Towards an ecological feminist self beyond dualism and essentialism : an inquiry into the contributions made by cultural ecofeminism, critical-transformative ecofeminism and cyber-ecofeminism

Marincowitz, Friedl (1998-12)

Thesis (MA)--University of Stellenbosch, 1998.


ENGLISH ABSTRACT: In this thesis an inquiry is made into the contributions that cultural ecofeminism, critical-transformative ecofeminism and cyber-(eco)feminism make towards the articulation of an ecological feminist notion of the self that can generate or promote an ethical relation with nature from a position beyond dualism and essentialism. In the first chapter, titled Cultural ecofeminism, different aspects of patriarchal Western culture are identified that are responsible for the twin dominations of women and nature. In the light of their critique of patriarchal culture and the alienated masculinist self that lies central to it, cultural ecofeminists endorse two alternative notions of the self, namely a female self and a feminine self. In both cases the notion of relationality between self and nature is stressed, and alternative "feminine" values such as care and nurturing are put forward as providing us with alternative ecological values. The contribution that this position makes towards the articulation of an ecological feminist self lies in its emphasis on a notion of relationality between self and nature, so as to establish an ethical relation between self and nature. From both a feminist and an ecological perspective however, this position is flawed given its inability to (adequately) overcome the problems of dualism and essentialism. In the second chapter, titled Critical-transformative ecofeminism, the dualist conceptual framework of the rationalist philosophical tradition is identified as grounding the domination of women, nature and others. By employing the notions of continuity and difference, a strategy is proposed to move beyond dualism and by implication, essentialism. In this chapter, the notion of a pluralist feminine self is proposed and in the context of a critical-transformative ethics, the notion of the mutual self is endorsed that allows for continuity and difference between different selves and self and nature. The ecological values that are endorsed by this position include respect, care, and trust, therefore coinciding, but also diverging from cultural ecofeminism. Critical-transformative ecofeminism's contribution towards the articulation of an ecofeminist self beyond dualism and essentialism, lies in its successful movement beyond dualism, especially with regard to the notion of the mutual self as a feminist notion of an ecological self. The shortcoming of this position is however that the pluralist feminine self which is proposed as an ecological notion of a feminist self, is unsuccessful in its attempt to address the problem of universalising female gender identity. In the third chapter, titled Cyber-(eco)feminism, the notions of the cyborg, the situated self and the lnappropriate/d Other are discussed as alternative feminist subjectivities. In the discussion of a politics of articulation, an environmental politics that emphasises the social and artifactual dimensions of nature, is articulated. Through the figuration of nature as Coyote Trickster, an ecological dimension to these selves comes to the fore and together these notions are positively received from an ecological and feminist perspective as adequately overcoming the problems of dualism and essentialism. From an ecological perspective, it is however argued that the technophilic character of the cyborg is problematic and doubt is cast on its ability to forge significant ethical relations. The politics of articulation proposed by cyber-(eco)feminism is commended for its inclusivity, but in the final analysis, it is argued that to establish an ethical relation with nature, care must be taken not to overlook nature's difference, that is, that nature is an independent entity with needs and ends of its own.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie tesis behels 'n ondersoek na die bydraes van kulturele ekofeminisme, kritiestransformatiewe ekofeminisme en cyber-(eko)feminisme tot die artikulering van 'n ekologies-feministiese self wat 'n etiese verhouding met die natuur kan voortbring vanuit 'n posisie wat die probleme van dualisme en essensialisme oorskry. In die eerste hoofstuk getiteld Cultural ecofeminism, word verskillende aspekte van patriargale Westerse kultuur ge"identifiseer as onderliggend aan die dominasie van be ide vroue en die natuur. In die lig van hul kritiek op patriargale kultuur en die vervreemding van die "masculinist self" wat sentraal staan daarin, onderskryf kulturele feministe twee alternatiewe konsepsies van die self, naamlik 'n "female self' en 'n "feminine self'. In beide gevalle word die konsep van relasionaliteit tussen self an natuur beklemtoon, en alternatiewe "vroulike" waardes soos sorg en koestering word voorgestel as ekologiese waardes. Die bydrae wat hierdie posisie lewer tot die konsepsualisering van 'n ekologies-feministiese self, le in die beklemtoning van 'n konsep van relasionaliteit ten einde 'n etiese verhouding tussen self en natuur tot stand te bring. Hierdie posisie skiet egter te kort vanuit beide 'n ekologiese en feministiese perspektief aangesien dit nie in staat is om die probleme van dualisme en essensialisme (toereikend) te oorkom nie. In die tweede hoofstuk getiteld Critical-transformative ecofeminism, word die dualistiese konseptuele raamwerk van die rasionalistiese filosofiese tradisie ge"identifiseer as onderliggend aan die dominasie van vroue, die natuur en andere. Met behulp van die konsepte "continuity" en "difference" word 'n strategie voorgestel waarvolgens dualisme, en by implikasie essensialisme, oorskry kan word. In hierdie hoofstuk word 'n konsep van 'n "pluralist feminine self' voorgestel en 'n konsep van die "mutual self' word in die konteks van krities-transformatiewe ekofeministiese etiek voorgestel, wat ruimte laat vir beide kontunu"iteit en verskille tussen selwe en tussen self en natuur. Die ekologiese waardes wat deur hierdie posisie onderskryf word, sluit respek, sorg en vertroue in. Dit sluit dus aan, maar verskil ook van kulturele ekofeminisme. Die bydrae van krities-transformatiewe ekofeminisme tot die artikulering van 'n ekologies-feministiese self wat dualisme en essensialisme oorskry, le in die suksesvolle oorskryding van dualisme. Dit is spesifiek die geval met die konsep van die "mutual self' as feministiese konsep van 'n ekologiese self. Die tekortkoming van hierdie posisie is egter dat die "pluralist feminine self' wat as 'n ekologiese konsep van 'n feministiese self voorgestel word, onsuksesvol is as 'n paging om die probleem van universalisme ten opsigte van vroulike identiteit aan te spreek. In die derde hoofstuk getiteld Cyber-(eco)feminism, word die konsepte van die cyborg, die "situated self', en die "lnappropriate/d Other" bespreek as alternatiewe feministiese subjektiwiteite. In die bespreking van 'n "politics of articulation", word 'n omgewingspolitiek geartikuleer wat die sosiale en artefaktiese dimensies van die natuur beklemtoon. Deur middel van die figurering van die natuur as "Coyote Trickster", kom 'n ekologiese dimensie tot die verskillende konsepte van die self na vore. Gepaardgaande met die konsep van die natuur as "Coyote Trickster", word hierdie konsepte positief evalueer weens hul oorskryding van die probleme van dualisme en essensialisme. Vanuit 'n ekologiese perspektief word daar egter geargumenteer dat die tegnofiliese karakter van die cyborg problematies is, en dit word betwyfel of die cyborg in staat is om betekenisvolle etiese verhoudings aan te gaan. Die "politics of articulation" wat voorgestel word deur cyber-(eko)feminisme, word as prysenswaardig geag weens die inklusiewe karakter daarvan. In die finale analise word daar egter geargumenteer dat ten einde 'n etiese verhouding met die natuur tot stand te bring spesiale voorsorg getref moet word om die anders-heid van die natuur in ag te neem. Dit is dat die natuur 'n onafhanklike entiteit is met doelwitte en behoeftes van haar eie.

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