Feminism, Foucault, and the Critique of Reason: Re-reading the History of Madness

Foucault Studies 16:15-31 (2013)
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This paper situates Lynne Huffer’s recent queer-feminist Foucaultian critique of reason within the context of earlier feminist debates about reason and critically assesses Huffer’s work from the point of view of its faithfulness to Foucault’s work and its implications for feminism. I argue that Huffer’s characterization of Enlightenment reason as despotic not only departs from Foucault’s account of the relationship between power and reason, it also leaves her stuck in the same double binds that plagued earlier feminist critiques of reason. An appreciation of the profoundly ambivalent nature of Foucault’s critique of reason offers feminists some insights into how to navigate those double binds. What feminists should learn from the early Foucault is precisely his commitment to engage in a rational critique of reason that highlights reason’s dangerous entanglements with power while resisting the temptation to reject or refuse reason altogether



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Amy Allen
Pennsylvania State University

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