2. The Subject Who Can _Be Free_

[2] In this essay I draw heavily on Lugones and Daly.  From Lugones I retain the assertion that subjects are multiple.  In asserting this position she draws on experience, especially the experiences of those who are bicultural, who navigate multiple social that, taken together, cultivate varying levels of agency and differing personalities. (n1)  Some worlds reduce the subject to a form of subservient agency which serves the privileged or the oppressors of that world.  Other worlds constitute the subject through restrictions that empower and allow for a measure of authoritative agency.  Still other worlds constitute and encourage the creativity and genuine engagement with others.  Subjects are multiple, likely containing contradictory selves that are perhaps repellant yet necessary for the work of navigating multiple social worlds.  In navigating these worlds one becomes dexterous, practiced in the juggling of selves.

[3] How is such multiplicity to be handled?  Lugones recommends cultivating a curdled subjectivity in which the various selves are encouraged to mix.  Forgetting one’s other selves, or fragmenting them away when they become a distraction, serves the interests of domination,(n2) which makes best use of those who can be reduced and will remember only their reduced subjectivity.  Note that Lugones does not view a curdled subjectivity along the lines that we might remember from Plato’s account of the tripartite structure of the soul.  Lugones specifically seeks to move away from the model of split separated components that are reorganized into a hierarchy.  Instead Lugones argues for a conception of the selves as a muddled and unstable blend.  It is this instability and impurity that she finds most productive for thinking about a resistant and inventive subject.

[4] It is tempting to interpret Lugones as seeing multiplicity as an ontological result of a life conditioned by multiple forms of oppression and thus not applicable to the oppressor.  I think this is a mistake.  Multiplicity also characterizes the subjectivity of those who occupy positions of privilege and relative power, though it is somewhat difficult for such subjects to see their multiplicity.  Being privileged may allow one to ignore multiplicity by remaining in worlds that are largely consistent; this is an artificially maintained harmony.  However, such apparent unity can break down if the subject finds herself in a world where she is not constituted with the levels of privilege to which she has become accustomed.  If she must travel to worlds of sense that do not offer the same kinds of privilege, or which constitute her as an outsider, and if she travels to these worlds often enough, then her multiplicity becomes more apparent.  Thus, the multiplicitous subject need not be understood as an experiential reality only for the multiply oppressed.  Such subjectivity is a possibility for all.

[5] From Daly I retain the idea that reality, Be-ing, is an unfolding process in which subjects create their own existence, breaking away from patriarchal realities and fixed forms of being.  In distinguishing “being” from the hyphenated “be-ing” Daly intends to mark the difference between a static noun and a verb.(n3)  One of the key tools of patriarchy is to convince women that their options and existence are completely fixed.  In treating be-ing as a noun it becomes possible to see that reality, and one’s subjectivity are actively produced.  Radical feminist realities are created through the ontological activity of subjects.  The possibility of this approach is obscured from view in worlds of domination because effective domination of women requires that women become convinced that no other form of existence is possible.  Breaking out of the frozen forms of subjectivity requires an ontology in which feminist realities can be created.  To understand be-ing as a verb means one’s metaphysics support the idea that feminist imaginations, activism, and ways of living can create worlds that do not oppress.

[6] Fusing these ideas from Daly and Lugones requires thinking of the subject as engaged in the process of creating itself as multiple.  The subject can be multiple in more than one way, as curdled multiplicity or fragmented multiplicity.  The way of being multiple depends on the structures of the worlds she navigates, her engagement with other subjects, and her own will.   Some of the worlds she navigates are designed to allow and foster impurity.  Other worlds are constructed to purify and effectively dominate.

[7] In worlds that are constructed for the purpose of domination, the subordinated subject’s own will is coerced to facilitate efficient exploitation.  She is crafty and inventive, so she must be ontologically altered through strategies that reduce her to a more manageable form.(n5)  In particular, her multiplicity must be reduced and her being fixed.  She must be brought to know herself only within the given context of domination and as having only the available options presented by the coercive context.  Her other selves are excluded, rendered invisible, and effectively fragmented away.  Having lost contact with her multiplicity, she is more easily led to know only a fragment of herself, to be this one self, to act in accordance with the limited options given to her by surrounding networks of domination.  Thus, she wills according to what is permitted by the cage of oppression (n6) and creates herself as a fragmented being.  She lives as a purified and frozen being.

[8] By contrast, the subject may be a curdled multiplicity.  The selves are not reduced away or fragmented from each other.  Instead the many selves are cultivated to rub edges, blend, intermingle in potentially disconcerting ways.  Be-ing curdled prepares the subject to better resist oppression.  In fact, the very cultivation of curdled multiplicity is resistance to the purifying forces of oppression.  Even more than this, the curdled subject has resources to effect change in her surroundings.  The curdling of selves allows one to invent and experiment with resistant strategies.  Though the surrounding world may work to reduce the subject, cultivating and sustaining curdled multiplicity makes resistant invention possible in ways that are difficult to conceptualize if we were only dealing with a purified and unified subject.

[9] Taken together, process ontology and the logic of curdling become a lens through which we can see subjects as free, though perhaps only in fleeting moments.  It is in the logic of curdling that we formulate an unruly subjectivity.  It is within a process ontology that subjects are able to create feminist worlds.  Although such freedom is temporary, the ability to visualize freedom is necessary if we are to think of feminism as more than resistant, as liberatory.

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