Gender, Precarity and Sexuality: The Intersection of Gender, Ethnicity, Sexuality and Class in Relational Precarity in Neoliberal Society-the Influence of Lauren Berlant

Tuesday, 12 July 2016
Location: Hörsaal 33 (Main Building)
Distributed Paper
Ann BROOKS, Bournemouth University, United Kingdom
Lauren Berlant has theorized gender and precarity within a range of texts highlighting the intersection of race, sexuality, gender and class. She focuses on precarity as a relational concept and draws on historical and contemporary examples to show how precarity in relational terms can be challenged and resisted. Berlant’s (1993) “The Queen of America Goes to Washington City: Harriett Jacobs, Francis Harper, Anita Hill” focuses on three women writers who have all represented in their writings, their failure to secure control over their bodies and who challenge America’s judicial system. The three writers represent historical and contemporary cases of slavery, citizenship and sexual harassment. Berlant draws attention to the intersection of personal and national life vis a vis sexuality. She shows how all three women have made: “the nation listen to them, to transform the horizons and terms of authority that mark both personal and national life in America by speaking about sexuality as the fundamental and fundamentally repressed horizon of national identity, legitimacy and affective experience” (Berlant 1993: 552). A number of feminist theorists have highlighted how women have responded to relational precarity, including Vilalobos (2014) Motherhood and Cooper’s (2014) Cut Adrift, Stacey’s (2011) Unhitched and Pugh’s (2015) The Tumbleweed Society. This paper focuses on precarity as a relational concept and an aspect of intimacy, and considers relational insecurity and resistance in neoliberal society in the Global North. The influence of Berlant’s work is considered for relational precarity more broadly as a significant contribution to feminist debates in the area of gender, precarity and neoliberalism.