This spring we saw that even in a state of alarm feminism was disqualified by those who insisted on linking their marches with the expansion of the coronavirus. On the other hand, the confinement triggered calls to the helpline in cases of gender violence (016) and forced several young people to return to the closet, which reminds us that staying at home is not always the safest option. For some sectors it has been a real risk. This scenario returns us to the great dystopia The maid’s tale, that a few years ago made Margaret Atwood so famous and that it has made it easier for today to rescue and read those rare writers who in the second wave of feminism opted for science fiction.
Invent a utopia. That was the case of Octavia E. Butler, author of Relationship (Captain Swing) and the stories just published by Consonni, Daughter of blood and other stories. In them, this pioneer of afrofuturism speculates on reproduction, abuse of power, the problem of race or language, with a great capacity for dialogue. It looks in the addictive The afternoon, morning and night, Sounds of speech or in Martha’s book, fantastic story that, like a camouflaged essay, tells us about the difficulty of inventing a utopia. The volume includes two small essays –or, rather, autobiographical articles– on writing, as well as a series of epilogues in which the author briefly explains what motivated her to create each story. It decodes it in the keys of the present, which is where it extracts its seeds. Of those fears, these fictions.
Affective turn. Essay Cruel optimism Lauren Berlant’s would be another example of a work crossed by feminisms, taken not to the field of science fiction but to that of the humanities, being an exponent of the so-called “affective turn”, an academic invention of the mid-nineties that has covered several authors – among them, Sara Ahmed. This turn consists in analyzing the role of emotions in public life, considering them not only as psychological states but as shared social and cultural practices that speak volumes about the present. What is involved, therefore, is in the relational aspect of the human being in contexts such as today, where wages, ecology or emotional ties seem so precarious. In fact, this very precariousness is what makes Berlant wonder how it is that we continue to live on certain ideals and fantasies, even knowing that in the current situation they are unattainable, to the extent that their desire ends up being an obstacle to our development. She calls this irrational attachment “cruel optimism” and it is what places us in a kind of impasse that the author analyzes with a very transversal look. In her book, a poem by John Ashbery is commented with a quote from Marx and contributions from the theory queer. Furthermore, his arguments owe less to statistics than to certain cultural artifacts, and this includes several films. In this sense, it is a somewhat rhetorical and indebted approach of multiple disciplines, which she recycles and crosses in creative ways, although it remains to be seen how they will age. Caja Negra will publish it in a few weeks. Pending translation, the book is available in English, edited by Duke University Press.
Words for AIDS. Affection is also present in AIDS, essay by the French critic and art historian Élisabeth Lebovici on the cultural productions generated as a result of this epidemic that, as we know, was so mediatic. It spread in bodies but also in news, rumors, protest actions and especially images, in galleries, movie theaters and streets, although in many cases words were missing. Her “I am exposed” with which the author starts, already anticipates the tone. Lebovici wrote it from within, as a woman and lesbian activist, which is interesting because one of the tasks of this book published by MACBA and the Arcàdia publishing house was to correct the tendency to think of AIDS as masculine and to rescue those contributions that have remained in the background, such as the beautiful and shocking intervention that Zoe Leonard made in Documenta IX, who in turn was linked to the lesbian group GANG, which is also talked about.
Potential stories. Lebovici is an admirer of Carla Lonzi, who, like Simone de Beauvoir, put women outside of History, a statement that would end, at least partially, Karen Offen’s impressive comparative analysis in European feminisms, 1700 – 1950. A political history. This work, written in 2000 and reissued by Akal, affects the achievements of feminism not as a critical theory or analysis tool but as one of the key movements in European politics, with its protagonists, debates and dates, its agenda, alliances and fissures. As it is to be supposed, the reconstruction of such a legacy implies a double challenge because, as Offen tells us, it was when professionalizing that historical writing became completely disinterested in women as agents of change, focusing their research on the military field, the diplomacy or economic policy and based on documents deposited in public archives, where they were absent. Knowing this, the author does not seek to discredit this discipline in which male hegemony has been reflected so many times, but rather to use her tools to reverse this trend and introduce other points of view. Operation that makes your book a classic bet and very well documented, where the sources allow it. In this sense, it would be interesting to accompany your reading with Potential History, the last essay by Ariella Azoulay that we hope some publisher will be encouraged to translate into our language.
Daughter of blood and other stories. Octavia E. Butler. Consonni. Translation of Arrate Hidalgo. 208 pages. 19.50 euros.
Cruel optimism. Lauren Berlant. Black box. Next appearance. Currently available in English, published by Duke University Press.
AIDS. Élisabeth Lebovici. MACBA / Arcàdia. Translation by Cristina Zelich. 168 pages. 16 euros.
European feminisms: 1700 -1950. A political history. Karen Offen, Akal. Translation by Pedro Piedras. 560 pages. 26 euros.