Mobilising Concepts – Elizabeth Grosz’s ‘The Practice of Feminist Theory’

Translation/ Transmission aims to explore how feminist cultural production moves across the boundaries of time, space, language, culture and genre.

The categories we use to think about feminist activisms across space and time can often be static and pedestrian. There are standard narratives and representations that circulate, perpetuating stereotypes and securing received ideas.

How then do we enable surprising points of contact to emerge across historical and geo-political differences?

How do we engineer ways to challenge our expectations of what feminists have done, and what they can do?

Our response to these questions is to mobilise already existing and emergent concepts – to use theory to elaborate movements of thought and action – such as the deployment of translation/ transmission.

In her 2010 article ‘The Practice of Feminist Theory’, Elizabeth Grosz describes the importance of inventing theoretical languages that can help us think ‘what is other than what is.’

‘Theory, philosophy, is not a luxury best savoured in less stressed times, but a necessity to the extent that it is the condition under which new ways of thinking and acting can understand themselves, question themselves, and elaborate themselves. And in times of social upheaval and political and economic crisis such as our own, it is more crucial than ever that we access resources—intellectual or conceptual resources as much as political and fiscal ones—that enable us to understand the logic at work in culture, social relations, or individual psychology, its points of vulnerability and its capacity for change […]

What does theory, or philosophy, do? […]

The task of philosophy is to create concepts and, especially, to create new concepts, even if these concepts resonate with and recall other concepts, concepts inherited or given, but always made over again, always revived and created again if the concept is to do the work of thought. Philosophy creates concepts: not discrete atoms that are brought together to produce larger units, propositions, hypotheses, arguments, but rather, concepts that perform the work of bringing together and forming thought.

Without concepts we can think, but we cannot think conceptually, we cannot understand abstractly, we cannot understand the hypothetical, the possible, the virtual, the counterfactual, the alternative, or what is other than what is.’

Elizabeth Grosz (2010) ‘The Practice of Feminist Theory’ in differences, 21: 1, pp.95-108, p. 96-97.

If you are interested in exploring more ideas related to Translation/ Transmission, come along to our theory reading group, taking place every Wednesday in February and March 2014 at Hydra Books.

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