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Women Matter / «Femmes Matière»

French and Francophone Women and the Material World

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Maggie Allison and Imogen Long

This volume is based on papers given at the biennial Women in French conference held in Leeds in May 2011. Drawing on a range of interconnecting disciplines and forms of cultural production, it explores the relationship between French and Francophone women and the material world. Bringing together researchers from the United Kingdom, France and other Francophone countries, the book reflects the engagement of women researchers with contemporary debates.
The first section focuses on the female body, examining dance and the performing arts but also the material objectification suffered by rape victims in France. The next highlights the contradictions of the im/materiality of the body, the act of writing and the text, in terms of dichotomies, permeable identities and fluid boundaries. The third section turns its attention to the practicalities of ‘the material’ in relation to women’s engagement with the economy – the gendering of domestic work, women’s discourse, the precariousness of women’s employment and the alienating impersonality of consumer spaces. The concluding section considers the relationship of the female body to the material object, whether subverting, co-opting or indeed absorbing it. In the final chapters of the book the tactile and the visual converge in explorations of ‘the material’ in cinematic representations of the female body.

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Maggie Allison and Imogen Long Preface

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This volume, resulting from the biennial Women in French (UK) con- ference held in May 2011, ref lects the enduring preoccupation in both Anglophone and Francophone academe, feminist movements and action groups with the interface between women’s lives and the materiality of their existence as evidenced in their production, be it artistic, intellectual, physi- cal, economic or technical. It explores the relationship between French and Francophone women and the material world, examining a range of contexts in which women are inf luenced by, or indeed inf luence, and engage with the material world, or choose to disengage from it. This key preoccupa- tion with the materiality of existence will here emphasise the interplay of women, objects, the body, matter, the economy and the consumer society. As will be seen from the introductions to each section, several strands emerge, ranging from a focus on ‘matter’ as such to preoccupations with materialism, with some chapters bridging the two. Firstly, then, there is the consideration of the female body as matter, matter in itself and also in terms of its interaction with other material substances and objects, on the one hand enabling the female subject empowerment when, for example, using her body as an instrument to combat the dominant order, for instance in its Freudian interpretation as in the case of the writer Malika Mokeddem (Bouchemal). This is an empowerment still to be achieved for many, how- ever, as in cases of rape (Fayard) where ‘concrete’ material proof is de rigueur and empathy...

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