Libreria della Donne di Milano (Milan Women’s Bookstore Collective)
Tue 11 August, 7pm
SPACE Mare St
Free & open to all
Led by Helena Reckitt
This monthly reading group on feminisms, consciousness-raising and leave-taking considers the resonance of earlier moments of feminist thinking, art and activism in contemporary life. Juxtaposing texts from the 1970s and 1980s with current positions, the group highlights feminist concepts of intimacy, communication and collectivity. The relevance of the practice of consciousness-raising, or autocoscienza within Italian feminism, is explored. Might a return to such tactics help us to combat the exhaustion, fragmentation and anxiety that we experience under networked capitalism today? What are the potentials, and pitfalls, of such collective processes of talking, listening, and analysing?
This session focuses on Libreria della Donne di Milano (Milan Women’s Bookstore Collective). We will look at:
1. Milan Women’s Bookstore Collective, Chapter One, extracts
2. Teresa de Lauretis, 'The Practice of Sexual Difference and Feminist Thought in Italy: An Introductory Essay'
These come from the English translation of the 1987 collectively-authored book Non credere di avere dei diritti: La generazione della liberta femminile nell’idea e nelle vicende di un gruppo di donne (Don't Think You Have Any Rights: The Engendering of Female Freedom in the Thought and Vicissitudes of a Women’s Group).
The English version came out in 1990 under the pithier, albeit somewhat blander, title of Sexual Difference. It was edited and co-translated by the US-based Italian theorist Teresa de Lauretis, a key conduit for the dissemination of Italian feminist ideas in Anglo-American circles.
Despite the efforts of de Lauretis and others, the Milan Collective's work did not find a big audience amongst US or UK feminists at the time, and neither has it since. Tellingly, the copy that I made these copies from was a de-accessioned library book. (That said, the book is considered a key resource in radical legal struggles and theories of resistance and refusal.)
This critical neglect stems, in part, from the Milan Collective’s radical rejection of equal rights feminism which puts it at odds with US and UK definitions of liberty that focus on the individual. In contrast, the Milan Collective envisioned freedom as “a creative and collective practice of world-building, fundamentally inaugural in character, which establishes irreducibly contingent, politically significant relationships among women as sexed beings who otherwise have none apart from their place in the masculine economy of exchange.” (Linda M G Zerilli, Feminism and the Abyss of Freedom, University of Chicago Press, 2005, http://www.ssc.wisc.edu/~mferree/documents/SociologicalTheory-Zerilli-09.pdf).