In Defence of Experience

Johanna Oksala


This paper studies our philosophical understanding of experience in order to question the current political and theoretical dismissal of women's experiential accounts in feminist theory. The focus is on Joan Scott's critique of experience, but the philosophical issues motivating the discussion go beyond Scott's work and concern the future of feminist theory and politics more generally. I ask what it means for feminist theory to redefine experience as a linguistic event the way Scott suggests. I attempt to demonstrate that the consequences that she draws form such a theoretical move are both philosophically and politically problematic. A critical study of the evidence of experience does not have to imply metaphysical or epistemological foundationalism as Scott claims, but on the contrary, such a study is indispensable for challenging them. It is my contention we must hold on to experience as an important resource for contesting sexist discourses and oppressive conceptual schemas.


experience, feminist theory, Joan Scott, feminist politics

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