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date: 16 December 2018

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter explores the diverse, sometimes discordant ways in which commitments to materialism have shaped feminist theoretical inquiry. Focusing on two alternative interpretive frameworks—historical materialist feminisms (HMF) and feminist new materialisms (FNM)—the chapter considers how distinct understandings of “materiality” sustain alternative accounts of agency, power, and difference. The chapter aims to highlight how these appeals to markedly different notions of a material “real” lead to markedly different interpretive grammars: one (HMF) emphasizing systematicity and the durability of structured relations, the other (FNM) emphasizing indeterminacy, flux, and the “messiness” of the world. Among the stakes identified in these interpretive differences are how physical bodies, processes of embodiment, and nature figure in feminist analyses; how the relationship between matter and representational systems is conceptualized; and whether oppression should serve as a central or secondary locus of analytic concern.

Keywords: materialism, matter, agency, oppression, ontology, labor, gender

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