Thought-Factory.net Philosophical Conversations Public Opinion philosophy.com Junk for code
PortElliot2.jpg
'An aphorism, properly stamped and molded, has not been "deciphered" when it has simply been read; rather one has then to begin its interpretation, for which is required an art of interpretation.' -- Nietzsche, 'On the Genealogy of Morals'
RECENT ENTRIES
SEARCH
ARCHIVES
Weblog Links
Library
Fields
Philosophers
Writers
Connections
Magazines
E-Resources
Academics
Other
www.thought-factory.net
'An aphorism, properly stamped and molded, has not been "deciphered" when it has simply been read; rather one has then to begin its interpretation, for which is required an art of interpretation.' -- Nietzsche, 'On the Genealogy of Morals'

self -transformation « Previous | |Next »
December 19, 2007

This review by Ladelle McWhorter of Cressida J. Heyes' Self-Transformations: Foucault, Ethics, and Normalized Bodies, is interesting in the way that it addresses the set of bodily practices that are increasingly common in North America: sex reassignment surgeries and related sex-transformational regimes, dieting for the purpose of weight-loss, and cosmetic surgeries such as face-lift, liposuction, gastric bypass, and rhinoplasty. Ladelle McWhorter says that the central issue of Heyes' text:

is not whether these various techniques for altering the human body are repressive or, on the contrary, self-expressive; the central issue is not whether feminists should endorse these practices or condemn them and have them outlawed. In this book, detached moral judgment is displaced, and a different kind of ethical discourse comes to the fore. Heyes is concerned about normalization and the foreclosure of freedom it portends, and she is clear and adamant that these practices are normalizing, sometimes in the extreme. But as a student of Foucault she rejects both a sovereign account of selfhood and the notion that power is external to selves and primarily prohibitive, and thus she resists the feminist temptation to see trans men and women, recidivist dieters, and candidates for cosmetic surgery as mere dupes or victims of the normalizing sexist ideologies and institutions that they at times recite and inhabit.

Heyes argues that if we set those two pictures----ie., a sovereign account of selfhood and the notion that power is external to selves and primarily prohibitive aside- ---it becomes possible to see occurrences of freedom and possibilities for imaginative alternatives even within very rigid regimes of gender normalization.

Heyes thinks that Foucault's genealogical work helps us to do this. According to McWhorter's interpretation:

Normalizing power produces, as Foucault tells us; it produces capacities as well as timidity and obedience. Thus the subjects of normalizing disciplinary practices really are empowered at the same time that they are disempowered. They become subjects, and agents, within these practices, and the failures they may well lament are also moments of excess in relation to the norms and rules that feminist critics of those practices might find lamentable. The self caught up in networks of gender normalization is not, or at least not merely, a victim without hope of extrication.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 03:03 AM | | Comments (0)
Comments
 
Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)

Name:
Email Address:
URL:
Remember personal info?
Comments: (you may use HTML tags for style)