'Hope in failure': A Level students, discursive agency, post-feminism and feminism

  • Taylor C
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uk 0000002010 000Taylor & Francis 2010 Original Article 0954-0253 (print)/1360-0516 (online) Gender and Education 10.1080/09540253.2010.538013 This article begins with Pollock’s comment that Judith Butler ‘finds hope in failure’ and its aim is to explore what ‘hope in failure’ means in relation to A Level students’ engagements with post-feminism and feminism. The article grounds its argument in an exploration of how post-feminism and feminism intersect with sixth form students’ subjectivities through the educational practices of their second-year A Level subject-based research. The article analyses empirical instances of students’ discursive agency through Butler’s notions of performativity, citationality, excessive signification and resignification to consider the complex, multiple and creative ways in which sixth form students produce themselves as viable gendered subjects in relation to post-feminist and feminist discourses. The analysis considers both how discourse regulates and conditions students’ relations with post-feminism and feminism and how discourse contains the possibilities for the subject to refuse the refusal of feminism in popular culture. Through its analysis of how students use their discursive agency to claim a feminist identity, and how these uses constitute transgressive practices, the article explores the political significance of identifications with feminism in doing gender differently. It ends with an argument for the re-consideration of the apparently assured popular cultural ‘failure’ of feminism in post-feminist neoliberal times.

Author-supplied keywords

  • discourse
  • discursive agency
  • feminism
  • hope
  • post-feminism
  • sixth form students

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  • Carol A. Taylor

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