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Date: 8 - 9 January 2009 Time: Thursday 12.00 - 5.00; Friday 9.00 - 4.30

Hope: A Workshop on Feminist Theory

Venue: Meeting Room 1-2, IAS, Lancaster University. Times: 12.00 - 5 pm Thursday 8th, 9 am 4.30 pm Friday 9th. Registration will be held in IAS foyer from 12 - 1.15 on Thursday.

Registration for this event is now closed. If you require further information, please contact Debra Ferreday,

Hope has been central to marginal politics which speak of desires for equality or simply for a better life (Zournazi 2002). Feminism, for example, might be characterised as a politics of hope, a movement underpinned by a utopian drive for full equality. This version of hope has been appropriated into liberal discourse, for example in Barack Obama's phrase 'the audacity of hope' - a mobilisation of an affirmative politics which nevertheless implicitly reproduces the notion that we are living in hopeless times. Indeed, in recent years, feminism has seen the production of a prevailing mood of hopelessness around a generational model of progress, which is widely imagined to have 'failed'. However, as a number of feminist theorists have pointed out, the temporality of feminism cannot be conceived as straightforwardly linear (see for example McRobbie 2004, Hemmings 2005). As Lisa Adkins (2004) argues, it is only possible to imagine feminism as 'having passed' if one understands feminism to be a particular way of knowing that 'depends on teleological and progressive notions of history'.

This workshop will explore the possibilities of hope as a means of thinking through what it might mean to theorise the affirmative (for example Braidotti 2002, 2006). Does hope necessarily imply a fantasy of perfectibility, a progression to a utopian future, or might it also be conceived of as an attachment, a tendency, an inclination, a lure? Does life tend towards hope, happiness, optimism? And, if so, what are the consequences when hope fails? Who decides which hopes are false? What is the cost of giving up hope? Is hope necessarily affirmative or can it, like optimism, be cruel, since it is 'the condition of maintaining an attachment to a problematic object in advance of its loss' (Berlant 2006). Or as Claire Colebrook (2003) puts it, 'why is it that human life, in its everydayness, so often appears to choose its unhappiness?'

Taking these questions as our starting point, the workshop will explore how hope can do justice to the inherent interconnectedness of life and theory. Does hope enable feminist theory to understand life other than as a 'mystified false consciousness requiring the illumination of theory' (Colebrook 2003)? It will examine the kinds of relations to the future that hope creates and consider how a focus on hope might allow feminist theory to intervene in the cultural production of hopelessness.


Adkins, Lisa (2004) 'Passing on feminism' in European Journal of Women's Studies Vol. 11, No. 4, pp 427-444

Berlant, Lauren (2006) 'Cruel optimism' in differences Vol. 17, No. 3, pp 20-36

Braidotti, Rosi (2002) Metamorphoses: Towards a Materialist Theory of Becoming Cambridge: Polity Press

Braidotti, Rosi (2006) Transpositions: On Nomadic Ethics Cambridge: Polity Press

Colebrook, Claire (2003) 'Happiness, theoria and everyday life' in Symploke Vol. 11, No. 1-2, pp 132-151

Hemmings, Claire (2005) 'Telling feminist stories' in Feminist Theory Vol. 6, No. 2, pp 115-139

McRobbie, Angela (2004) 'Post feminism and Popular Culture' in Feminist Media Studies Vol. 4, No. 3, pp 255-264

Zournazi, Mary (2002) (ed) Hope: New Philosophies for Change Sydney: Pluto


Who can attend: Anyone


Further information

Associated staff: Rebecca Coleman, Debra Ferreday, Imogen Tyler

Organising departments and research centres: Centre for Gender and Women's Studies, Feminist Media Studies Research Group, Institute for Advanced Studies, Media, Film & Cultural Studies (formerly ICR)

Keywords: Cultural theory, Feminist theory


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Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Lancaster University
Lancaster LA1 4YD
United Kingdom

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