Surviving History of Sexuality: A Feminist-Foucauldian Approach to Sexual Violence and Survival
Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
For the most part, feminist responses to Michel Foucault’s treatment of sexual violence have been overwhelmingly negative. Though many of these negative responses are well founded, I argue that Foucault’s work on sexuality nonetheless has much to offer feminist philosophy on sexual violence and survival. One passage of great contention in Foucault’s work is his History of Sexuality discussion of Charles-Joseph Jouy, a nineteenth century farmhand accused of molesting a child. While Foucault uses this case to make important points about modern conceptions of sexuality, he does so at the cost of glossing over the child in the case, a young girl named Sophie Adam.
My project opens the following questions: If Foucault had taken Sophie Adam as a subject in History of Sexuality, what would this undertaking have looked like? What does Foucault’s critique of sexuality do for Sophie Adam, or for sexual violence survivors more broadly? In answering these questions I explicate the challenges Foucault’s critique poses to our understanding of sex in three main areas: identity, temporality, and knowledge, and I explore the relevance of each of these categories for survivors. The end result is (1) a feminist-Foucauldian account of survival that articulates specific ways in which survivors are limited or rendered incoherent by modern, normative accounts of sexuality and (2) a gesture toward positive projects that open up alternative modes of survival and more inclusive conceptions of sexual violence, selfhood, and survival.
Rehn-Debraal, Merritt, "Surviving History of Sexuality: A Feminist-Foucauldian Approach to Sexual Violence and Survival" (2015). Dissertations. 1967.
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Copyright © 2015 Merritt Rehn-Debraal