Quinby, Lee 1994
Univ. Minnesota Pr., Minneapolis
Introduction Apocalyptic Fits
Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire: your land, strangers devour it in your presence, and it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers. Isaiah 1:7
"But everything isn't going badly. Michel Foucault, "The Masked Philosopher"I
Approaching the Year 2000
U.S. society suffers from apocalyptic fits of two different kinds. First, there is the ready-made fit of an apocalyptic regime of truth that is dominant in the United States today. That is, the truth that has been made to prevail in the United States through a vast array of power relations is one that follows an apocalyptic grammar, semantics, and logic. Conformity to apocalyptic truth is what brings on the second kind of fit, signaled by convulsions of fear and anxiety and paroxysms of hope for a new beginning. When Francis Fukuyama sights the end of history with the arrival of modern liberal democracy and New Haven residents spot the face of Jesus in a sycamore tree, the apocalyptic regime of truth gains momentum and scope. As fundamentalist ministers and postmodern prophets register us closer to the millennium, apocalyptic anxieties over the end of the world and dreams of ultimate triumph will no doubt heighten, for the upcoming millennium is a prophetic year in apocalyptic thought.
While according to the Chinese calender the year 2000 is long past, within the apocalyptic imaginary, the year 2000 promises to usher in history's final scene. Its enigmatic trinity of zeroes either promises cosmic embrace or threatens annihilation. The hopes and fears associated with the end of the world are as likely to occur in nontheological discourse as in Christian millenarianism. While most analysts make a distinction between secular and religious forms of apocalypticism and millenarianism, the two forms are not so distinct. Carl Raschke, for example, offers such a differentiation by observing that the old millenarianism "could be understood only in the framework of traditional Christian belief.
The new millenarian consciousness is basically political and secular." To my mind, this distinction (like my own use of the terms "religious" and "secular" on some occasions) is only useful provisionally in order to show the convergence of these two modes of apocalypticism. Politics has always been a feature of Christian millenarianism, and fundamentalist belief surely feeds nontheological perceptions.4 The unusual elasticity of the term "apocalypse" facilitates this convergence of religious and secular attitudes and practices. Everyday usage of the term extends to images and ideas that are synonymous with cultural decline, urban chaos, and ecological devastation, and its range stems from evangelicals predicting Armageddon to political officials calling for the United States to lead the way toward a "New World Order.
It is vital to understand just how much the metaphors of biblical Apocalypse guide perceptions of everyday events for most people in the United States, despite the fact that relatively few actually read the Bible. Two Gallup polls from the fall of 1991 indicate how widespread certain apocalyptic notions are. An October poll indicated that 52 percent of the "typical" adults polled said they believed in the devil. A November poll reported that 47 percent of the respondents agreed that "God created man pretty much in his present form at one time within the last 10,000 years" while 40 percent agreed that "man has developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process, incuding man's creation."' These responses show that, even when people are not declared fundamentalists, they often hold to notions of divine origin and metaphysical evil. Even the overtly secular-minded speak of a nuclear blow-up, AIDS, rises in crime, and the greenhouse effect in apocalyptic terms.
Media coverage of the events following the April 29, 1992, acquittal of four Los Angeles police officers accused of beating Rodney King often drew on images of apocalyptic fires and chaos to describe the burned buildings and broken windows of South Central L.A. Some secular apocalypticians, in concert with the fundamentalist sense of reaping havoc before harmony, regard worldwide devastation as a necessary step for a transformation in human consciousness. Over the last few decades, Hollywood cinema has added entertainment to the mix. Apocalypse Now can be seen as a leader in the cinematic discursive field that depicts war as an end-time. More common and of longer standing is the cinematic fascination about life after technological destruction. As if enacting a repetition compulsion that simultaneously evokes and denies its sources of anxiety, such films tend to produce several sequels. From the series of Planet of the Apes films, first released in 1968 and then through the 1970s, to Aliens of 1992, one gets a sense of ever-dispersing denial of and despair over the end. Two of the most intriguing Hollywood apocalypse films from the early nineties, The Seventh Sign with Demi Moore and The Rapture with Mimi Rogers, are explicitly focused on the biblical book of Revelation. Their cinematic exegesis assumes as a plot device a supernatural divinity that brings about the end of time, but, by drawing on feminine apocalyptic figures such as the Harlot of Babylon and the Queen of Heaven, while targeting an audience familiar with feminism, both films focus on a woman to raise questions about human agency under apocalyptic duress.
It is understandable why apocalyptic rhetoric is used by so disparate a group of meaning-makers. Its images and symbols provide the kind of emotional drama we search for in trying to describe deep fear and widespread misery in the world today. For many, it is the only way to describe the horrors of the Holocaust, the destructive capacity of the U.S. bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, or the devastation of bodies shrunken by famine. Apocalyptic prophecy is also the most resonant discourse in the United States today for expressions of hope and a sense of urgency about necessary changes in attitudes and behavior, for apocalypse is about celebration as well as destruction. The "revel" of the title "Revelation," the New Testament book of Apocalypse, reminds us of its announced promise that a new order is on the horizon. This view is endemic to the convergence of the theological and political in U.S. apocalyptic discourse. The nomination speech that Bill Clinton delivered at the 1992 Democratic Convention at Madison Square Garden drew on the puritan apocalyptic concept of a covenant in order to tap that effect.
I am not saying that this is all bad. Precisely because it is on tap in the United States, it is possible for apocalyptic ideas to aid struggles for democracy by exciting people toward activism. This is the force of Cornet West's warning about ,this country's failures in creating a multiracial democracy: "Either we learn a r;ew language of empathy and compassion, or the fire this time will consume us all. , But even when apocalyptic imagery is used to fight racist suppressions of freedom, as with West's allusion to James Baldwin's warning, it runs the risk of displacing concrete political analysis. While advocating a new kind of leadership "grounded in grass-roots organizing that highlights democratic accountability," West's insistence that if we don't learn this lesson the fire will consume us all is the kind of hyperbole that undermines his own earlier analysis of local devastation. People in positions of privilege can, and clearly do, dismiss the threat to their own way of life as by and large inaccurate.
At stake here are the relationships between power, truth, ethics, and [email protected] In attempting to represent the unrepresentable, the unknowable-the End, or death par excellence -apocalyptic writings are a quintessential technology of power/knowledge. They promise the defeat of death, at least for the obedient who deserve everlasting life, and the prolonged agony of destruction for those who have not obeyed the Law of the Father. One does not have to succumb to apocalyptic eschatology to understand why end-time propensities imperil democracy: the apocalyptic tenet of preordained history disavows questionings of received truth, discredits skepticism, and disarms challengers of the status quo. Appeals to the Day of judgment, the dawn of a New Age, even the dream of a cryogenic "return" to life, put off the kinds of immediate political and ethical judgments that need to be made in order to resist both overt domination and the more seductive forms of disciplinary power operative in the United States today and fostered by the United States in other countries.
Strictly speaking, Apocalypse refers to the Jewish, Christian, and Gnostic writings that announce what has already been predetermined: God's destruction of the world and establishment of a new order. Because their expressed desire is driven toward the future, these writings presume, yet do not themselves dwell on, their own narrative origin, as found in Genesis; they were composed centuries after its recounting of the divine creation of the heavens and the earth, Adam and Eve, and their fall. And although they dwell on the present by detailing the suffering of the elect and the iniquity of their enemies, Satan's accomplices, they are not themselves historical accounts in the sense that the two books of the Chronicles are. In its longing for the messiah, the savior of fallen humanity, the gaze of Apocalypse is riveted on the paradoxical vision of what will be: the end that is the beginning of eternity. The narrative focus of Apocalypse is the giving of the revealed word to the visionary prophet. Thus even though apocalyptic narrative is a story with a beginning and a middle and an earthly setting, it is a narrative that seeks to be nonnarrative, to get beyond the strictures of time and space. Apocalypse understood in the strict sense dates from ancient history, and some scholars insist that this strict definition is the only proper way to approach apocalyptic attitudes and practices.
One biblical historian who advocates this vie w argues that "apocalypticism in the full sense of the word, a balance of myth, method, and way of life, existed only for about 200 years, and formed a unique mentality" during the first two centuries C.E. Although he concedes that apocalypticism, because it is so "captivating," has "remained a constant theme" for many subsequent centuries, he takes issue with those who link apocalypticism with more recent and wider-ranging beliefs in the end of time and the dawn of a new age, stating that "the history of its reception has been the history of its constant dilution. "
That there are differences between the early form of apocalypticism and our own is a relevant historical point. But there are problems with the notion that the early form of apocalypticism is a "unique mentality" and that all subsequent forms are necessarily diluted versions of it. These particular assumptions are central to debates about apocalyptic writings and practices and are often found within discussions that do not otherwise adhere to the strict definition. The first assumption is that if something is unique then it is authentic, or, in this case, that the early form of apocalypticism was more "full-strength" than those that followed. This is not only misleading. It reenacts apocalyptic insistence on an originary moment. Such a view cannot account for why apocalyptic images, motifs, and fervor continue to be so compelling.
The second assumption often found in discussions of apocalyptic belief has to do with the notion of apocalypticism as a "mentality." To the extent that "mentality" is construed as a unified mode of thought, predefined and continuous over time, and pure at its creation, it logically follows that any changes in the idea will perforce be regarded as a falling from grace. This too follows Apocalypse's footsteps. Apocalypticism is not a single belief that can be gauged as full-strength or diluted over the ages. It is better understood in the Foucauldian sense as a regime of truth that operates within a field of power relations and prescribes a particular moral behavior. By arguing that apocalypticism is a regime of truth I also draw on Foucault's notions of discourse - but a caveat is in order: I want to avoid the quasi-scholasticism of the method defined in The Archaeology of Knowledge. It's then worth conceding up front the impossibility of fixing the parameters of a given field of statements. It remains useful, nevertheless, to think of a discourse as a "system of dispersion" of statements that define, designate, circumscribe, and sometimes eliminate certain objects of its authority.
Discourse is not the same as language understood in the narrow sense as a transparent medium communicating a content. A discourse or discursive formation is constituted within a social context, and that context establishes regularities or prescribed ways of speaking that allow and disallow statements. Discursive analysis asks, "How is it that one particular statement appeared rather than another?"" The discourse of apocalypse has rules and conventions for establishing meaning, designating the true from the false, empowering certain speakers and writers and disqualifying others. In short, rather than saying that contemporary apocalypticism is diluied, it makes more sense to say that it is a remarkably proliferative and persistent network of discursive and nondiscursive practices. This proliferation and persistence is why it is accurate to use the term "apocalypse" beyond its scope of strict definition to designate a regime of truth that has appeared over a tong period of time and through a wide variety of statements, rather than insisting on it as a limited set of writings that appeared only once in pure form with spin-offs for the last two thousand years. When viewed in this way, what stands out is apocalypticism's perdurable appeal as a way of grappling with death, destruction, and eternity.
The ancients aren't the only ones to produce the truth of apocalypse, that is, to produce a mode of power/knowledge that claims access to revealed and absolute truth about how the world will end and who will survive it. The modern history of this regime of truth has been expressed through three modes of comprehending and narrating truth. One of these modes is divine apocalypse. This is the discourse of religious fundamentalists who see divine design and judgment as that which will bring on the end of the world and provide a heavenly home for an elect group.
It is also the discourse of poetic visionaries such as Norman 0. Brown, who, for thirty years now, has heralded "Dionysian Christianity, an apocalyptic Christianity, a Christianity of miracles and revelations. " And it is the discourse of New Age adherents who subscribe to a preordained planetary alignment that will bring a "mass ascension into new realms of consciousness."
