Feminism, Agency and Victim Politics in Neoliberal Times
Routledge – 2014 – 200 pages
Series: Women and Psychology
Knowing Victims explores the theme of victimhood in contemporary feminism. Analyzing the debate about ‘victim feminism’ that has unfolded since the 1980s, the author critically weighs the key recurrent claim voiced in this debate: that feminists need to abandon the woman-as-victim theme if they are to recognize women’s agency and create effective strategies for change. Drawing in particular on Lyotard and Nietzsche, the author responds to this claim with a defense of the concept of victim and of feminist victim politics. Rather than being mired in a narrow concept of the victim as a passive object of harm, feminism has instead been a venue for articulating a complex theory of the victim as an agentic bearer of knowledge, and for negotiating the dilemmas posed by victim-blame.
Rebecca Stringer argues that popular and scholarly constructions of feminism as ‘victim feminism’ reflect the wider context of this debate, namely the advance of neoliberalism and its replacement of the concept of structural oppression with the concept of personal responsibility. Derogating the notion of ‘victim,’ neoliberalism promotes a conception of victimization as subjective rather than social: a state of mind rather than a worldly situation. Cautioning against abandonment of the notion of victim, Stringer argues that feminism’s theory of the victim has renewed purpose as a resource for challenging the neoliberal transformation in the meaning of victimhood.
The book’s analysis of feminism, neoliberalism and the social construction of victimhood will be of significant interest to scholars of gender studies, psychology, sociology, politics, and philosophy.
Introduction: Feminism and Victim Politics in Neoliberal Times 1. Victims Left, Right and Centre: Constructing ‘Victim Feminism’ 2. Vulnerability After Wounding: Feminism, Rape Law and the Difference 3. Injury Incorporated? Three Diagnoses of Feminist Ressentiment 4. Rethinking Ressentiment: Nietzsche’s Victim Subject in Neoliberal Times Conclusion: Feminist Victim Politics Contra Neoliberalism
Rebecca Stringer is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Sociology, Gender and Social Work at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand. Her research focuses on the politics and social construction of victimhood, especially in relation to gender and feminism.