Paola Rudan: The Excentrical Center

Paola Rudan: The Excentrical Center

Paola Rudan, Senior Assistant Professor in History of Political Thought in the Department of History and Cultures at the University of Bologna, had a one-week residency at Duke from November 13-17, 2017. Her residency was sponsored by the Academy of Global Humanities and Critical Theory, (AGHCT), a partnership between Duke University, the Department of History and Cultures at the University of Bologna, and the University of Virginia. AGHCT developed from a joint initiative in international education, the Summer School on Global Studies and Critical Theory, which had its fourth iteration in 2017. This talk entitled, "The Excentrical Center: From the Feminist Critiques of Modern Political Subject to the Epistemological Privilege of 'Woman,'" proposed an analysis of the vicissitudes and the crisis of the modern political subject from the perspective of women and feminism. It was articulated in three acts, with each being introduced by the words of a man. This willingly inappropriate narrative device is intended to expose the act of power that lies behind the very constitution of the modern political subject. In the first act - opened by a reading of Thomas Hobbes's work and developed through an analysis of Margaret Cavendish's and Mary Shelley's fictions - it was shown that the claim for absoluteness and universality of the modern subject hides the 'original' gesture of subjecting women. In the second act, moving from Jeremy Bentham's conception of marriage as the foundation of civilization, it was suggested that the explicit critique of the subject entitled to rights articulated by Olympe de Gouges, Mary Wollstonecraft and Emma Goldman was a critique of the whole order constituted upon that subject: the order of sovereignty, society and the market. In the last act, the debate around Hegel's Phenomenology - involving Simone de Beauvoir, Judith Butler, Carla Lonzi, Luce Irigaray, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak - was read in order to show that woman, as an «impossible subject», provides an unexpected and privileged critical perspective on contemporary global dynamics of power.