NOTE: Norman O. Brown 1991 Apocalypse and/or Metamorphoses University of California Pr. Berkeley. This assertion was made in 1960. Since then his pronouncements have become somewhat more circumspect. In Dionysus in 1990 he concedes that "It may well be that human beings can tolerate Dionysian truth only if it is held at a distance, projected onto human or divine scapegoats, admitted under the sign of negation. Reality may be too much for us. We may, like Job have uttered what we cannot understand."
The second mode is technological apocalypse, which has two sub-categories: technological devastation and technological salvation. The first holds technology responsible for human and world devastation, through such threats as nuclear crisis, environmental degradation, and mechanized dehumanization. The second position presents technology as the means whereby humanity and the earth will be perfected as a heaven on earth. Sometimes the two categories interlace in warnings of a harmonious but totalitarian world, yet holding out hope that from it will spring a new order.
The third mode is ironic apocalypse, which is expressed through absurdist or nihilistic descriptions of existence. According to this discourse, there is an end to time, but no rebirth will follow. Time moves toward entropic inertia. A version of this view is sometimes identified as postapocalypse by its proponents. This is the dystopian view that history has exhausted itself. The irony is that we live on beyond morality or meaning. These three modes comprise the apocalyptic regime of truth that dominates in the United States today. But apocalypse is not a single, unified regime of truth; quite the contrary.
Although all three of these modes constitute apocalyptic discourse, they are often conflictual within a mode-as is the case between Norman 0. Brown's Dionysian Christianity and Pat Robertson's fundamentalist Christianity. The different modes are also often at odds with each other, most notably the divine and ironic modes. And they frequently converge, esoecially the divine with the technological and the technological with the ironic. In other words, apocalyptic discourse is intensely contestatory in its claims for truth. But in its characteristic claims for the Truth, in whichever mode it is expressed, apocalypse is itself a totalizing production of knowledge. Within U.S. apocalypticism, anxieties about and hopes for the end of the world as we know it and a new order of existence are commonly represented through the signifier 'America." The convergence of general apocalyptic attitudes and a belief in the United States as the culmination of history is so thorough as to justify the term 'American apocalypse." The status of 'America" in the apocalyptic truth regime of the United States derives from the ways in which Puritan colonization made apocalypse a power/knowledge locus that prevailed even when English rule was defeated and separation of church and state was constitutionally mandated. Puritan magistrates and historians explicitly identified themselves as the elect, as "visible saints" in God's preordained war between forces of good and evil. They designated their society a "City upon a Hill," which obliged them not only to live according to divine plan but also to spread the word of the world's predestined and imminent end. Likening New England to the Israel of the Old Testament, they drew on biblical apocalypse both de-interpret events, and prescriptively, as a model of theocratic governance.
Because the Puritans so thoroughly adhered to the Bible, I want to turn briefly to the central elements of Old and New Testament Apocalypse that became dogma in Puritan apocalypse and have continued to hold sway over the last two centuries in the United States. One of the foremost features of Puritan apocalypse was its typological following of biblical descriptions of the present day as a time of supreme decadence, a wicked time deserving of God's unleashed wrath. Biblical apocalypse depicts the onset of great tribulation between nations, as in the Old Testament prophet Daniel's description of the battles between the four kingdoms (chapter 11) or Isaiah's account of the wars to befall Babylon (chapter 13):
(13:9) Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it.
(13:15,16) Every one that is found shall be thrust through; and every one that is joined unto them shall fall by the sword. Their children also shall be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses shall be spoiled, and their wives ravished.
In biblical and Puritan apocalypse, these disasters serve as signs for the holy, for apocalypse is also about how God's worthy people are to find their way to salvation. Among the worthy are the prophets who receive God's words and are bidden to pass them on to the chosen. Hence from Ezekiel (3:16,17):
And it came to pass at the end of seven days, that the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me.
God's warnings situate the prophet in time, emphasizing the importance to apocalyptic vision of linear time, as well as the way in which time is understood to be a totality. Apocalyptic time presumes a unity framed by a moment of origin and a moment of end. Old Testament apocalypse is fairly exact about the coming of the end-time, with calculations in days and weeks. Daniel records that Gabriel instructs him, "from the going forth of the commandment to restore and rc+uild Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troubled times" (9:25). Such precise determinations are not found in the New Testament; the Revelation simply announces that these things "must shortly come to pass" ( 1: 1).
But both Old and New Testament apocalypse focus on the nearness of the moment, a proximity that dramatizes the prophet's words and makes history a predetermined process that is reaching its culmination. The culmination of history is to be enacted at Armageddon, in a battle between cosmic forces of good and evil. The Revelation of John in the New Testament details the suffering to be wrought from the clash of forces between the armies of heaven and hell. In the book of Revelation, Babylon is represented as a woman, "arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication" (17:4). Her ruin is to be complete: "Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire: for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her" (18:8).
As devastating as this punishment is, apocalyptic writings also herald the triumph of the Kingdom of Heaven and the creation of a New Jerusalem, in which the holy -having suffered the acts of the vile sinners who will be condemned to "the take of fire"-will be rewarded with eternal life. Crucial to this triumph is the coming of a messianic figure who is to lead the elect against the forces of evil by teaching them the way of righteousness through his own conduct and word. Jeremiah of the Old Testament records as part of his vision the following declaration: "Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth" (23:5). The New Testament, which recounts the first coming of the messiah in the conception, birth, death, and resurrection of )emus Christ, announces his second coming in Revelation as bringing about a "new heaven and a new earth" (2 1: 1). Again employing feminine personification, the Revelation describes the New Jerusalem to be "prepared as a bride adorned for her husband" (21:2), thus connecting virginity, purity of soul, and eternal salvation.
The sense of present iniquity, tribulation between nations, time coming to its culmination, the necessity of preparation by way of a prophet's warnings, the figurations of the cosmic forces of good and evil as feminine, the coming of a savior, and triumphant eternity-these are the tenets of biblical, Puritan, and 'American" apocalypse. Although the Revolutionary War won independence from England and brought dramatic changes in law and governance, it did not eradicate apocalyptic ways of speaking. Instead, apocalypse turned nationalistic, as evidenced in the everyday parlance in which citizens of the United States refer to their nation as 'America" and themselves as 'Americans," thus sweeping together the diversity of two continents under their own national banner. Victory in the Revolutionary War was used to rekindle a sense of 'America" as the culmination of history, the end of the old order and the beginning of a new existence.
Alongside this continuity, however, came claims for the new nation as a place of rupture with history, a newly made lantern that would beam the doctrines of enlightened democracy to the rest of the world. Such post-millennial declarations of human betterment were bolstered by the technological productivity of the United States. Much nineteenth-century apocalypticism centered on achievements such as the railway and telegraph as signs of the beginning of human perfection. The concept of space as a new frontier, used by NASA officials and Star Trek enthusiasts alike, expanded this notion to include the universe and all its inhabitants. This sense of preordained expansion and progress was encapsulated in Ronald Reagan's address before the Republican National Convention at Houston in 1992 when he prophesied that 'America's best days are yet to come. Our proudest moments are yet to be," justifying his hope by declaring: "We are an empire of ideals." Of the three modes of apocalyptic practice in the United States, technological apocalypse has tended to predominate in the twentieth century. One version of technological apocalypse regards technology as a threat leading to an inevitable end, but this mode is more often accompanied by the possibility of thwarting the trajectory of destruction. The rhetoric of the 1960s New Left, for example, denounced U.S. war technology while simultaneously evoking the possibility of technology as the means for solving world hunger. While some define a desirable future as a place beyond technology (hence a return to a Golden Era of pretechnology), others posit technology as the means by which a future of abundance and comfort will be attained. On this view, technological prowess will extend human capabilities for the achievement of a total communications system and a defeat of bodily ills (and perhaps death).
Both divine and technological expressions of apocalypse have been used in this century to revitalize a sense of 'America" as a moral exemplar: a savior nation and a beacon of global democracy. But utopianism has not been the sole feature of apocalypse in the British colonies and the United States in either its divine or its technological modes. Colonial apocalyptic prose and poetry included dire pronouncements of tribulation for deserving sinners. Slavery was a clear sign for many that the new nation was tapped for special suffering. As Thomas Jefferson remarked in Notes on the State of Virginia in regard to slavery: "I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever: that considering numbers, nature, and natural means only, a revolution of the wheel of fortune, an exchange of situation, is among possible events: that it may become probable by supernatural interference! The Almighty has no attribute which can take side with us in such a contest. " Others regarded the telegraph and railway as ample evidence of demonio-disruptions of nature.
The frequency and extent of warfare throughout the twentieth century, as well as urban decay, economic decline, and increasing levels of personal violence, strike many as manifestations of an end-time. The Americanness of modern Apocalypse is particularly pronounced because of the United States' use of the atomic bomb, worldwide nuclear arms sites, and ex tensive satellite surveillance systems.
Today within the United States and in its representations abroad, the signifier "America" promises both millennial peace and harmony and military prowess and destructive force. In other words, contemporary U.S. apocalyptic discourse indeed differs from earlier versions, but it is no less real for that. Like the apoc alypse of the first and second centuries and the apocalypse of Puritan coloniza tion, the Revolutionary War, and the Civil War, twentieth-century apocalypse is a system of logic that understands mundane and momentous events in relation to the belief that the end of time is near. Unlike these earlier versions of apocalyp tic expression, there is one key characteristic of twentieth-century apocalypse that was simply unthinkable in earlier eras. humanity's capacity to end the world.
Although pre-twentieth-century forms of apocalypse have had any number of internal differences, they have all held the belief that God was the source of both revelation and destruction. Twentieth-century apocalyptic expression in cludes this concept of divine design but also includes the possibility of an acci dental end brought on by technological prowess, which might occur in a flicker of time by a nuclear blast or by the gradual deadening of global warming. In the twentieth century, belief in a technological disaster of irrevocable proportions on the horizon has fostered a double movement of anxiety and denial, characterized by an ironic stance in regard to human self-annihilation. Henry Adams was one of the first U.S. intellectuals to have coupled a sense of imminent apocalyptic man-made catastrophe with irony. (I use "man-made" here in .the specific sense that Adams did; as Adams indicates, the burden of such dangers thus far resides with men.)
As Western calenders guide us toward the end of a millennium, postmodern cultural productions even more forcefully exploit this sense of ironic apocalypse. Director David Lynch, in films such as Blue Velvet and Wild at Heart, for example, boldly incorporates such irony into both utopian and distopian forms of apocalyptic cinema. On one hand, this kind of artistic experimentation helps dislodge apocalypse's insistence on its own uniqueness. Doomsday anxieties simply become banal. On the other hand, this insistence on the prevailing banality of everything, including fears about the end of time or the destruction of the environment, numbs people into inaction through its paralyzing sense of futility.
This sense of futility is every bit as dangerous to individual liberty as is the righteousness that accompanies divine and technological apocalypse. Apocalyptic suppressions of freedom (of thought, economic opportunity, sexual and affective relations, political action, and so on) are informed by two differing attitudes about the end of time. One attitude disposes people to join forces as righteous a2ents of a predetermined end. This leads to active suppression of conduct that does not fit with apocalyptic truth, as exemplified by the outlawing of homosexuality, or vandalizing and bombing abortion clinics.
