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Sexual Politics and Revolution: Emma Goldman's Passion


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Speaker(s): Professor Clare Hemmings
Chair: Professor Anne Phillips

Recorded on 11 March 2013 in Sheikh Zayed Theatre, New Academic Building.

This paper charts the significance of Emma Goldman's revolutionary thought for a contemporary analysis of sexuality, gender and revolt. Throughout her life (1869-1940) and work Goldman centred sexuality as both key to how capitalism functions (particularly for women) and as a privileged site for political transformation. Connecting sexuality to labour, Goldman's analyses of reproduction, prostitution, homosexuality and free love provide a helpful challenge to contemporary feminist investments in materialist and cultural analyses as opposed, and open up the possibility of an alternative feminist history with sexual materialism at its heart. But in claiming Goldman's thinking for a post-Marxist queer and feminist politics, what do we need to ignore in her thought? What does serious consideration of the sexual (but not gendered) essentialism that grounds Goldman's thought do to a contemporary vision of feminist transformation? Drawing on primary materials and a creative re-reading of archival fragments, I suggest that Goldman's sexual politics allows for a reinvigorated feminist method (as well as politics) with a real connection to others at its heart.

Clare Hemmings is Professor of Feminist Theory and has been working at LSE for 13 years. Her primary areas of research interest are feminist theory and sexuality studies, and her main publications in these spheres are Bisexual Spaces (Routledge 2002) and Why Stories Matter (2011), for which she won the 2012 Feminist and Women's Studies Association Book Prize.

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