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What really matters? The elusive quality of the material in feminist thought

Rahman, Momin and Witz, A. (2003) What really matters? The elusive quality of the material in feminist thought. Feminist Theory, 4 (3). pp. 243-261. ISSN 1464-7001

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Abstract

The concept of the 'material' was the focus of much feminist work in the 1970s. It has always been a deeply contested one, even for feminists working within a broadly materialist paradigm of the social. Materialist feminists stretched the concept of the material beyond the narrowly economic in their attempts to develop a social ontology of gender and sexuality. Nonetheless, the quality of the social asserted by an expanded sense of the material - its 'materiality' - remains ambiguous. New terminologies of materiality and materialization have been developed within post-structuralist feminist thought and the literature on embodiment. The quality of 'materiality' is no longer asserted - as in materialist feminisms - but is problematized through an implicit deferral of ontology in these more contemporary usages, forcing us to interrogate the limits of both materialist and post-structuralist forms of constructionism. What really matters is how these newer terminologies of 'materiality' and 'materialization' induce us to develop a fuller social ontology of gender and sexuality; one that weaves together social, cultural, experiential and embodied practices.