This sense of righteousness has been succinctly asserted by Randall Terry, founder of the antiabortion movement called C)peration Rescue. As he put it in a 1992 television interview, "God put me on this earth for this hour, for this purpose." A slogan appearing on a U.S. flag in the fundamentalist meeting room where the interview was conducted neatly summed up his mission in terms of American apocalypse: 'America shall be saved. ,20 The second attitude, deriving from the irony found in twentieth-century apocalypse, inclines people toward a world-weary passivity. Although this stance doesn't lead to direct action against others, it too should be understood as a suppression of freedom. Operating through the stimulation of malaise and apathy, it renders people less inclined to political activity, despite their explicit acknowledgment of the need for social change. Whether it is located on the right, the left, or in the center of the political spectrum, the apocalyptic self stands on a threshold positioned between an imminent end and uncertainty about the exact moment and means of that end. Agents of active apocalyptic suppression are spurred on by a sense of righteousness, whether they perceive themselves as acting on behalf of divine or of human justice. For them, the end of history as we know it is near, it will be accompanied by dreadful but deserved events, and the righteous will be saved. As the elect, they are to help bring the end about. In contrast, ironic apocalypse supplants agency with apathy. For those who hold this view, the end is near, it is probably unavoidable, it is not deserved by all but it will be suffered by all. Those who hold this knowledge are not the elect; they are merely among the unfortunate ones who will be here for the end.
These two attitudes inform the apocalyptic writings of the last quarter-century. A review of end-of-the-millennium publications shows Hal Lindsey as a leader in the field of the kind of apocalypse that fuels a sense of righteousness. The Late Great Planet Earth has sold over 25 million copies since its publication 2 in 1970. 1 Lindsey's theological apocalyptic stance has a large following, despite his own glaring miscalculations. Even though predictive failure emerges as one of the most constant elements of apocalyptic prophecy, scholars of Christian fun damentalism indicate that the belief in an imminent apocalyptic cataclysm is held by 50 million U.S. citizens, including Ronald Reagan, a self-declared be liever in Armageddon. 'According to their theology, we are about to undergo a dreadful period of suffering (the Tribulation) in connection with the extraordi narily violent struggle between the forces of good and evil that is to precede the return of Jesus and the millennium of His peaceful rule. " This view is not limited to theological expression, however. Jesse Helms's congressional record is filled with the apocalyptic fury that guides Lindsey's discussions of cosmic struggles between the forces of good and evil. Nor is this view the prerogative of the political right.
Anne Primovesi's From Apocalypse to Genesis documents a number of Green apocalyptic writers for whom "a cosmic war is being fought (some call it an 'Eco-war'). They are sure that if it is lost, there will be death, but are uncertain as to whether or not this will be preceded or followed by resurrection. "
Ecological debates have also been informed by the kind of apocalyptic stance that leads away from righteous action and toward alienated apathy. Such is the case, for example, with the writings of Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature. In McKibben's case, although there is an expressed hope that it isn't already too late, the sense of crisis overrides a call for ecological activism. While McKibben's and Lindsey's texts are strikingly different in their respective political persuasions, they echo each other ideologically insofar as they avow eschatological thinking. End-of-everything texts typically present a hostile or pessimistic view of radical politics. McKibben's apocalyptic apathy appears to be inadvertent, which makes it all the more telling. A sense of irony about a human-created ecological doomsday tends to override his righteous apocalyptic messages, which would otherwise elicit activism.
In the last few years, a more extreme version of ironic apocalypse has appeared, enjoying special vogue among academics in the United States, even though its chief spokesman, Jean Baudrillard, is French. For Baudrillard, postmodernist par excellence, the apocalypse has already happened. His writings are self-characterized as postapocalyptic, since "Everything has already been wiped off the map. It is useless to dream: the clash has gently taken place everywhere. "25 Despite his critique of contemporary apocalypse as anachronistic, Baudrillard is a quintessentially apocalyptic thinker in the lineage of Henry Adams. His already-too-late theme reinforces the antiactivist, apathetic stance of all ironic apocalypticians.
Know Apocalypse. No Apocalypse
There will be no announcement here of the end of apocalypse. But there will be invocation to struggle against apocalypse, to know its logic, to say no to its insistence on an inevitable end necessary for a new order, its infatuation with doom, its willingness to witness cruelty in the name of righteous justice, and its belief in an elect with access to absolute truth. Rather, there will an effort to seek, understand, and foster nonapocalyptic thought. This book takes a stance of opposition to apocalypse, in all three of its modes: divine, technological, and ironic.
Anti-Apocalypse has three goals:
1) to analyze the ways in which apocalyptic discourse and action thwart or prohibit exercises of freedom;
2) to better understand and provide support for struggles against apocalyptic vision; and
3) to highlight democratic practices that are nonapocatyptic.
I call my effort genealogical, understanding genealogy to be an analytic approach that does not establish truth through the temporal and spatial narratives of the origin and end of history but rather through attention to the intricate details of discourses and practices and their inscriptions on bodies. I do not aim here to write a genealogy of apocalypse. Indeed, apocalyptic discourse superbly exemplifies Foucault's point that, even though a "field of discursive events" is "finite and limited," the events or statements "may, in sheer size, exceed the capacities of recording, memory, or reading. "26 Instead, considering my effort to be a contribution to that larger undertaking, which, like the writing of apocalypse, is the work of innumerable people, I provide here a series of genealogical studies of several instances of apocalyptic power relations and truth. This book examines vastly disparate topics-jeanswear magazine advertisements, the Human Genome Project, contemporary feminism and philosophy, texts by Henry Adams and Zora Neate Hurston, Andres Serrano's photography, and radical democratic activism. The rationale for bringing together such a range of topics is to demonstrate what I referred to earlier as the elasticity of twentieth-century apocalypse. I want to show that the system of dispersal of apocalyptic discourse is a vast network of seemingly unrelated statements. The rationale for these particular topics is in keeping with the notion that genealogical critique is an exercise of thought that strives to problematize the limits of one's own subjectivity. I have tried here to rethink the literary and cultural texts that have most informed my own apocalyptic impulses in order to strengthen my means of resistance to them. These essays, or exercises in genealogical criticism, will probably not seem particularly personal to most readers, if by "personal" one means confessional self-revelations. Disclosure of that sort-the obligation to "tell all" -is itself apocalyptic, whether it occurs in a confessional or on a TV talk show. The essays are personal in the sense that they delineate the boundaries of my subjectivity. Given established social relations of gender, race, sexuality, religion, media, and so on, it is my hope that others will find this exploration, even when dissimilar to what they might pursue, relevant to their own subject formations and efforts toward agency.
For my understanding of genealogy, I draw from Foucault, not only because several of his essays specifically define genealogy but also because his writings provide some of the most important instances of genealogy at work. In "Nietzsche, Genealogy, History" he cites genealogy as pivotal for countering universal truth claims, for questioning totalizing myths of origin, and for showing the necessity of reading the body as a way of establishing the particular effects of history. As Foucault points out, reading bodies is a way of reading how history has been ordered, bodies record and hence make visible the effects of relations of power: "The body is the inscribed surface of events (traced by language and dissolved by ideas), the locus of a dissociated Self (adopting the illusion of a substantial unity), and a volume in perpetual disintegration. " Rather than claiming itself an impartial account, genealogy is a motivated reading of history, for its goal is to challenge the existing regime of knowledge precisely insofar as that knowledge lays claim to absolute and objective Truth. Foucault states it this way: "Genealogy, as an analysis of descent, is thus situated within the articulation of the body and history. Its task is to expose a body totally imprinted by history and the process of history's destruction of the body."28 It's worth noting that Foucault strikes an apocalyptic chord himself here in emphasizing history's "destruction," a tendency that undermines his more important insight about history's embodiment. The sources for genealogy are culturally available in what Foucault refers to as "subjugated knowledges." He argues that subjugated knowledges take two forms, one erudite but appropriated, the other popular but disqualified.
The first form, the erudite, may be found in traditional scholarship-though not readily. Historical specificity is present but covered over by narrative unity, cultural generalization, and abstract theory. Nevertheless, it remains available to genealogical criticism, which has the charge of re-presenting the historically specific. In the case of the second form, that of popular knowledge, suppression has been made possible because its locality renders it vulnerable to more extensive networks of power/knowledge. Furthermore, the knowledge is made to appear (and may be) naive. In this instance, criticism's project is to return these disqualified knowledges to a more forceful level of opposition. Together these kinds of criticism constitute genealogy. In Foucault's words: "Let us give the term genealogy to the union of erudite knowledge and local memories which allows us to establish a historical knowledge of struggles and to make use of this knowledge tactically today. "29 The seven essays brought together for this book have been organized to produce a countertext to the book of Genesis and the book of Revelation, the alpha and omega of biblical apocalypse. Part I seeks to replace biblical claims for the divine origin of everything with genealogicat investigations of specific discourses.
The first chapter traces the contours of two dominant twentieth-century fields of discourse-eugenics and jeanswear fashion-in order to demonstrate the workings of apocalypse (technological and ironic) in ostensibly secular practices. Fashion's overt play with continually changing surfaces and its use of postmodern irony may seem at odds with eugenic ideals of sameness. Yet the eternal state-of-being aspired to in apocalyptic thought resurfaces in eu(jean)ics, an interlocking technology of power/knowledge that promotes homogenized forms of subjectivity, values of mastery and control, and universalized Truth.
In the second chapter I focus on feminism as a practice that is both apocalyptic and genealogical. To call feminism apocalyptic in a book devoted to discrediting apocalypse is not to dismiss or denounce feminism, however. What I want to show are the ways in which feminist apocalypse can work to reverse the terms of masculinist apocalypse. I also want to show that feminism is not exclusively apocalyptic. Even though feminism's utopian impulses and doomsday urgencies may be understood as apocalyptic, feminism has from its inception also been a genealogical practice in its efforts to expose modes of oppression operating on and through women's bodies. Here I want to show how its genealogical insights have been and can be effective in countering the ways that apocalypse divests women of the means of self-determination. I focus on ecofeminism as one instance of a practice that is profoundly intersected by these two opposing tendencies. This location of feminism in relation to apocalypse and genealogy places it simultaneously within and at the limits of dominant culture. This is precisely where feminism can be most effective at this time: its genealogical work helps make possible a philosophy of the present (which I discuss in the following essay) while its apocalyptic logic encourages it to think and act on behalf of women.
The third chapter provides an overview of the ways in which a philosophy of everyday life challenges the tenets of apocalypse. I argue that genealogical critique is a necessary toot for a nonapocalyptic philosophy of the present. Philosophy understood this way dramatically recasts theories of power, truth, and ethics. Genealogically oriented philosophy questions the use of a general theory of power, seeking instead what Foucault calls "a new economy of power relations." Genealogical analysis of subjugated knowledges aids philosophical thinking about the status and value of truth. And a genealogy of ethics enables us to recognize subjugated modes of ethical conduct that have not been regarded as worthy guides.
