Damien Tissot – Justice, Universals and Sexual Difference

My research interest focuses on transnational dialogues between feminisms. My Master’s thesis explored the complex relationships between American feminism, French feminism and French Theory. In my dissertation, I am trying to expand the theme of my thesis by questioning the feminist claims of Justice, from a philosophical point of view. My dissertation studies the way feminists use the concept of the universal in their political claims for more equality and/or equity between men and women. The first generations of feminisms were accused of using false universals. The black feminism, the Marxist feminism, the lesbian feminism or, more recently, the postcolonial feminism criticized the standpoint of early generations of feminists. According to them, western feminist discourses were based on particular experiences which were not significant for women in the rest of the world. Such universalism prevented some women from being included in these so-called universals because it did not take into account other realities. Therefore, in my dissertation, I am interested in understanding the uses of the concept of the universal and my goal is to explore different ways of conceiving it in order to sustain feminist claims for equality and equity.

By coming in this seminar, I wanted first to understand more deeply Luce Irigaray’s conception of the universal – or the universals. I am particularly interested in the way she links the universal, justice, and the sexual difference. In Hegel’s philosophy, the universal can be abstract, or concrete; it can be embodied by individuals (the Great Men), or it can be the goal and the end of History. Luce Irigaray’s critique of Hegel goes further into the understanding of the nature of the universal. Her theory sheds light on the complexity and the ambiguity of this concept. I plan to focus my study on Luce Irigaray’s idea that the universal is sexuated, or, more precisely, that each gender is a universal. The myth of Antigone provides an interesting illustration of this idea. By choosing to bury her brother, Antigone shows that she believes in a cosmic order. She opposes the divine laws to Creon’s ones, a universal to another universal. In my understanding, not only does this definition of the universal offer us opportunities to build a more inclusive concept of the universal, but it also gives us a possibility to understand the relationship between justice and recognition

My second series of questions addresses this issue. Much has been said in feminist theory about recognition and about justice, but both of these concepts are more rarely analyzed together. By refusing the oppositions subject/object in the Hegelian dialectic, Luce Irigaray’s work, however, suggests that the relationships between men and women should be conceived as a dialectic between two subjects. Therefore, I would like to explore how Luce Irigaray’s dialectics opens up possibilities to articulate individual ethics and a society of rights, which is also Antigone’s dilemma. First, in the process of mutual recognition how can we guarantee that this relationship is ruled by principles of equality or equity? If the relationship between the universals does not take place within society committed to fairness, nothing will prevent the mutual recognition of becoming a power struggle. My intuition is that this dialectics must be framed by a theory of justice, or at least, must not be separated from a theory of fair institutions. Second, how should the dialectic proposed by Luce Irigaray be articulated to a Philosophy of Right? In Hegel’s philosophy, the Spirit’s life develops itself to realize the Absolute Universal. How does the relationship between the two sexuated universals can still play a dynamic role in the construction of an ethical community? In other words, how is the relationship between the two universals articulated to fair or just [justes] institutions?

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