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3 Questions for Rosi Braidotti

April 8, 2016

Prof. Dr. Rosi Braidotti, who holds Italian and Australian citizenship, was born in Italy and grew up in Australia, where she received a First-Class Honours degree from the Australian National University in Canberra in 1977 and was awarded the University Medal in Philosophy and the University Tillyard prize. Braidotti then moved on to do her doctoral work at the Sorbonne, where she received her degree in philosophy in 1981. She has taught at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands since 1988, when she was appointed as the founding professor in women's studies. In 1995 she became the founding Director of the Netherlands research school of Women's Studies, a position she held till 2005. Braidotti is a pioneer in European Women's Studies: she founded the inter-university SOCRATES network NOISE and the Thematic Network for Women's Studies ATHENA, which she directed till 2005. She was a Leverhulme Trust Visiting Professor at Birkbeck College in 2005-6; a Jean Monnet professor at the European University Institute in Florence in 2002-3 and a fellow in the school of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton in 1994. Braidotti is currently Distinguished University Professor at Utrecht University and founding Director of the Centre for the Humanities.

1. What are you currently working on?

I have just co-edited, together with Paul Gilroy:Conflicting Humanities, which will be published in the next few months. It is the first volume in a new book series I am editing for Bloomsbury Academic, called, quite simply ‘Theory Series’, which aims to present cartographic accounts of emerging critical theories and to reflect the vitality and inspirational force of on-going theoretical debates. This first edited volume is impressive: Conflicting Humanitiesaddresses the provocative question of how we might reinvent the humanities. Taking the intellectual and political legacies of both feminist theory and of Edward Said’s work as a point of departure and frame of reference, the contributors – working in a range of disciplinary settings – assess the current condition of humanism and the humanities. We argue that the definition of the core task of the humanities as the pursuit of democratic criticism remains more urgent than ever, though it needs to be supplemented by feminist, environmental, and anti-racist perspectives as well as by detailed analysis of both digital mediation and the necro-political governmentality of our time.

I have also pursued my posthuman critical theory work by editing the Posthuman Glossary, a volume co-produced with Maria Hlavajova from BAK (The Centre for Contemporary Art in Utrecht). The book will provide an outline of the critical terms of posthuman critique in present-day academic, artistic and intellectual work. It also builds on the concepts that we discussed during a series of four international symposia in May-June 2015, focusing on the broad thematic topics of anthropocene/capitalocene, eco-sophies, digital activism and algorithmic cultures and security.

Besides my current research projects and teaching as a University Professor, I am also the director of the Centre for the Humanities. We organize seminars and events that explore and enhance the social relevance and the impact of the Humanities today through intensive cooperation not only with other faculties, but also with the City space, its cultural institutions, festivals and artists communities. We also focus on pioneering research projects that aim at assessing new directions for the Humanities in the contemporary world, mostly the Digital, Environmental and global Humanities.

Finally, what is also really important for me, is the international dimension of the work I do, institutionally, socially and intellectually. For instance my brief but highly productive visiting professorship at Columbia University allowed me to expand the connections with so many colleagues and programmes in the humanities. Moreover, as a board member of the Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes (CHCI) and at the European level the network of Humanities Institutes and Centres (ECHIC), I am very active in building the international dimension of discussions in the field of the humanities.  Throughout all this work, I find myself applying and translating the epistemological and methodological insights of feminist theory to different fields. Our key concepts and ideas, for instance the politics of location, or embodied and embedded perspectives, is extremely relevant to contemporary discussions on neo-materialism, the affective turn and the posthuman predicament. Feminist theory remains the conceptual core of my work because it has developed original tools and methods of analysis that allow for more incisive accounts of how power works in discourse, inn institutions and individual research practices.

2. What blogs are you currently reading?

Huffington Post and a few random others. Nothing systematic.

3. Feminism is…

The gesture – visceral, intellectual, emotional and always socio-political – that consists in saying:

 “NO I WOULD PREFER NOT TO !” to all the instances of oppression, marginalization, neglect and disqualification of women, LGBTQ+ and other gender-marked individuals and organisms. It is a collective, trans-national and trans-species movement for social justice, that fights for the respect and  empowerment of both human and non-human agents who are discriminated on the basis of their sexed and gender being. Profoundly emancipatory at heart, feminism also expresses a fundamental aspiration to freedom on the part of subjects whose existence is not valued adequately and not cared for fairly. Feminism is also transformative in that by pursuing its aims, ends up challenging and redefining in an affirmative and innovative way our shared assumptions about what it means to be ‘human’ today.  

This project requires visionary power or prophetic energy, qualities which are not highly valued scientifically in these times of coercive pursuit of quantified academic ‘excellence’. Yet, from the very early days, Joan Kelly typified feminist theory as a double edged vision, with a strong critical and an equally strong creative function. Faith in the creative powers of the imagination is an integral part of feminists’ appraisal of lived embodied experience and the bodily roots of subjectivity. This creative dimension constitutes the affirmative core of the radical epistemologies of feminism.