Part II resituates the figures of Adam and Eve by focusing on twentieth-century conceptualizations of "man" and "woman." In these two essays I use genealogical literary criticism in order to demonstrate the ways in which apocalypse inscribes the body of a text (in the narrow sense of the word). Chapter 4 establishes the complexity of twentieth-century apocalyptic thought by analyzing a work that promotes both technological and ironic apocalypse, The Education of Henry Adams. I argue that this turn-of-the-century text manifests a form of apocalyptic thought that aligns itself with science and technology (rather than religion per se), a form that has become predominant as we near the turn of this century. As I indicated earlier, the Education's irony introduced a new feature to the apocalyptic imaginary, one that has gained currency over the century. In some ways this irony offsets the eschatological momentum of apocalypse, but Adams's text resolves that internal tension through the Dynamic Theory of History, which not only restores a sense of the end of the time but also endorses men's control over women, the earth, and technology. This view is being resuscitated as we approach the year 2000, the year that Adams predicted would bring "every American who lived" the knowledge of "how to control unlimited power. "30
Chapter 5 presents Zora Neale Hurston's anti-apocalyptic stance as a point of contrast to the apocalyptic vision that Adams offers. I analyze two works by Hurston, a folktale from Mules and Men and the short story "The Gilded Six-Bits," as countertexts to The Education of Henry Adams. Like Adams's text, Hurston's incorporate gender struggles, biblical themes, and humor. But unlike The Education, the folktale and "The Gilded Six-Bits" draw on parody instead of irony to subvert utopian visions of a Golden Age of heterosexuality both promised and undermined by racist, patriarchal society. By reading Hurston's folktale and short story intertextually, I show how her use of humor challenges the race, sex, and gender hierarchies that are instated in the Education. Part Ill turns to one of the typical ways in which "the end" is expressed in the United States in the 1990s: the end of 'America" 's world domination. Instead of an end brought on by divine or technological fires of destruction, this view holds to the ironic apocalyptic perspective which sees history as exhausted, 'America" a nation in decline. In a 1992 commencement address at Southern Methodist University, then-President Bush addressed this pervasive pessimism explicitly. "Much of the conventional wisdom these days portrays America in decline and its energy dissipated, its possibilities exhausted," he noted, but then ventured to reassure the demoralized. "These declinists, as they are called, will hate to hear it, but they're saying nothing new." "In the 1930s, he continued, "the dectinists told us the Great Depression had made capitalism outmoded. Our victory in World War 11 put an end to that talk. "31 In keeping with the apocalyptic belief in technological salvation for the chosen and technological defeat for their enemies, Bush sought to assure his audience and the nation generally that 'America" was indeed a world power to be reckoned with. How fitting that he chose to mark the declining days of his own administration with a deployment of U.S. military might called Operation Restore Hope! Rather than joining those who would either deny or lament the decline of 'American" empire, I close this book with a sense of hope that empire might in fact become a power formation of the past. The sixth chapter turns to the controversy that surrounded Andres Serrano's photograph Piss Christ as an occasion to introduce what I call "pissed criticism." I argue that the apocalyptic stance of the Christian-conservative alliance needs to be understood as an embodiment of power, in this case specifically in regard to the bodily function of urination, as well as the embodiment of institutional power in places such as museums and Congress. Genealogical analysis is used here to disrupt apocalyptic imaging of the body of Christ which, while acknowledging the flow of certain bodily fluids tears and blood invokes a perfected, hermeticized resurrected body. By focusing on a range of theoretical and visual representations of urination, I show how discourses that link urination to innate sexual difference have been used to sanction apocalyptic civilization and how counterdiscourses about urination can foster resistance to apocalypse. The final essay then turns to the home as an everyday site of apocalyptic longing for heaven. This longing includes desire for an 'American" homeland, or empire, that becomes more intense in correlation with the United States' loss of global control to multinational corporate powers. That desire for control over others is all too often expressed locally through violence against women and children, with homes functioning as closed-off spaces for battering and sexual abuse. Homes are a training ground for the apocalyptic regime of truth. But homes are also sites of resistance to apocalypse. I discuss the value of applying Foucault's concept of the heterotopia to home space, and I argue that the legacy of firstand second-wave feminism provides critical resources for current efforts to rethink power relations within homes. The analysis of homes as matrixes of apocalyptic power/space/knowledge needs to be fully integrated into social-political theory, which too often ignores the tactics, strategies, details, and complexities of power relations within homes. Such a focus provides a better understanding of the importance of current home-front struggles waged by gays and lesbians, feminists, African Americans, and activist groups who insist that homes must be places of liberty. Their resistance is itself a practice of freedom that combats the cruelties of apocalypse.
EU(JEAN)ICS Day 5: Designer Genes
Multinational monopolies of modes and codes of production produce a formidible economic-semiotic power/knowledge formation. As biotechnologies converge with the cultural logic of fashion, eu(jean)ics extends its capacity to become globally dominant. But it is vital to stress that genetics as a science need not be eugenically inscribed. Nor is it necessarily the case that fashion become a foundation for genetic medicine. The danger that I am concerned with here is that which occurs when eugenics and fashion gain apocalyptic momentum within the discourses and practices of genetic science and popular culture to produce the social reality of eu(jean)ics. On the threshold of the nineties, the United States government announced the launching of the Human Genome Project, with a funding of $3 billion over 15 years through government and private sources. The goat: mapping every gene in the human body. It is worth noting how the announcement of the genome project was handled by mainstream media. For nonscientists, this is frequently the only information readily available. In the March 20, 1989, issue of Time, a cover story nostalgically entitled "The Gene Hunt" reported on the genome project. This article exemplifies the ways in which apocalyptic discourse informs the dominant modes of genetic thought, for a strident use of millennialist metaphors occurs throughout. The most modest statement of goals was voiced by Norton Zinder, chairman of the Human Genome Advisory Committee: "We are initiating an unending study of human biology. Whatever it's going to be, it will he an adventure, a priceless endeavor. And when it's done, someone else will sit down and say, 'It's time to begin.' " Zinder's comment provides a welcome contrast to the apocalyptic zeal of the others interviewed. Harvard biologist Walter Gilbert exuberantly states, "It's the Holy Grail of biology." And Mark Pearson, L)u Pont's director of molecular biology, is no less fervent: "This information will usher in the Golden Age of molecular medicine." And George Cahill of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute: "It's going to tell us everything. Evolution, disease, everything will be based on what's in that magnificent tape called DNA.
We might dismiss these claims as enthusiasms of the moment. But the focus on genetic problems dangerously ignores and displaces social causes of disease: toxic waste dumping, for example. Furthermore, the quest for absolute knowledge and its violent consequences thus far have been too much a part of the history of the modern era to chalk up such hyperbole as merely excitement generated by the funding of so large and ambitious a project. Part of the problem derives from the way in which the "everything" of abstract conceptual models is both reductive and prescriptive. As Baudrillard observes,
Abstraction today is no longer that of the map, the double,the mirror or the concept. Simulation is no longer that of a territory, a referential being or a substance. It is the generation by models of a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal. The territory no longer precedes the map nor survives it. Henceforth, it is the map that precedes the territory -it is the map that engenders the territory.
The mounted trophy of genetic perfection sometimes threatens -and sometimes promises -to guide the "gene hunt." The Tirw article (drawing on the explanation of Mark Guyer of the Human Genome Cffice) puts it this way: "Eventually . . . people might have access to a computer readout of their own genome, with an interpretation of their genetic strengths and weaknesses. At the very least, this would enable them to adopt an appropriate life-style, choosing the proper diet, environment and-if necessary-drugs to minimize the effects of genetic disorders." And James Watson makes the ultimate eu(jean)ic statement: "We used to think our fate was in our stars. Now we know, in large measure, our fate is in our genes. "35
These kinds of deterministic statements, made by renowned scientists and widely disseminated through the media, threaten our freedom in profound ways-as will genetic research itself, as long as it employs principles of mascu linist objectivity and apocalytic truth .
Another mainstream magazine article on such research, this one in US. News and World Report, entitled "The Amazing Gene Machine," reveals genetic research's propensities for determinism, for example through the elimination of certain genetic traits deemed undesirable. Discussing polymerase chain reaction, a process capable of rapidly producing copies of DNA fragments, the article reports that "PCR even allows genetic testing for many diseases to be done on embryos used for in vitro fertilization before they are implanted in the womb." It further explains that the Human Genome Project "has been rejiggered so that all researchers can use PCR as a common tool in analyzing and describing the many strands of human DNA. And, as the article also explains, PCR "has made geneticists unlikely partners with detectives trying to solve crimes." Such mechanisms of genetic tracking pose both great hope for and great danger to our existence. just as multinational control of the fashion code produces jeans uniformity, so too conglomerate control of DNA research may well gravitate toward gene uniformity.
Again, the claim here is not that modern genetics and natural science in general are necessarily geared toward eugenic domination, though its history certainly bears witness to racist and heterosexist scientific theories and practices. It is rather that apocalyptic logic is often an organizing principle of scientific thinking. The forms that apocalyptic science take include masculinist objectivity, reductionism, dogmatism, desire for mastery, and a belief in finding the Holy Grail of knowledge. Genealogical feminist theorizing about science has countered this apocalyptic determination. Donna Haraway has argued, for example, for "a doctrine of embodied objectivity that accommodates paradoxical and critical feminist science projects: Feminist objectivity means quite simply situated knowledges. Feminist objectivity, she points out, carries with it challenges to the mind/body split and the belief in transcendent truth characteristic of masculinist science; situated knowledge "allows us to become answerable for what we learn how to see."39 And as Evelyn Keller argues, masculinist science is not all there is, although its practice has been to exclude and/or marginalize methodologies that don't comport with its assumptions and values, and it has certainly been disproportionately funded. Keller has shown how, despite such inequities, the work of such scientists as Barbara McClintock stands in contrast to the hegemony of masculinist science. McClintock's findings on transposition attest to the importance of refusing to adhere to abstract models and central dogmas.
Day 7: The Book of (jean)esis, Cont.
In the interstices of hyperspace, there dwell freedom fighters. At times their words surface through the din of white noise. For they have written: "There's no such thing as a central dogma into which everything will fit."
They have written: "For postmodern Pangloss, a multiplicity of causes compete with a variety of effects, so we had best make the best of everything in the only possible world." And they have also written: "There is a reality that one cannot not know. The ragged edges of the Real, of Necessity, not being able to eat, not having shelter, not having health care, all this is something that one cannot not know." And they have written: "Where there is power, there is resistance."
And they know that this story was not finished before it started.
Genealogical Feminism: A Politic Way of Looking
One must Probably find the humility to admit that the tinw of one's own life is not the one-time, basic, revolutionary moment of history, from which everything begins and is completed. At the same time humility is needed to say without solemnity that the present tinw is rather exciting and demands an analysis.
Michel Foucault, "How Much Does It Cost for Reason to Tell the Truth?"
This chapter reflects on feminists pursuing coalition both with each other and with other radical activists. In terms of practical politics, coalition is one of the most crucial means for combating mate-dominant power relations and the apocalyptic logic that serves as an apologia for male dominance. Yet an ever-increasing diversity of feminist practices raises doubts about the viability of coalitions among feminists who are philosophically distinct and sometimes opposed. A catalogue of feminist practices of the last two decades would include entries for black, cultural, deconstructive, ecological, lesbian, liberal, materialist, psychoanalytic, semiotic, socialist, and third-world feminisms, and no doubt others that I have failed to mention, including a whole string of proper-name feminisms, such as Foucauldian, Lacanian, Marxist. Such differentiation is important because it honors the feminist principle of self-determination. Each of these forms of feminism has its own unique values, strengths, and self-reflexive narratives coming out of differing traditions. But the trajectory of differentiation also fuels infighting that weakens feminist opposition to male dominance.
One way to counter such infighting and enhance coalitional possibilities is for feminism to become more genealogical. As a method of analysis that seeks to "establish a historical knowledge of struggles and to make use of this knowledge tactically today," genealogy ascertains the means by which any given truth overextends its domain by claiming universality. 2 By refusing the "certainty of absolutes," genealogy emancipates and enfranchises the knowledges that have been disqualified for voicing uncertainty about or challenging outright those absolutes.3Genealogy attempts to put on display the places where force relations dig in, below the surface of the skin, not quite visible yet making themselves felt, governing behavior, posture, gesture, becoming the truth of one's being. Genealogy exposes how that truth appraises certain behaviors and relationships as sinful or abnormal and designates others as virtuous or proper.
Genealogical feminism is a stance that endorses feminist coalition as paraniount for fighting the force relations of masculinist apocalypse. Proposing that feminism become more genealogical is not to ignore the differences between feminisms that have taken shape out of specific concerns over race, class, sexuality, and so on. It is, rather, a way of accenting the genealogical momentum already integral to feminism that acknowledged those differences in the first place. A genealogical approach strives to situate feminist knowledges by ascertaining what distinguishes one form of feminism from another, hence clarifying the lines of demarcation between, say, semiotic and socialist feminism.
