Boys Town Redux
“Today, totalizing impulses are routinely manifested in indifference to feminism – to feminism’s difference from other social analyses, its internal differences, and its theories of difference” (Deutsche 1991, page 7).
Twenty years ago, Rosalyn Deutsche eviscerated David Harvey’s The Condition of Postmodernity by depriving it of its authoritative account of aesthetic and cultural practices and representations. Harvey, she argued, sought to explain urban space, the built environment, and the production of meaning through a political economic “metatheory” (Deutsche 1991, page 18). To be clear, Deutsche’s critique was not centered on discarding or de-emphasizing Marxist analysis; rather, she faulted Harvey’s work for relying on what she called “the total vantage point” afforded by an epistemology that assumes power can “harmonize conflicts and differentiate social elements hierarchically” (page 19). His totalizing discourse “depends on feminism’s absence” (page 8).
Deutsche’s present seems eerily like ours. Feminism’s absence is keenly felt in some of the contemporary theoretical debates in social theories of spatial politics. More to the point, however, is that, even while feminist scholars are much more widely cited, the challenges that feminist critique bring to the doing and articulating of knowledge itself is largely bygone. Masculinist positions proliferate, from authoritative performances of Continental philosophy, to everyday life in the geography department, and to the representations of expertise at professional conferences and its platforms. Does geography remain a “boys town”? Has the discipline reverted to its tendencies toward phallocentric language and masculinist position, indeed did it ever relinquish them?
This virtual theme issue is meant to enliven the rich and critical quality of feminism’s presence in geographic epistemology and to indicate our desire as editors to welcome feminist critique in the journal. We urge readers to recall, as Deutsche also suggested, feminism’s differences, as the papers included in this theme issue criticize not only a phallocentric economy of meaning, but also the Western philosophy that centralizes, and then universalizes, its masculine subject (Rose 1995, page 762). Thus, “feminist critique” cannot be reduced to the task of examining “gender.” Indeed the feminist critique found in these articles often question how Westernized gender, sexuality, and race become assumed categories that lock epistemology at a distance from analyses of the domains of knowledge production, foundational categorization, disciplinary values and exclusion, and embodiment.
Yet, perhaps over time, the feminist content in Society and Space largely shifted from critique of geography’s phallocentrism to analyses of gender and social difference. The question to ask – and to offer as a starting point for discussion here on the Open Site – is what might be obfuscated in this shift, if anything. If feminist critique is merely evidenced by citations of feminist scholars, or with the study of gender or “women,” what challenges are left to offer to the politics of knowledge itself?
The following papers will be available through open access, with no need for a subscription, until April, 2012. They illustrate the ongoing imperative to consider the interconnections between spatial exclusion, social justice, and the practices of knowledge and geography. The last two decades’ content illustrates a range of perspectives on the located specificities of gender, sexuality, class, and race-ethnicity, and robust interdisciplinary approaches to feminist, critical race, postcolonial, and queer theories. Does it also reflect an ardent and productive evisceration of “geography”? This content may illustrate that feminist geography has become largely a project of evidencing the very categories we need to continuously, simultaneously, critique.
Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 1991 9 5 – 30
Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 1991 9 31 – 57
Other figures in other places: on feminism, postmodernism and geography
Liz Bondi and Mona Domosh
Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 1992 10 199 – 213
(Re)mapping Mother Earth: a geographical perspective on environmental feminisms
Cathy Nesmith and Sarah Radcliffe
Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 1993 11 379 – 394
‘Race’ and sexuality: challenging the patriarchal structuring of urban social space
Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 1993 11 415 – 432
Distance, surface, elsewhere: a feminist critique of the space of phallocentric self/knowledge
Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 1995 13 761 – 781
Towards minor theory
Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 1996 14 487 – 499
Taking Butler elsewhere: performativities, spatialities and subjectivities
Nicky Gregson and Gillian Rose
Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 2000 18 433 – 452
Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 2000 18 639 – 651
The nature of gender: work, gender, and environment
Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 2006 24 165 – 185
Justice and the geographies of moral protest: reflections from Mexico
Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 2009 27 216 – 233
“War is not healthy for children and other living things”
Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 27 2009 403 – 424
Thanks are due to Deb Cowen, Natalie Oswin, and Stuart Elden for their help in getting this virtual issue together, and to Pion, especially Jatinder Padda, for making these articles freely available.