Bodies & affect but no feminist/queer/critical race theorists? Must be a philosophy conference.
I think it’s relatively uncontroversial to claim that feminist philosophy, feminist theory (which is basically feminist philosophy done outside philosophy departments, so this includes lots of continental feminists), queer theory, the critical philosophy of race, and postcolonial theory are responsible for producing a lot of philosophical work on the body, embodiment, and affect. I mean, it seems like it was impossible to avoid “the body” in 1990s feminism.
So it’s really, really interesting that philosophers can put together an entire conference on “the body,” have papers on bodies, embodiment, and even affect (and affect theory pretty much comes out of feminist/queer theory), and entirely avoid any papers that draw on feminist/queer/critical race philosophers. (There is one paper that cites a feminist musicologist, Susan McClary; this is also the token paper about a black artist…there are no abstracts that reference non-white philosophers, but there is one paper about non-Western music).
I’m not particularly interested in calling out the individuals on the program committee–they’re just reproducing the norms in their discipline. I’m interested in critiquing these norms themselves. How is it fracking possible to do philosophy of the body, in the broad sense, without feminist philosophy and the critical philosophy of race? Certainly there will be individual projects that don’t engage feminism or CPR, but when you do something like put together a conference program, you sketch a representation of the field/subfield. And how is it possible that this subfield, philosophy of music, can draw up a program that represents the subfield without including feminist philosophy and the critical philosophy of race? (And, perhaps to be a bit melodramatic here, but WTF, how can you even have a conference on music that doesn’t engage African-American philosophy and the philosophy of race, given the centrality of Afro-diasporic musics to 20th century US/UK art and pop music? …I suspect this has to do with disciplinary norms in musicology (lots of historical musicology on this program, not so much ‘ethno’…) crossing streams with disciplinary norms in philosophy…)
I actually think this program, especially with its emphasis on embodiment and affect, is representative of a more general trend in philosophy (both analytic and continental, both of those in scare-quotes, of course). It seems like mainstream philosophical questions–e.g., OOO, cog/neuro-philosophy, speculative materialism–draw on the insights of feminist philosophy, but strip these insights of both their politics, and their references to women (both as objects of study and as authors). So they get the benefits of feminism while evacuating it of its politics and its women. Have other people noticed this, or am I overstretching here?
I should also disclose that my abstract for the conference was not accepted for the program…and it wasn’t even explicitly about gender (it was about Attali, Foucault and biopolitics). But the distance between my work and most of what happens in the philosophy of music is something I constantly struggle with. I guess that’s why I’m so appreciative of sound studies people in other areas of the humanities. For once I feel like there’s really a term and a home for what I do.