Even more than drawing discursive boundaries (the defining characteristic of an archaeology of knowledge), genealogy examines the interrelations of power, knowledge, and the body. Because feminism's raison d'6tre has been to fight masculinist power/knowledge's domination of women's minds and bodies, it has always been genealogical in a second sense, that is, in discerning the configurations of power relations oppressive to women. This feature of genealogical analysis is pivotal in enabling feminist coalition because it illuminates shared targets of power relations that might otherwise be overlooked. Lesbian and psychoanalytic feminisms, for example, though often engaged in heated debates with one another, both emerged from and operate against the technologies of power integral to the deployment of sexuality. Although feminism has always been genealogically engaged, neither historically nor currently can it be claimed that genealogy is a primary feature of feminism. Affixing the term "genealogical" to feminism has the effect of emphasizing certain apocalyptic features that have been integral to feminist discourse, namely, its claims for universal truth about man and woman, its arguments for a single origin of patriarchal oppression, its versions of anatomy as innate character, and its utopian visions of a harmonious matriarchal past and a future free from all oppression.
At times, U.S. feminism has taken on strident messianic tones, as in the nineteenth century with Margaret Fuller's concept of the Virgin Mother of the new race, or, within our own time, Starhawk's revival of goddess worship.' Feminism has often dreamed the possibility of an absolute defeat of the patriarchy and a utopia of human harmony. But feminism - Fuller's and Starhawk's texts included - has also always offered a feminist politics of everyday life, in such practices as nineteenth-century educational and legal reforms and twentieth-century rape crisis centers and daycare initiatives. These local struggles and disqualified knowledges are precisely what provide genealogy with historical knowledge about women's lives that had been wiped from the slates of masculinist scholarship and common sense. And this too has galvanizing power. The practice of genealogical feminism is thus constituted through this paradox: at this historical juncture, struggling against the determinants of our gendered subjectivity entails acknowledging both apocalyptic visions of the future and genealogical scrutiny of the present day.
The history of apocalyptic thought carries this paradox as well. Judeo-Christian apocalyptic writings themselves have a double movement that feeds an ambivalence that I want to exploit rather than conceal. In foretelling the future, apocalyptic literature tends to divide between two different kinds of millennia. One envisions a thousand-year reign of the elect prior to the final judgment. The other sees a thousand years of struggle against satanic forces as a preparation for the coming of the messiah. Whereas the first, at least as far as the believers are concerned, welcomes the apocalyptic moment that brings on the millennium, the second emphasizes the struggles of the elect in advancing toward the apocalypse. This second form has given rise over the centuries to a number of radical political movements that have insisted on universal education and have challenged family and governmental hierarchy. Some visions of apocalypse, like those of the Familists and the Ranters of the seventeenth century, for example, may even be seen as precursors of feminism.
Even though this book takes an anti-apocalytic stance, I am not arguing that feminism must be "cleansed" of its apocalypticism. In fact, I am arguing that such a cleansing is not possible-nor is it entirely desirable. As I have already pointed out, in the West generally, and in the United States especially, apocalyptic thought has always run deep and wide. Feminism has always found itself struggling on behalf of women in the context of masculinist apocalyptic discourse. To some extent, feminism must meet apocalypse on its own ground in order to be heard. And let's face it -feminist apocalypse is rhetorically powerful and has moved women to social action. It is also the case that, even when feminist discourse is manifestly apocalyptic, it is not synonymous with masculinist apocalypse.
Unlike masculinist apocalypse, feminist apocalypse strives on behalf of women's self-determination. In putting these terms together by using "genealogical" as an adjective for contemporary feminism, I am trying to emphasize simultaneously the diversity of feminisms as well as the coalitional political cause that, even when inconsonant, they nevertheless share: opposition to myriad forms of masculinist oppression. Therefore, rather than putting genealogical feminism forward as one more item on a list of many feminisms, I use it here as an umbrella term to describe contemporary feminism's actual and potential coalitional practices. I should hasten to say that an umbrella term is not a master narrative but a concept that embraces a number of different elements; in this case, it is a concept that might serve, like an umbrella, as a temporary protective device. Because apocalyptic claims for certain and total Truth create a climate of cultural oppression for women, it's worth having a coalitional "umbrella" on hand.
The many feminisms that have been forged can gain strength and protection by joining forces in coalition against various forms of women's oppression, which, as I have argued in the previous chapter, operate on three differing power registers, ranging from men's physical domination to masculinist imagistic simulation. To the extent that such coalition partners acknowledge each other as distinctive while they engage as temporary allies, they encourage genealogical thought. Thus, as a term, "genealogical feminism" has far more than linguistic economy at stake. It has a political rationale. For the moment - for this particular moment of the 1990s contemporary U.S. feminisms occur in a decade increasingly defined in apocalyptic terms. Apocalyptic thought treats feminism as monolithic in an effort to contain it. But genealogical feminism defies that effort as a coalition of diverse political concerns. The purpose of this chapter is to show the merits of genealogical feminism as a perspective that is becoming a practice that might well become a movement.
Contemporary Feminism: At the Crossroads of the Apocalyptic and Genealogical
The first evidence of the effects on feminism of end-of-the-millennium thinking occurred in the media's postfeminism declarations in the 1980s. Events of the early 1990s, however, made it clear that it was premature to predict, lament, or hope for feminism's demise. Although the assault on feminism was demoralizing, feminism not only remained alive but was able to act with vitality. Despite the serious backlashes that Susan Faludi has so forcefully documented, her book Backlash provides ample evidence of contemporary feminist counterstruggle.10 The emergence of so many forms of feminism over the last decade is a register of that vitality. By 1992, the media had switched claims, declaring the "Year of the Woman" to have begun. Opening with a feminist-educated public outcry emerging from the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill hearings, picking up momentum with the William Kennedy Smith and Mike Tyson rape trials, and reaching headline status during the summer and fall presidential and congressional campaigns and elections, this characterization shows that even while acknowledging that feminism is still kicking, the media remains complicit in masculinism by submitting slogans where careful examination and analysis is due. Such claims and counterclaims demarcate the precarious space occupied by feminism under conditions of contemporary capitalism, which has increased the poverty of women and children, renewed suppressions of sexual freedom, and enhanced male control of technology. The discrepancy between the everyday oppressions of women and media sloganeering also establishes the necessity for feminists to continue fighting against each of the three deployments of power: against men's violence in the deployment of alliance; against gender inequities in the law, pay, job opportunities, medical attention, sexual expression, education, and child care in the deployment of sexuality; and against masculinist production of images and slogans in the deployment of technoppression. These media flip-flops also indicate that contemporary feminism is not identical to the feminism that emerged out of the New Left in the late sixties and early seventies.
The designation "genealogical" is a way of differentiating current feminism from its second wave, just as second-wave feminism differentiated itself from nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century feminism's goals and values. Calling feminism genealogical thus heralds a third wave of feminism with an enhanced potential for gaining power from coalitions within its own diverse ranks as well as with other political groups. This coalitional effort includes feminists who adhere to first and second-wave principles. In other words, each of the three waves has defining principles and they are concurrent. For a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the far more extensive communications and travel systems of the postmodern era, the third wave of feminism far exceeds the first two in coalitional opportunities. And this capacity in turn carries the possibility of the third wave subsuming the first and second, of becoming a feminist tidal wave. Let me concede at the outset that my use of third-wave rhetoric-bringing with it the possibility of a something else, even forecasting it-reiterates the ways in which feminism necessarily functions within the context of apocalyptic thinking. Dividing history into three epochs is a characteristic of one strain of apocalyptic thought and no doubt why referring to feminism's third wave makes sense; the term itself came into prominence upon Bill Clinton's 1992 defeat of George Bush. The apocalyptic tradition of three grand historical epochs holds that the world progresses toward the end of time in correlation with each member of the Trinity.
Accordingly, history moves from the age of Law to the age of Love to the age of Spirit. I would have a hard time convincing myself that world history had passed through the age of Love, but why not use the structure of the old story to tell a new one? Why not proclaim a new surge of power carried along by a third wave? As a coalition of political-ethical practices within an apocalyptic era, genealogical feminism has double impulses of utopian dream and ongoing struggle. In recognition of this, Catherine Keller has argued that a "deliteralized, deapocalypticized eschatology can better serve the feminist project of a socially and historically responsible ecocentrism. " Drawing on the continuing power of end-oftime thought and focusing on the environmental devastation of our time, she calls for an ecologically motivated "eschatological consciousness" which proclaims "the opening of the sacred community to be realized now, though its fuller realization is still in the future." Although my own inclinations are to depart from Keller by emphasizing a deeschatologized stance as well, feminism as currently practiced is not an either/or proposition between radical action and eschatological appeals. The argument of this book is that both of these approaches constitute a foundational coalition of genealogical and feminist opposition to masculinist apocalypticism. This is not a call to pluralism. Rather, it is a genealogical assertion: feminism has a legacy of eschatological, essentialist, and universalist thought and is in that sense apocalyptic.
The most crucial point to stress is that feminist apocalypse has often been a powerful force for resistance to masculinist oppression. Thinking about feminist apocalypse genealogically provides insight into the essentialism/ antiessentialism impasse that has beleaguered feminism over the years. Part of the fervor of this argument comes from both sides holding onto an apocalyptic notion of truth - two certainties in head-on collision. Even this many years after Diana Fuss's illuminating demonstrations of how the "bar between essentialism and constructionism is by no means as solid and unassailable as advocates of both sides assume it to be," essentialism remains a term still uttered in a tone of contempt.
In academic settings, it retains the capacity to stop a speaker in her feminist tracks. But I have also been on both sides of the philosophical divide, since I came to feminism as an essentialist-or, more acurately, because of its essentialist assumptions and utopian end-time visions. And although I no longer espouse essentialist human nature or hold eschatological assumptions and do not adhere to universalist truth claims, I agree with Fuss that the language of essence is not inherently reactionary. She shows through differing examples of how essences function in discourses of race, gender, and sexual practice that various essentialisms have been politically forceful. Moreover, religiously motivated race essentialism, even when quite explicitly apocalyptic, has at times been deployed in the exercise of radical politics. As bell hooks observes in regard to Septima Clark's engagement in sexual politics, religion was "the source of her defiance. It was the belief in spiritual community, that no difference must be made between the role of women and that of men, that enabled her to be 'ready within.'To Septima Clark, the call to participate in black liberation struggle was a call from God.', Clark's political actions demonstrate the complex interplay of eschatological vision, essentialist race assumptions, and feminist insistence on equality.
Liberation theology bears further witness to the ways in which essentialist, eschatological, apocalyptically motivated activism has challenged masculinist, militaristic domination. I am arguing, then, that feminism, even when oriented genealogically, will by definition always be implicated in apocalyptic desires for the end of (masculinist) time and the transcendence of (masculinist) space, including the space of the innately gendered body. Feminism can be, however, (and often is these days), anti-apocalyptic insofar as it is anti-essentialist, anti-universalist, and anti-eschatological. That stance of overt opposition to apocalyptic logic marks a shift in perspective for feminism, one that alters its own features. Whereas first-wave feminism was made culturally possible by the construction of the logical category "woman" and second-wave feminism by the construction of the logical category 11 women, " third-wave feminism has shifted its subject category from woman and women to feminists.
