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The Universal of Sexual Difference

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Organizer: Yitian ZHAI

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French feminist thinker Luce Irigaray’s proposal of the feminist universal relies upon the relationship that she builds up between sexual difference and cultural difference. For Irigaray, it is necessary to introduce non-Western cultures as the feminine cultures in order to contest the masculine universal that the Western philosophy and culture have claimed and taken up. This, however, brings up the question regarding whether it is legitimate to set Western philosophy (and even Western culture) as the masculine culture on target--both in the concrete and abstract sense. 

       For a long time, Irigaray has been criticized for her problematic Eastern fantasy and her neglect of the historical facts concerning the oppression of the women in the East. However, to simplify the arguments concerning Irigaray’s Eastern fantasy also misses the rich resources regarding the feminist universal that Irigaray's theory could offer. On the one hand, it is possible to justify the Western philosophy (and even Western culture) as a universal target in a colonial and post-colonial context; on the other hand, to call for a new culture of sexual difference that is invented via cultural differences allows us to propose a different universal form to resist and replace the universal form that the Western philosophy has habituated us.

        Thus, this seminar proposal invites participants to rewire and re-approach the themes from the perspectives of sexual, cultural and universal difference: how the intersectionality of sexual difference and cultural difference allows us to think of the universal differently? How to understand the feminine vis-a-vis the feminist in feminist theories? How to reinvent the concepts and notions that are key to Western and non-Western cultures in order to propose the universal differently?


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