DO WE STILL NEED A FEMINIST THEORY? SOME THOUGHTS ON THE COMPLEX RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN ACADEMIA AND SOCIETY IN ITALY
Friday 4th April, 2-4pm, WB 3.02, University of East London, Docklands Campus, West Building
Olivia Guaraldo, University of Verona, Italy
Is feminism still transformative or has it lost its ability to connect theory and practice and influence society as a whole? What are the needs that emerge from grassroots movements today? What happens to still unsolved issues such as inequality or the misogynistic imaginary at work in mainstream popular culture? How does ‘professional’ or ‘academic’ feminist theory respond? Are we still able to address political and cultural demands that come from ‘outside’ the academia? In this lecture I address these issues drawing on the Italian experience between 2009 and 2011, a time during which the country witnessed an escalation of sexual scandals under Berlusconi. On February 13th, 2011, a nation-wide demonstration with over a million participants took place in many Italian cities. A new popular and moderate women’s movement was being formed, the SNOQ, (acronym for Se Non Ora Quando? – which means If not now, when? ). The demonstration voiced a need “to strongly affirm women’s dignity” and to draw attention to the fact that, despite decades of feminist activity, Italy remained a patriarchal country. The large popular demonstration was preceded by a debate among feminist intellectuals on the opportunities the event might present. Some were against it, denouncing the ‘moralism’ inherent in the use of the term ‘dignity’, while others recognized the necessity of a public expression of women’s indignation. In my view this debate expressed some major tensions in Italian feminism and its relationship with society at large, and to some extent shows why Italy, in spite of its feminist tradition, still remains a patriarchal country.
After receiving a doctoral degree in Political Science from the University of Jyväskylä, Finland, Olivia Guaraldo began researching and teaching at the University of Verona, Italy, where she is currently Adjunct Professor in Political Philosophy. Her main topics of research are 20th century political thought, feminist political theory, literary theory. Guaraldo attempts to combine a politically situated approach to philosophy with a ‘gender sensitive’ approach and a literary oriented analysis of culture, thought and society. Her publications include Storylines. Narrative, History and Politics from an Arendtian Perspective, SoPhi, Jyväskylä: 2001; Politica e racconto. Trame arendtiane della modernità, Roma: Meltemi, 2003. Guaraldo has edited and introduced the Italian translations of Judith Butler’s Precarious Life (Rome 2004) and Undoing Gender (Rome 2006). She has also edited and introduced the Italian translation of Hannah Arendt’s essay Lying in Politics (Milan 2006). Her latest book, forthcoming, is a critical genealogy of violence in Western political thought, carried out from the viewpoint of vulnerability, loss, mourning.