This genealogical way of looking was in part made possible by the deconstruction of the presumed unity and naturalness of both of the initial categories (the thought itself made possible from the ways that postmodern material conditions dislodge naturalized identities). Yet feminism also retains the naturalized categories of woman and women and wouldn't be feminism without them. As Denise Riley has put it, "feminism must 'speak women.' " A brief survey of feminist discourses shows that, in order to "speak women," feminism speaks in apocalyptic tongues, precisely because masculinism does. To understand why this is the case, it is necessary to situate feminist thought at its point of emergence during the West's humanist era. Feminist scholars of the Renaissance have shown an intense struggle in gender definition during that period of changing economic and ideological conditions, demonstrating the prevalence of a variety of conceptions of womanhood, some of which condemned women as vile, and some upheld them as virtuous citizens. 16 As far as these views might have differed, all stressed that women were differentiated biologically from men. But biologism alone didn't preclude women's participation in the civic sphere. It was the status accorded women's interiorized selfhood that either entitled them to act in the civic domain (if seen as morally the same as or superior to men) or justified their exclusion from it (if seen as inferior to men). In other words, the apocalyptic humanist notion of an unchanging and given core self held sway for both dominant, masculinist thought and resistant, feminist thought. As secular thinkers gained power during the Enlightenment, a predominantly white, property-holding male citizenry increasingly argued for its right to governance premised on notions of a core self with inalienable rights and the redemptive salvation of providential history. Eighteenth-century feminism took shape in relation to these modes of power/knowledge integral to the formation of the nation-state.
Theorists such as Mary Wollstonecraft formalized Anglo-American feminism through the same eschatological appeals to "natural law" that colonial male revolutionaries used to argue their right to independence and selfgovernance. Her contemporary Phillis Wheatley, captured as a child in Africa and sold to Massachusetts Bay colonists, wrote of her right to freedom in terms of divinely ordained history. From the outset, feminist thought materialized through the apocalyptic conceptualization of humanist thought that was forged in the Renaissance and formalized in the Enlightenment. Coincident with apocalyptic humanism's universalist notions, and sometimes serving as a subcategory of universalism, were essentialist concepts of sexual difference, again interiorized but often justified through anatomical differences reduced to binary difference. As a dividing practice, the rhetoric of essential sexual difference is found in biblical apocalypse, but it is also the case that it has been articulated quite differently over time and used to different effects by masculinists and feminists.
The type of feminist essentialism that took form in relation to the emerging deployment of sexuality during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, for example, concentrated more on the inherent moral superiority of women than on their right to juridical equality. And both of these differ from masculinist essentialist claims of women's innate physical, moral, and intellectual inferiority. In the twentieth century, structuralism, as both an anthropological model and a philosophical perspective, took hold as the dominant theoretical formulation for power/knowledge formations. Although it was often touted as historicist, the structuralist perspective upheld certain apocalyptic concepts, including a universal human nature (albeit clothed in cultural motley), sexual difference, and cultural origin. Virtually all of the writings of the first wave of women's movements in the West, and much of those of the second wave, function as part of this duplex formation of power/knowledge insofar as they uphold a notion of a transhistorical core self even as they also uphold inherent sexual difference and patriarchal origin. These writings challenge varying oppressions of women, but they do so in the name of woman or her multiplied but still essentialized counterpart: women.
Anti-essentialist feminist thought is recent. In the 1980s, terms such as "feminine, " "masculine," and "experience," having served quite admirably for over a century as rallying cries of solidarity, suddenly became exemplary of the sticky trap of essentialism. Some sought to eschew such terms altogether, while others sought to shift what had been presumptions of natural experience unmediated by representation to thinking experience as socially constituted. In Technologies of Gender, Theresa de Lauretis provides an example of the latter approach in her transvaluation of the term "experience," which she defines as "a complex of habits resulting from the semiotic interaction of 'outer world' and 'inner world, the continuous engagement of a self or subject in social reality." While her use of quotation marks around "outer world" and "inner world" suggests that those terms may still operate transitionally between essentialist and antiessentialist conceptualization, the absence of such marks around "experience"-in this context-is a way of signifying her claim as exclusively antiessentialist.
To take an antiessentialist stance does not mean that one relinquishes a radical politics (the charge made on both sides of the debate), for, as de Lauretis further argues, if a social complex of habits is what "en-genders one as female, then that is what remains to be analyzed, understood, articulated by feminist theory."' Thinking of experience semiotically helps us understand social reality's gender categorizations without accepting them as inherent and unchangeable. Judith Butler's provocative Gender Trouble takes antiessentialism to its analytical limits. Butler describes the "task of a feminist genealogy of the category of women" as one that traces the "political operations that produce and conceal what qualifies as the juridical subject of feminism. "20 And she acknowledges the risk to feminism as we have known it:
In the course of this effort to question "women" as the subject of feminism, the unproblematic invocation of that category may prove to preclude the possibilty of feminism as a representational politics. What sense does it make to extend representation to subjects who are constructed through the exclusion of those who fail to conform to unspoken normative requirements of the subject? What relations of domination and exclusion are inadverently sustained when representation becomes the sole focus of politics? The identity of the feminist subject ought not to be the foundation of feminist politics, if the formation of the subject takes place within a field of power regularly buried through the assertion of that foundation. Perhaps, paradoxically, "representation" will be shown to make sense for feminism only when the subject of "women" is nowhere presumed.
Like de Lauretis, Butter pushes feminist thought away from apocalyptic foundations and toward genealogical inquiry and practice. It is significant that she calls her analysis feminist genealogy, for in contrast to Foucault's inadequate attention to how history is gendered, Butler points to the ways in which history (among other constructed ontologies) has been a record of gender congealments. One of the requisites for genealogy today, as I indicate more fully in the next chapter, is to articulate in ways conscious of gender history's inscriptions on bodies. This overview of feminism's apocalyptic discourses and the more recent challenges to such ways of thinking by antiessentialist and genealogical feminists should be understood in the political context of longstanding resistance to mate dominance.
To sum up what I have claimed thus far: genealogical feminismunderstood as a politics that is coalitional in its perspective and its practice - has been made possible through the twin legacies of apocalyptic and genealogical thought and activism. Because it embodies both apocalyptic and genealogical features, contemporary feminism will of necessity be a site of discursive battle around key terms such as "feminine," "masculine," and "experience." There is much more than semantic differentiation at stake in this debate: women's bodies are literally-that is, physically-on the line. But, as I want to demonstrate by focusing on ecological feminism from a genealogical feminist perspective, there is no way for either side to predict the future of either apocalyptic or genealogical feminist thought and practice. Resistance doesn't carry guarantees for outcome. What we have ample historical evidence for is the outcome of masculinist apocalyptic thought and action. And that is why a coalition of genealogical and apocalyptic feminisms is so crucial.
Ecological Feminism: A Mosaic of Resistances
Perhaps more than any other mode of feminist thought and practice, ecological feminism, often called ecofeminism for short, exemplifies the apocalyptic and genealogical impulses of contemporary feminism. I focus on it here because, both in poststructuralist and social ecology circles, ecofeminism is often dismissed precisely because of its essentialist and teleological assumptions. And it is the case that much ecofeminist discourse -like a great deal of feminist discourse in general-promotes an apocalyptic view that combines the drama of an imminent end with the fervor of utopian hope. While I agree with some of the criticisms that have been made about ecofeminism and reiterate my opposition to apocalyptic thought, the point is not to legislate its discourses and practices but rather to scrutinize their effects in order to guide our thought and action in regard to ecological and feminist issues.
Action motivated by essentialism can provide resistance to many forms of oppression. But avowals of an eternal feminine can also simply renew age-old constraints on women. A genealogical feminist analysis of the practices of ecofeminism allows us to better understand these consequences. Such analysis is useful not only for debates within feminism but also for the ecology movement and the left in general. By locating ecofeminism within debates on the left we can discern its interplay of totalizing thought as well as its resistance to that tendency. There are numerous instances within the left where calls for unifying thought are made in the name of coherence and practicality.
Calls for the gathering together of diverse groups are certainly warranted; as I have been indicating, radical democrats do need to find ways to create coalitions-such as those the Greens have forged between ecological, feminist, socialist, and anti-militarist groups, for example. But we also need to be wary of moves toward orthodoxy and calls for unity, which is different from coalitional activism. As Foucault has pointed out, "things never happen as we expect from a political programme," for "a political programme has always, or nearly always, led to abuse or political domination from a bloc, be it from technicians or bureaucrats or other people. "
In other words, the move toward orthodoxy is complicitous with the tendency of power relations to become totalizing, often in the name of consensus; to authorize certain alliances and to exclude others; in short, to limit political creativity. Calls for and moves toward totalization have at various times been detrimental to both the U.S. ecology and feminist movements. Polarized debates between deep ecologists and social ecologists were so pronounced during the 1980s that building coalitions between these groups often became impracticable if not impossible. Within mainstream (predominantly white) feminism, this period was one of a gradual shifting away from a wide-based, multiple-isues movement concerned with women's bodies toward a narrow-based, single-issue focus on Woman's sexualized body. That narrowed focus on sexuality and pornography was divisive and tended to limit feminist debates to a simplified prosex/antisex polarity.
Genealogical analysis helps show that a proliferation of resistances, not political programs, enliven political energy and make coalitions feasible. In light of the splits that have taken place within the ecology and feminist movements, I would argue against calls for coherence, comprehensiveness, and formalized agendas. Furthermore, I would cite ecofeminism as an example of a coalitional practice that has combated ecological destruction and masculinist domination without (yet) succumbing to the totalizing impulses of hegemonic politics. The diverse and sometimes idiosyncratic practices of ecofeminism are not easily channeled into a coherent and comprehensive political program. Nevertheless, urgent calls for a shared vision have come from both within the movement (especially from the spiritualist ecofeminists) and from those adjacent to it (from social ecologists).
Both camps seem to be calling more for an orthodoxy of adherence to their particular perspective than for a coalition of diverse groups with diverse views working in concert around specific issues. Predictably, their debates have polarized and stifled coalition, stalling at an essentialist versus antiessentialist impasse. Spiritualist ecofeminists advocate a reverence for nature that they believe prevailed in prehistoric times. They cite archaeological evidence to support the theory that women-oriented, agricultural-based, goddess-worshipping societies existed during the Neolithic period in the Mediterranean area and the Near East. These peaceful societies, they say, lived in harmony with nature, a harmony that was disrupted by nomadic invaders whose religions sanctioned war and domination.
Spiritualist ecofeminists suggest that a return to harmony is possible through recognition of the power of the earth goddess. Pagan advocates such as Starhawk argue that nature rituals, goddess worship, and magic should be understood as political protest because they confront and strive to transform patriarchal power/knowledge. Thus, incorporated into this form of ecofeminism is the essentialist notion that women are inherently feminine, by which they mean emotional, nurturing, and in harmony with nature's cycles.
Critics of the spiritualist position argue that ceremonial activity has little political impact and that, even worse, it tends to replace activism. They point to the rapid appropriation of goddess imagery by consumer capitalism as one such example, arguing that spiritualists mistake wearing goddess jewelry for political action. Social ecologists voice skepticism about the Golden Age concept of history, labeling it romanticized if not downright faulty. The concern most often expressed is related to the issue of essentialism, which, as Janet Biehl argues in Rethinking Ecofeminist Politics, is simply biological determinism in a new guise.
Although I think the social ecologists are correct in linking biologism and essential femininity, their own arguments risk fueling antifeminist and even antiwomen sentiment. Their facile dismissal of the spiritualists also tends to gloss over that perspective's important critique of the longstanding masculinist valuation of logic over emotion. In this regard it is worth recalling Michelle Rosaldo's observation that "feeling is forever given shape through thought and that thought is laden with emotional meaning." And, finally, the emotion-versus-logic polarization misses the challenge to both camps that can be found in the kind of resistance put forward by Vandana Shiva in Staying Alive. Shiva has shown how rural women in India's Chipko movement have been motivated by their allegiance to the feminine principle, which she defines in recognizably spiritualist terms. Yet she challenges both camps by arguing that nature as an embodiment of the feminine principle can only be understood in light of the social construction of the categories of femininity and masculinity.
