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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Hospitality of the Matrix: Philosophy, Biomedicine, and Culture - Irina Aristarkhova - Reading Through Lacan

Irina’s new book, Hospitality of the Matrix: Philosophy, Biomedicine, and Culture is a refreshing and bold addition to a truly progressive feminist theory in North America.  I will be completing a series of interviews with Irina about her new work, which draws on Luce Irigaray(one of my favorite theorist working in the field of Lacanian psychoanalysis and Feminist theory).  The synopsis reads as follows:
The question “Where do we come from?” has fascinated philosophers, scientists, and artists for generations. This book reorients the question of the matrix as a place where everything comes from (chora, womb, incubator) by recasting it in terms of acts of “matrixial/maternal hospitality” producing space and matter of and for the other. Irina Aristarkhova theorizes such hospitality with the potential to go beyond tolerance in understanding self/other relations. Building on and critically evaluating a wide range of historical and contemporary scholarship, she applies this theoretical framework to the science, technology, and art of ectogenesis (artificial womb, neonatal incubators, and other types of generation outside of the maternal body) and proves the question “Can the machine nurse?” is critical when approaching and understanding the functional capacities and failures of incubating technologies, such as artificial placenta. Aristarkhova concludes with the science and art of male pregnancy, positioning the condition as a question of the hospitable man and newly defined fatherhood and its challenge to the conception of masculinity as unable to welcome the other” (see the link above).
About the Author
Irina Aristarkhova is associate professor of women’s studies and visual art at Pennsylvania State University, University Park. She edited and contributed to the volume Woman Does Not Exist: Contemporary Studies of Sexual Difference and to the Russian translation of Luce Irigaray’s An Ethics of Sexual Difference.
This book inspired me to come up with a thought experiment with some of my graduate students after a seminar.  We thought of the idea of opening up a seminar by asking a man the following question:  ”If it were possible, would you give birth to a baby?”  This question is provocative because it asks a man to think about an alien creature entering and growing in his body, which by extension gives birth to the core idea of Irina’s radical notion of “hospitality” because if you are not willing to have your body invaded by a foreign body (literally) than how does this relate to the kernel notion of openness to the other?  And further,  we might ask: How does this relate to the fundamental notion of masculinity?  Does the domain of masculinity, for example, contain within it an open-ness?  Irina and I will discuss these and other basic questions like the future of Women’s Studies in North America, the truth of Feminism, and, of course, psychoanalysis (Lacan style)!
Also I’m thrilled to announce that my friend, and one of Europe’s greatest Feminist thinkers,  Professor Katerina Kolozova will publish her book _The Cut of the Real_ in my book series I co-edit at Columbia University Press!

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