlightenment (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2002), pp. 63-94
29 September. Creating compliant bodies: rituals, ceremonies and colonialism
- Lugones, M. The Coloniality of gender at https://globalstudies.trinity.duke.edu/wp-content/themes/cgsh/materials/WKO/v2d2_Lugones.pdf
- Oyewumi, O, 1997, The Invention of Women, University of Minnesota Press, Introduction+ chapt 1 (Visualizing the body: Western Theories and African Subjects)
- Oksala, J. “The neoliberal subject of feminism.” Journal of the British Society of Phenomenology (2011), pp.104-118
See: 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 commentary on pubic hair trends: https://publicseminar.org/2016/02/does-a-successful-woman-need-to-have-a-pre-pubescent-vagina/
See Esther Franke’s Public Seminar Post, “The Postcoloniality of Gender.”
See Elena Petrovska’s Public Seminar Post, “Does a Successful Woman Need to Own a Gym Membership?”
6 October. Polymorphous Perversity
- Freud, S. Three Essays on The Theory of Sexuality (Basic Books , 2000)
Jordan Wolfson’s Female Figure
13 October. The hysterical woman: Dora.
- Freud, S. Fragment of and Analysis of a Case of Hysteria (New York: Penguin Edition, 1905)
Look at the Dresden Sistine Madonna by Raphael
Watch : Dogville by Lars Von Trier, and the beginning of his Nymphomaniac.
See Sarah Chant’s Public Seminar Post, “What is a Woman?”
20 October. Masochism, beating fantasies and pornography’s temptation
- Freud, S. “A child is being beaten.” In Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works (London: Hogarth Press, 1919), Vol. 17, pp. 179-204
- Cornell D. “Pornography”. In The Imaginary Domain (New York: Routledge, 1995), pp. 95-163
SeePaula Landerreche Cardillo’s Public Seminar Post, “Women Count.”
27 October. Irigaray: “The little girl is (only) a little boy”
- Freud, S. “Femininity.” In New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis. (New York: Norton and Company, 1965), pp. 139-168
- Irigaray, L. Speculum of the Other Woman. (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1985), pp. 13-65
Please see Florian Endres Public Seminar Post, “Freud and Irigaray in Grey Gardens: Penis Envy as Male Phantasy”
Please see Elizabeth Harnarine Wentling’s Public Seminar Post, “25 Alternatives to Penis Envy: A Preliminary List.”
3 November. Lacan, feminine sexuality, and the masquerade
- Rose, J. “Introduction II.” In Feminine Sexuality: Jacques Lacan and the Ecole Freudienne (New York: Norton, 1982), pp. 27-59
- Lacan, J. “The mirror stage as formative of the I function, as revealed in psychoanalytic experience.” In Ecrits (New York: Norton, 1949)
- Fluegel, J.C. “The Great Masculine Renunication” from The psychology of cloths (11930), reprinted in Purdy, ed. The rise of fashion. A reader , Minnesota UP, 2004, pp. 102-108
Class presentation of Webster and Gherovici “Dressing up the Death Drive: Psychoanalysis and Fashion”
10-12 November SIPP Conference: Anybody: The Matter of the Unconscious
17 November. 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
- Butler, J. “Melancholy gender/refused identifications.” In The Psychic Life of Power (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1997), pp. 132-151; available at
See Charles Innis’s Public Seminar Post, “The Masturbatory Logic of Fake News Sites.”
See film: Paris Is Burning, directed by Jennie Livingston
See: Antony and the Johnsons “Crazy in Love” vs Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love”/ Donna Summer’s “I feel love” vs Bronski Beat “I feel love”
24 November: No Class (Thanksgiving Break)
1 December. Black feminism, capitalism and critique
- 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
- Murphy, M. 2015, “Reproduction”, in Marxism and Feminism, edited by Mojab, S., Zed Books, 2015, pp. 287-305
See Film: Princess and the frog (Disney)
Please see Esther Franke’s Public Seminar Posts, “The Meaning of Michelle: First Black First Lady as Outsider Within and Agent of Change.”
See Florian Endres’s Public Seminar Post, “Warehouse of Identities: A Neoliberal Delusion.”
8 December. 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, 99-129
See Paula Landerreche Cardillo’s Public Seminar Post, “Understanding the Bio-Logic of Mexico’s Fight for Equal Marriage.”
See Miranda Young’s Public Seminar Post, “Caitlyn Jenner: Our Pharmacapornographic Hero”
15 December. Conclusions.
Vanessa Place, RAPE JOKES, in class second presentation and reassessment.
See Miranda Young’s Public Seminar Post, “Rape Jokes: The disruptive speech act.”