All of this is to say that ecofeminism works more effectively as it has operated thus far, that is, as a hodgepodge of resistances rather than as a coherent theory and program. Programmatic agendas fail to see that power is a "multiplicity of force relations," and that, to continue with Foucault's description, it is decentered and continually "produced from one moment to the next." Against multiple force relations, coherence in theory and centralization of practice make a social movement irrelevant, vulnerable, or participatory with forces of domination. As Foucault explains, decentered power relations require decentered political struggle, for "there is no single locus of great Refusal, no soul of revolt, source of all rebellions, no pure law of the revolutionary. Instead there is a plurality of resistance, each of them a special case: resistances that are possible, necessary, improbable; others that are spontaneous, savage, solitary, concerted, rampant, or violent; still others that are quick to compromise, interested, or sacrificial.
The strength of ecofeminism thus far has been to target abuses of power at the local level, in a multiplicity of places. Two works from the 1980s that provide evidence of the impact of ecofeminist resistance politics are the anthology Reclaim the Earth and Anne Garland's Women Activists. They stand in contrast to the predominant move toward othodoxy during that decade.
Both texts are politically astute and emotionally moving testaments of feminist resistance politics-or what I call genealogical feminism-operating at the microlevels where power relations are exercised, yet with a vision for change that is often, though not inevitably, utopian. What we find throughout these texts is a recognition that struggling against specific force relations not only weakens the junctures of power's networks but also empowers those who do the struggling. They show that ecological feminism is, by definition, a coalitional politics that emerges out of the insight that exploitations of land, tabor, and women overlap and sustain each other. For example, recognizing this overlap has led to factory workers and nonfactory working women concerned with the contamination of their breast milk and wombs to combine forces in struggles against chemical dumping. These texts cite instances of activists from industrial and developing nations working together against deforestation that endangers species and makes it far more difficult and time-consuming for many third-world women to gather fuel and fodder. They also reveal that toxic working conditions are most likely to occur among working-class and minority men and women who also have inadequate health care. And they demonstrate that compromises to our immune systems, which render our bodies vulnerable to a whole host of viruses, need to be fought through coalitions between AIDS activists, holistic health groups, and environmentalists against late-capitalist food industries and medical practices.
These kinds of awareness and activism show how feminism's struggles for women's freedom and ecology's struggles for planetary well-being have come together in a coalition called ecofeminism. Because of shared concerns for health and freedom, a "we" has been formed. This we has not emerged from the prescriptions of a single-minded political program; indeed these "we"s may or may not be self-consciously ecofeminist. As Foucault observed, coalitions for freedom are formed when a "we" emerges through shared questions rather than as a "we" "previous to the question."" The instances of activism and analysis recorded in these texts, and subsequent anthologies such as Heating the Wounds and Reweaving the World, reveal activists/theorizers speaking for themselves on their own terrains, discerning power's specific effects on them and conducting skirmishes against its operations. Ecofeminism as a resistance politics has a great deal to tell us about the uses and abuses of theory as a power relation. It suggests that theory in the interrogative mode-as opposed to Theory in the prescriptive or apocalyptic mode -asks difficult questions; that is, it asks questions that pose difficulties, even-perhaps especially-for one's own practices. In fact, the "we" of ecofeminism is most formidable in its opposition to power when it challenges its own assumptions.
In "Roots: Black Ghetto Ecology," Wilmette Brown demonstrates the value of such questioning by combining the political insights of the black civil rights movement, lesbian feminism, ecology, the peace movement, and the holistic health movement. Her analysis exemplifies the value of bringing together a genealogical approach to the exclusions of medical practice and the identity politics of race, gender, and sexuality. Rather than trying to synthesize these positions into a comprehensive, centralized vision, her analysis uses each to disrupt the assumptions of the others. Writing from a personal point of reference, she explains that she is "a Black woman, a cancer survivor," but is quick to reject the romance of the autonomous hero, so popular with the media, for "this is not'the triumphant story of one woman's victory over cancer.' " Speaking as an activist who theorizes about her experiences, she states: "For me the issue is how to transform cancer from a preocupying vulnerablitity into a vindicating powerfor myself and for everyone determined to reclaim the earth.'
That transformation involves making visible the links among sex, race, class, and cancer. Brown points to the disproportionate incidence of cancer among the poor who are forced to take jobs with greater risks of cancer, to live in "cancer-prone cities, and who are least able to afford the exorbitant costs of medical treatment. These conditions are exacerbated for blacks, falling the heaviest on black women and children. Against the backdrop of an international and economic order that causes health hazards and a medical industry that reaps enormous profits from treatment, Brown brings into genealogical focus the political creativity, energy, and struggle of black welfare mothers who "brought about the first concessions from the American state of anything approaching free health care for poor people [Medicaid] and for elderly people [Medicare] .
Brown's analysis of convalescence from the perspective of a black workingclass lesbian feminist also explores the limits and limitations of the holistic health movement as defined largely by white middle-class heterosexuals. She shows how, despite its critique of the medical industry, the holistic health movement has also been myopic regarding race, class, and gender issues. First, its emphasis on consciousness-raising ignores the necessity of organizing to struggle against the military-industrial complex that produces cancer-prone sites. Second, holistic health assumes financial access to self-healing classes as well as the time, skills, and money to obtain healthier diets. Finally, the holistic health movement has too often ignored traditions of herbal remedies that have been practiced for centuries among people of color or, when it has learned from them, it has turned them into high-priced commodities. Her site of struggle -the geographic and bodily place from which she speaks -is the international women's peace movement, which she feels has learned to refuse "the sexist and racist assumptions and practices of the peace and holistic movements." Brown's analysis and activism exemplify a coalitional politics of resistance that runs counter to the will to totalize. Such a position challenges the apocalyptic tendencies within ecofeminism that are also found in the ecology and feminist movements from which ecofeminism derives.
As I noted earlier, the danger from the left is a dismissal of ecofeminism on the grounds that it is the worst instance of essentialist feminism.
To be sure, this is not an idle concern. Gayatri Spivak worded the concern succinctly when she observed, "Essentialism is a trap. It seems more important to learn to understand that the world's women do not all relate to the privileging of essence, especially through 'fiction,' or 'literature,' in the same way. " And yet we can also witness examples of essentialist solidarity as a generative energy in postcolonial women's struggles. This is most likely what led Spivak to rethink her position and suggest the value of "the strategic use of an essence as a mobilizing slogan or masterword like wonwn or worker or the name of any nation that you would like," as long as that strategy also works "through a persistent critique. " The point of this revision is that essentialism in and of itself is less important than the particular uses to which it is put in any given set of power relations. I agree with Spivak on the desirability of persistent critique, but I would add one caveat that a genealogist always needs to consider: it is possible to find instances of essentialist politics with little or no evidence of such critique but which nevetheless have resisted hegemonic power.
The Green Belt Movement of Kenya illustrates how an inherently essentialist perspective can effectively marshal women's resistance. This movement demonstrates the power of thinking about nature as a feminine force with which women have special affinity. Movement leader Wangari Maathai writes, "We must inform and train the farmers-who are mostly women and often illiterate. . . . Farmers need to realize that they have to 'feed' the soil. Since peasant farmers have always depended on shifting cultivation, it is essential that they appreciate the need to work with Mother Nature and hasten her processes of self-healing and self-rehabilitation."" This grassroots tree-planting movement generates income for women, helps meet basic needs by providing fuel-wood and food, prevents desertification, and promotes a sense of community.
What postcolonial power struggles against Western dominance demonstrate is that, whether in South Korean factories or Kenyan fields, and whether oppressed by essentialist thinking or fostered by it, bodies are a crucial site of power relations. Bodies are beaten, imprisoned, starved-or nurtured, housed, fed. In order to combat hierarchical power relations and create strategies of resistance, therefore, we need to investigate the effects of essentialist and antiessentialist feminist discourse and practice on the bodies and minds of people living in a particular time and place. The imposition of purist categories means the inability to see or hear what others have to show us and tell us about their lives and diminishes our capacity to understand what others have to say about our own circumstances.
Ecofeminism as a politics of resistance forces us to question the categories of experience that order the world and the truths we have come to know, even the truths of our radical politics, by confronting us with the truths of other women and men, differently acculturated, fighting against specific threats to their lands and bodies. Ecofeminism also extends this questioning to the anthropocentric assumption that only human beings have truths to tell. The cries of factory farm animals, the suffocation of fish in poisoned waters, the sounds of flood waters rushing over deforested land ecofeminism instructs us that these are also voices to which we must listen. Heeding subjugated voices makes us better able to question our own political and personal practices. As Donna Haraway has pointed out, ecofeminists have been "most insistent on some version of the world as active subject, not as resource to be mapped and appropriated in bourgeois, Marxist, or masculinist projects. Acknowledging the agency of the world in knowledge makes room for some unsettling possibilities, including a sense of the world's sense of humor."33 The difficult questions that ecofeminism has advanced may well risk the end of its own practice as currently constituted, for, like any social movement, ecofeminism is inevitably a provisional politics, one that has struck a chord of resistance in this era of ecological destruction and patriarchal power. It may well risk the end of feminism as we have known it. In the meantime, a genealogical approach indicates that multiple forces of domination require multiple forms of resistance. A rejection of programmatic coherence does not mean that ecofeminist or other such political practices lack direction or cohesion. On the contrary, in turning attention to the ways that domination of the land, tabor, and women intersect, ecofeminism underscores the need for coalitions that are both aware of gender hierarchy and respectful of the earth. If other terms and different politics emerge from that questioning and that struggle, then we can strive to place them in the service of new local actions, new creative energies, and new coalitions that preclude apocalyptic constraints on freedom.
A Genealogical Feminist Way of Looking: Scrutinizing Postmodern Cultural Production
The coexistence of yuppie apoliticism and local-level resistance politics like ecofeminism should be reason enough to question monolithic definitions and descriptions of the sociosymbolic field known as postmodernism. Yet a tendency to contain the meanings of postmodernism may be found among even leading poststructuralist theorists, for example, in Fredric Jameson's claims for a cultural logic of late capitalism, jean-Francois Lyotard's disease metaphor of a postmodern condition marked by the disappearance of master narratives (which he applauds), and Jean Baudrillard's postapocatyptic trajectories of simulation fast producing a global Disney World. This is not to dismiss these theorizers, for each has contributed in crucial ways to an understanding of postmodernism. It is, however, to suggest that feminist practice faces new issues and circumstances that cannot adequately be addressed through monolithic views of postmodernism or through theories that ignore gender. Some of these new issues and circumstances have been framed by apocalyptic discourse as cultural decline, signaling (or promising) that the end is near. For dystopian apocalyptic thought-divine, technological, or ironic-postmodern culture means the erosion of clearly defined sexual difference and the loss of authority of heterosexuality, the failure of the nuclear family and its replacement by a number of other family forms, and the fragmentation of unified national identity, as represented in challenges to English as the official language for U.S. education, for example. In other words, in dystopian apocalyptic thought, postmodernism is synonomous with loss-and this is correct for those who stand to lose their privilege. But to challengers of high-culture elitism, heterosexism, and homogeneous identity, these changes mean cultural enrichment, not decline. Other new issues of crucial relevance to women have been framed as technological transcendence. From a utopian apocalyptic point of view (in which the changes noted above may or may not be lamented), postmodernist achievements in technology promise an escape from the ills humanity has long suffered. One of the central problems to which feminism has consistently alerted us, however, is that technology has been and continues to be dominated by masculinist forces of power and wealth that maintain their profits and control through exploitation and surveillance. In both its dystopian and utopian modes, apocalyptic thought insists on absolute and coherent Truth. From the perspective of genealogical feminism, this insistence translates into eradication of race and ethnic identity, of sexual choice, and of opportunities to earn a livable wage. Postmodern life is not simply dystopian or utopian. What is fragmentation of identity to apocalyptic thinkers may be an exhilarating experience of personal coming-to-voice for others. In other words, postmodernism is a field of social conflict between multiple forces, some operating to bolster the absolutist Truth of the elite, others seeking to dismantle it, and still others that generate free-floating fear, melancholy, and nostalgia.
