Whose personal is more political? Experience in contemporary feminist politics

Phipps, Alison (2016) Whose personal is more political? Experience in contemporary feminist politics. Feminist Theory, 17 (3). pp. 303-321. ISSN 1741-2773

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Abstract

Whose personal is more political? This paper rethinks the role of experience in contemporary feminism, arguing that it can operate as a form of capital within abstracted and decontextualised debates which entrench existing power relations. Although experiential epistemologies are crucial to progressive feminist thought and action, in a neoliberal context in which the personal and emotional is commodified powerful groups can mobilise traumatic narratives to gain political advantage. Through case study analysis this paper shows how privileged feminists, speaking for others and sometimes for themselves, use experience to generate emotion and justify particular agendas, silencing critics who are often from more marginalised social positions. The use of the experiential as capital both reflects and perpetuates the neoliberal invisibilisation of structural dynamics: it situates all experiences as equal, and in the process fortifies existing inequalities. This competitive discursive field is polarising, and creates selective empathies through which we tend to discredit others¹ realities instead of engaging with their politics. However, I am not arguing for a renunciation of the politics of experience: instead, I ask that we resist its commodification and respect varied narratives while situating them in a structural frame.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Epistemology, experience, feminism, intersectionality, neoliberalism, sex work, transgender,
Schools and Departments: School of Law, Politics and Sociology > Sociology
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology > HM0481 Theory. Method. Relations to other subjects
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology > HM0706 Social structure
H Social Sciences > HQ The Family. Marriage. Women
H Social Sciences > HQ The Family. Marriage. Women > HQ1101 Women. Feminism
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Depositing User: Alison Phipps
Date Deposited: 31 Mar 2016 08:22
Last Modified: 08 Mar 2017 05:26
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/60164

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