Femina Sacer: On the Difficulties of Loving One's Neighbour

Citation:

McInturff, Kate. 2007. “Femina Sacer: On the Difficulties of Loving One’s Neighbour.” The International Journal of the Humanities 5 (8): 45-52.

Author: Kate McInturff

Abstract:

Much work in the humanities continues to be driven by the conviction that the study of culture can contribute to, in Matthew Arnold’s words, “diminishing human misery.” Nonetheless, there are difficulties inherent in claiming an ethical imperative for one’s work, when fields such as Postcolonial Studies have recorded so well the misery that arose out of a moral mission to civilize. 

Historical events have and continue to ensure our scepticism of the capacity of human beings to follow the ethical imperative to love one’s neighbour as one loves one’s self. The radical critique offered by poststructuralism has and continues to ensure our scepticism of the validity of the ethical imperative itself. In light of this difficulty, theorists such as Judith Butler have offered ethical models informed equally by a psychoanalytic examination of the psychic drives involved in ethical behaviour and a philosophical examination of existential drives involved in ethical behaviour. However, the ethical models on which she draws, those of Giorgio Agamben and Emmanuel Levinas, contain significant contradictions. In particular, both theories make implicit links between authority, duty to others, and the role of the father or male citizen. Thus, the increasing popularity of the models of ethics offered by these two philosophers ought not to go unchecked by an inquiry into the extent to which patriarchal relations of power are integral to their understanding of ethical responsibility. In short: must one love one’s neighbour as one’s father? To paraphrase Freud: “Why should we do it? What good will it do us? But, above all, how shall we achieve it? How can it be possible?”

Topics: Gender

Year: 2007

© 2017 CONSORTIUM ON GENDER, SECURITY & HUMAN RIGHTSLEGAL STATEMENT All photographs used on this site, and any materials posted on it, are the property of their respective owners, and are used by permission. Photographs: The images used on the site may not be downloaded, used, or reproduced in any way without the permission of the owner of the image. Materials: Visitors to the site are welcome to peruse the materials posted for their own research or for educational purposes. These materials, whether the property of the Consortium or of another, may only be reproduced with the permission of the owner of the material. This website contains copyrighted materials. The Consortium believes that any use of copyrighted material on this site is both permissive and in accordance with the Fair Use doctrine of 17 U.S.C. § 107. If, however, you believe that your intellectual property rights have been violated, please contact the Consortium at info@genderandsecurity.org.