Perhaps the term "genealogical feminism" can prove to be as cantankerous as the term "postmodernism" in resisting final definitions. For what is so provocative about the term "postmodern" is that, rather than serving dutifully as an explanatory and descriptive term, its proliferation of meanings enacts a refusal of the monolithic. As Dick Hebdige pointed out in the mid-eighties, the term "postmodern" applied to:
the decor of a room, the design of a building, the diegesis of a film, the construction of a record, or a "scratch" video, a TV commercial, or an arts documentary, or the "intertextual" relations between them, the layout of a page in a fashion magazine or critical journal, an antiteleological tendency within epistemology, the attack on the "metaphysics of presence," a general attenuation of feeling, the collective chagrin and morbid projections of a post-War generation of Baby Boomers confronting disillusioned middle age, the "predicament" of reflexivity, a group of rhetorical tropes, a proliferation of surfaces, a new phase in commodity fetishism, a fascination for "images," codes and styles, a process of cultural, political, or existential fragmentation and/or crisis, the "de-centering" of the subject, an "incredulity toward metanarratives," the replacement of unitary power axes by a pluralism of power/discourse formations, the "implosion of meaning," the collapse of cultural hierarchies, the dread engendered by the threat of nuclear self-destruction, the decline of the University, the functioning and effects of the new miniaturized technologies, broad societal and economic shifts into a "media," "consumer" or "multinational" phase, a sense (depending on whom you read) of placelessness or the abandonment of placelessness ("critical regionalism") or (even) a generalized substitution of spatial for temporal co-ordinates.
Postmodernism is, indeed, all of the above and more, which is why the term "postmodern culture" is something of an oxymoron. The unity presumed by the human sciences category "culture" breaks apart when applied analytically to the proliferations of meanings of postmodernism. What I am referring to as genealogical feminism -which is both about postmodernism and a product of it -has the potential to be similarly proliferative. A proliferation of meanings thwarts impulses toward orthodoxy, in part because of its (con)fusions of the ontological and epistemological. The fusing together of architectural design, attitude, subjectivity, economic production, image simulation, and philosophical stance produced through this era's mass-media technologies cannot be adequately addressed through any orthodoxy that attends exclusively to any one category, whether class, or gender, or race, or sexual practice. Postmodernism's mixed bag of cultural practices calls for a mixed bag of strategies and tactics.
To the extent that genealogical feminism refuses the temptation to be a "pure" feminism and employs an "impure" range of differing, even conflicting, approaches, using an array of strategies and tactics, often to intervene with one another as well as against totalizing forces of domination, it can be invaluable for understanding and challenging those forces. As I have argued, a genealogical gauge that discerns specific historical effects of antiessentialist and essentialist discourse and activism can provide genealogical feminism with a theorizing tool crucially necessary for a radical politics in the postmodern era. It is equally important that such a gauge register the ways in which the mass media blur distinctions that formerly seemed clear. As Meaghan Morris has argued, in "a mass-media society with mass-media cultures and massmedia politics, the relationship between signifying (rather than 'aesthetic') gestures and political ones may not be so clear-cut"; we have to confront "the effect that the study of media could have on our understanding of politics, and thus on the formulation of political actions; and finally, the question of what the relationship of artistic and cultural work to other kinds of politics might actually become if it were fostered rather than dismissed by a denunciative (and self-defeating) sectarianism."
Two major media events separated by three years may be used to illustrate the complexities of postmodernism and a genealogical feminist way of looking: the 1989 Grammy award ceremony and the 1993 presidential inauguration ceremonies. The Grammy's honoring of Tracy Chapman and Bobby McFerrin as the leading performers of the year was particularly notable because of the dramatically disparate hit songs of these two African American singers/songwriters. In quintessential postmodern fashion, the Grammys rendered their incommensurate messages-"Talkin Bout A Revolution" and "Don't Worry, Be Happy"commensurate. Media events like the Grammys provide us with a number of the features of postmodernism catalogued by Hebdige, including not only cultural and political fragmentation but the reassertion of sexism with a glitzy vengeance.
Since such media presentations are typical, we need politically attuned ways of looking at the media. A genealogical feminist perspective provides analytical tools for repoliticizing what the media depoliticizes, and for politicizing what it offers as pap. The Grammy ceremony is a cultural practice that can be used to demonstrate the problematic of traditional social science conceptualizations of culture. Drawing from the space/time logic of masculinist thought, such conceptualizations assume a totality, a unified and bounded entity called culture, which when employed in analysis is itself totalizing. To work within the domain of the "science" of the social entails gathering empirical data about a given culture. An event like the Grammy awards may be used to show the impossibility of this endeavor, at least as traditionally undertaken, for there is no clear-cut cultural boundary to be had. Instead we have a global transmission of Americanized multinational meaning systems. Since Americanization includes the appropriation of third-world musics, the notion of bounded culture is further undermined. Compounding methodological difficulties for the traditional notion of culture is the breakdown of a high culture / low culture distinction, a distinction that fosters and perpetuates white patriarchal humanist values. The Grammy awards, which give tributes to everything from rock to classical music, blur this distinction. Although the popularity of McFerrin's catchy tune was seen by some cultural critics as a form of psychological and political denial of the dire economic trends of the Reagan-Bush administrations, it can also be read genealogically as an announcement of spreading anxiety. A sense of the precariousness of contemporary existence is part of the material conditions that give rise to such a song. Despite the leveling of Chapman's messages of political struggle amid the trappings of show biz, her very inclusion provided a dialogism that genealogical feminists might accent. Her mode of dress-jeans, T-shirt, short dreadlocks-and athletic carriage oppose the dominant sign system of white femininity: on such shows, satins, silks, and brocades are displayed on corseted or emaciated bodies balancing masses of moussed hair on one end and stiletto heels on the other. Her songs expose the harm done by the dominant systems of white power, ranging from the systemic underemployment of blacks in the United States and the resulting crises within black families to the surveillance mechanisms of prison psychiatry. Against these forces of domination, alongside the spaces of "po-mo" coolness and exhaustion, her songs marked out the spaces of resistance also made available by the postmodern entertainment industry. Taken alone, such events as Chapman's Grammy appearance might not mean all that much in terms of feminist political transformation. But of course such events are not isolated occurrences. The offerings of the media, and other daily events, offer abundant opportunity for practicing genealogical feminist ways of looking. Understanding the Grammys through a genealogical feminist perspective also helps us to discern what is at stake in the "Grammyfication" of the Presidency.
Volumes have been written about the ways in which Roosevelt exploited radio and Kennedy television to get their ideas across to the public. I would put the 1992 Bush campaign in line with this use of the media as a way of pointing to a difference between the Bush and Clinton campaigns. The edge that Clinton had over Bush was that while the Bush campaign still relied on Kennedy's media methods, the Clinton campaign far more thoroughly blurred signifying and political gestures. In other words, more than any other U.S. president, Bill Clinton is as much a product of the media as he is a producer of certain ideas and values through media. The several days devoted to Inaugural activities, ranging from pilgrimages to Monticello, Hollywood night in D.C., and the swearing-in ceremony and the balls, demonstrate that contemporary politics are a mass media practice. just as the Grammys can so readily bring together Tracy Chapman's songs of political protest and Bobby McFerrin's songs of reassurance, so too Bill Clinton's inauguration brought together the People and the Stars, the violent streets of Washington, D.C., and the upward mobility of Hope, Arkansas. The point is not to lament the postmodern state of the union, but rather to become more astute about feminist and mass-media productions of meaning. It is too soon to document the effects of feminist resistance and activism during the first few years of the 1990s, but it is possible to see ways in which feminism's third wave also blurs the lines between signifying and political gestures. It is also clear that this third wave gathers momentum through coalition-and loses it when sectarianism over race, class, and sexual differences reemerges. An example of both dynamics may be seen in the Women's Action Coalition, founded in January 1992. Originating out of New York City and with no men allowed, within six months New York WAC had 1,400 on its member list, with 300 to 400 women in regular attendance at the weekly meetings, and WAC groups forming in other major U.S. cities, as well as in Toronto. The goat of the coalition is to link issues of representation of gender, class, and color, reproductive freedom, health, and sexual choice as part of the larger struggle to combat violence against women. WAC's logo, an eye encircled by the phrases "WAC is Watching" and "Women Take Action" gives double meaning to the compliment "You're looking good, girl." In the center of the logo's eye is a repetition with a difference. Rather than the infinite regress of the modernist aesthetic, which would have been a replication of the logo in the eye's retina, the center point is a blue dot with WAC inscribed on it, suggestive of the bull's-eye of a target. WAC's blue dot is a feminist appropriation of the blue dot used in the media coverage of rape trials to block out a woman's face while she testifies against a man charged with rape. The WAC retina thus receives the media's simultaneously disclosed and blocked image, but reflects that image back in altered form, targeting it with the message of women's action. In keeping with postmodernism's conflations of style and activist politics, WAC's logo declares that women who take action know how to took. It's not easy being coalitional, however, as the history of WAC's first year demonstrates. Over the course of 1992, various chapters of WAC began to feel the strain of division, particularly around issues of race, class, and sexuality. In New York, attendance and enthusiasm at meetings declined as arguments over lesbophobia and class awareness increased; in Washington D.C., the coalition fell apart due to irreconcilable views of how to combat racism within the group. These events show both the vitality and the difficulty of coalitional effort. Regardless of what happens to WAC, one message comes through: a coalition is a form of re-cognition, a way of looking at differences as a form of learning how to organize differently. As such, genealogical feminism has what it takes to be the most significant "look" of the nineties. As a practice of coalitional diversity, it gathers its solidarity from essentialism; its changing tactical designs from semiotics and media; its countersurveillance struggles from 1980s resistance politics; and its self-stylization from poststructuralist ethics. Genealogical feminism is a way of looking at postmodern cultural production that gets beyond the lament of cultural decline sounded by cultural critics on the right and the left, from Dinesh D'Souza to Fredric jameson. By scrutinizing modes of subjection and their forms of signification, a genealogical feminist "look" is at one and the same time a genealogy of the forces that subject us and an exercise in transforming them into forces of freedom.
Piss Christ, 1987, Andres Serrano
"Warmly transparent, luminously glowing, like wet sunlight. I've always loved the took of urine. So when Congress legislated cuts in funding to punish the NEA for exhibiting Andres Serrano's Piss Christ, I got really pissed off. Granted, it wasn't simply the urine that put their wrath in motion; it was Serrano's depiction of a crucifix in urine. But I found this satisfying, too. Critiques of Christianity are hard to come by in the United States. The heat directed at Sinead O'Connor's papal protest is a sign of how rarely criticism of Christianity has a public forum. When such critiques are met with governmental attempts to silence them, as with the New Right's efforts to censure and suppress the Serrano photograph, freedom of expression is at stake. Blasphemy might be against theocratic law, but Jesse Helms and Alphonse D'Amato notwithstanding, the United States has a Constitution that supports both separation of church and state and freedom of speech."