The very idea of women'soppression presupposes the material reality of their plight and thevalidity of their claims, notions outside the purview of theoriesfor which everything is relative, contingent, and discursivelyconstructed.
The deconstruction of"women" as a category of analysis, the focus on "discursivelyconstructed" genders, sexualities, bodies, and manifold differencesamong women have severed the links between feminist theory and theactual conditions shaping most women's lives.
That two anthologies of Marxist feministwritings have been published under the aegis of materialistfeminism attest to the greater market value of "materialism" andpublishers' power to decide what sells, rather than the existenceof a theoretical convergence between MarxFem and MatFem.
Besides, MatFem has movedfurther away from the possibility of bridging the gap betweendiscourses, ideologies and the mode of production; the latestreincarnation of postructuralist materialism is not the matter oflanguage, or the text or discourse, but rather "the resisting'matter' of the non-discursive," with the body as the matter underconsideration.
Because postmodern materialistfeminists have rejected all "metanarratives," discourses have acontradictory relationship to the capitalist structures, processesand contradictions which are their condition of possibility; theyare only "contingently" related (thus duly avoiding the specters of"reductionism" and "economism") to the mode of production but, asthey are considered to be material in their effects, they are defacto assumed to be determinant in their own right, thus resultingin an unacknowledged discursive reductionism. Hennessy and Ingraham argue for the need to keep a connectionbetween discourse, conceptualized as ideology, and the relevant"global analytics" which oppress women, patriarchy and capitalism.
And the peculiar degradation of Homeric characters which appears in some poets (especially Euripides) finds a parallel in the later chansons de geste.3 The comparison of Homer with the great literary epics calls for more discursive treatment than would be in place here.
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In particular, I argue that the concept of access should be broadened and extended to exhibition forms that have traditionally been deemed supplementary, such as lectures, symposia, workshops, educational programs, audio guides, and websites. This paper will examine the role of disability—in this case blindness—within the expanded field of discursive art, not only as a practical problem that governs form and access but also an object of representation. Exhibitions that explore themes of disability and normativity redefine viewers' perceptions, and raise new implications for contemporary art exhibition making and discursive programming. The discursive turn has much to offer the disabled subject in its representation in the museum.
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In experiencing the world upside down, we'll not gain just a new visual experience, but an entirely new sensorial and conceptual one also, and this is exactly the point. Perhaps it is the museum and artists that can lead the way in the challenge to overturn the discursive regimes that simplify disabled communities into reductive binaries. Disability studies scholar Tobin Siebers speaks to this prospect when he writes that "the disabled body changes the process of representation itself. Blind hands envision the faces of old acquaintances. Deaf eyes listen to public television … Mouths sign autographs … Could [disability studies] change body theory [and contemporary art] as usual?" Imagine encountering a gamut of atypical physical experiences inscribed in a work of art. These experiences might range from blindness to deafness, from dwarfism and challenges with scale to how bodies engage with the built environment as a paraplegic in a wheelchair or as an amputee with a prosthetic leg or arm. Other experiences would cultivate a heightened sense of sound, touch, smell, taste, or body language.
Ultimately, I will suggest that we might even need a different concept than access if we mean to engage disability along more productive terms. In order to do so, I will analyze the ways in which disability and accessibility can be problematized within the museum through the use of discursive formats, relying on two case studies: the conference and website that accompanied the exhibition, Blind at the Museum, which took place in 2005 at the Berkeley Art Museum, CA and the website, audio guides and Blind Field Shuttle walk by Carmen Papalia, all attached to the exhibition, What Can a Body Do? that was hosted by Haverford College, PA in 2012. My discussion analyzes how the notion of access informed both shows, and closes by considering how the exhibitions might serve as a model for efforts to rethink reductive or normative understandings of disability and access.