2/26 | Elena Gambino

Sapphic Ambivalences

Rethinking Nietzschean Contestation for Feminist Practices of Democracy

This paper begins from the premise that feminist pushes to advance a democratic politics of contestation, like those put forth by proponents of agonistic democracy, have fashioned a provisional politics expressed through an implicitly Nietzschean framework of difference, self-articulation, and struggle. In keeping with this approach, I consider the political stakes of an aspect of Nietzsche’s writing as-yet unexplored by feminists – his insistence on a ‘history for life’ in The Untimely Meditations. Insofar as Nietzschean monumental histories enable radically subjective projects, I argue that the concept figures as a crucial channel through which contestable political argumentation is mobilized in his thought. Yet Nietzsche’s strategies for acting through the ambivalence of self-fashioning ought give feminists pause, for the many absences and erasures of feminist histories illuminate complications for a useful conception of monumental history. Drawing on Monique Wittig’s distinction between locution and interlocution to discuss the perils of uttering coherent feminist narratives, I argue that three key strategies of monumental history warrant rethinking by feminists: first, the injunction to forget; second, the act of self-legislation; and third, the move to eternalize the objects of history. Finally, I suggest that attending to the ambivalence in feminist histories enables an opportunity to move toward a new set of strategies for democratic politics.

Elena Gambino is a PhD Candidate in political theory at the Department of Political Science, University of Minnesota.