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Clayton State’s Annual Philosophy in Society Lecture to Feature Emory’s Dr. Noëlle McAfee

Nov 05 2014

The Clayton State University Philosophy Department will be holding its Eighth Annual Philosophy in Society lecture on Monday, Nov. 10, at noon in room UC272 of the James M. Baker University Center.

This year’s speaker is Dr. Noëlle McAfee, professor of Philosophy at Emory University. McAfee’s topic is, “Beyond the Freedom to Channel Surf: Freedom and Feminism (and other liberatory practices) in a Neoliberal Era.” McAfee’s presentation is free and open to the public.

Prior to the Philosophy in Society lecture, McAfee provided the following abstract of her presentation…

What does it mean to be free? And in what ways should feminist theorists and practitioners aim for women’s freedom?

Philosophically, the question of freedom has been approached in two classical ways: as negative and as positive freedom, that is, as freedom from (e.g., harm, barriers, and oppressive conditions) or freedom to (e.g., act, participate, or develop one’s talents and aims). Liberal capitalist societies tend to embrace negative liberty, whereas those with a social-welfare tradition value (though this is diminishing) positive liberty or, as Kant put it, the possibility for self-beginning, or, as Kristeva puts it with Arendt, the freedom to revolt against conventions and begin something new.

This takes up, first, the question of the meaning and possibility of the latter, robust idea of freedom in a neoliberal era, when the logic of the market and technocratic solutions to political problems tend to render lives aimed at creating meaning unthinkable. Instead of lives of revolt and world-building, we are encouraged to go shopping and channel surf. In a neoliberal era, where might we find the seeds of radical thinking, questioning, and creation? Should we focus on our inner experience psychoanalytically or worldly experience politically or both? With the help of Kristeva and Arendt, I will show how in these times we can rebel from the given and lead rich and meaningful lives.

Second, this considers what feminism might mean when coupled with this robust conception of freedom. Where second-wave feminists correctly aimed at ridding the world of the obstacles that impeded women’s (negative) liberty, corners of feminist theory and practice today are looking for novel ways that women and other people can create new meaning and purpose of their lives.

McAfee’s writings include “Democracy and the Political Unconscious” (Columbia 2008); “Julia Kristeva” (Routledge 2003); “Habermas, Kristeva, and Citizenship” (Cornell 2000); as well as numerous articles and book chapters. Her co-edited volumes include a special issue of the philosophy journal Hypatia on feminist engagements in democratic theory and an edited volume titled “Democratizing Deliberation: A Political Theory Anthology” (Kettering 2012). She is also co-chair of the Public Philosophy Network and co-editor of the Kettering Review. She is currently working on a book manuscript entitled “Democracy Otherwise.”

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