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Practicing the difference – Reading Luce Irigaray with feminist science fiction

Bunting-Branch, Anna; (2022) Practicing the difference – Reading Luce Irigaray with feminist science fiction. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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This thesis considers feminist science fiction as a methodology to approach the question of sexual difference raised by Luce Irigaray. As something that has not yet happened—the stubborn embodiment of that speculative potentiality of the “what if…?” which resists the lure of transcendence or universalised abstraction—the spectre of sexual difference continues to haunt ideas of feminist progress (Irigaray, 1996; Butler, 2004; Er, 2018). This dense and difficult corpus also appears jarringly out of sync with intersectional, trans feminist, non-binary, and genderqueer accounts of sexual difference raised by her readers (Deutscher, 2002; Butler, 2004; Murphy, 2007; Salamon, 2010; Spivak, 2010; Johnston, 2015). As such, I remain open to the generative possibilities of difference within Luce Irigaray’s writing, as well as embracing divergence from her thinking in feminist practice. My practice-related research is animated by three key questions: 1) Can reading Luce Irigaray with feminist science fiction allow her philosophy of sexual difference to be thought differently? 2) How can this different thinking be put into practice? 3) What can practicing the difference offer to future feminist movement? In response, I engage feminist SF as an imaginative methodology (Lefanu, 1988; Rieder, 2010); drawing out qualities that constitute the genre—thought experiment, worldbuilding, defamiliarization, fan activity, sense of wonder—to ‘practice that difference’ which is so vital to the Irigarayan project (Irigaray [1977] 1985:159). Moving from reading and writing through painting, animating, and other ways of making and making public, this thesis locates Luce Irigaray in the context of speculative feminist practice from the past—spanning SF, activism, theory, fandom, and art. Revisioning these strange, provocative, and even failed texts as spaces in which more generative responses can proliferate, I posit practicing the difference as a way of engaging critically and creatively with the philosophy of sexual difference. This practice-related research contributes to transdisciplinary academic discourse around Luce Irigaray, and creative engagements with feminist histories, science fiction and fandom. This research has been shared at talks and conferences including Against Delivery at University College London (2015), Revising History Symposium at Wilson Art Gallery & Museum (2015), the Academic Track at WisCon 40 (2016), the 8th Conference of the Luce Irigaray Circle at University of Winchester (2017), Hauntopia/What If? at The Research Pavilion, Venice (2017), and Accelerate Sessions: Female Figures at London International Animation Festival (2020). Publications include ICA Bulletin (2017), MAP Magazine (2017), Art Licks (2018), Fandom as Methodology: A Sourcebook for Artists and Writers (2019) and The Sociological Review Magazine (2021). This research has been widely presented in international exhibitions and events; making contributions to contemporary cultural discourse as cited by Jamie Sutcliffe (2017), London Contemporary Music Festival (2019), The White Pube (Muhammad 2020), Amrita Dhallu (2021), and Catherine Grant (2021), among others. The quality of this research has been recognized by New Contemporaries (2016), an Arts Council England Project Grant (2019), and a Prix Ars Electronica Honorary Mention (2021). Between 2018 and 2020, Warm Worlds and Otherwise toured to Wysing Arts Centre, FACT and QUAD, and is documented in a publication produced by QUAD and The Mechatronic Library (2020). W.I.T.C.H. was included in the UK touring group exhibitions New Contemporaries 2016 and Waking the Witch: Old Ways, New Rites (2018-2020). Other exhibitions and events include The Labours of Barren House, Jerwood Space (2017), Dark Water: The Dead of Night, CGP Dilston Grove (2017), These Rotten Words, Chapter Arts Centre (2017), Landscapes of The Future, Helsinki Contemporary (2018), POEKHALI!, Bergen Kunsthall (2018), We Who Are About To…, CCA Glasgow (2018), All His Ghosts Must Do My Bidding, Wysing Arts Centre (2019), La Nit del Cos, Bombon Projects (2019), you feel me_, FACT (2019), Crespuscolo (DUSK), Bastione Sangallo (2020), and Time Travel Across Many-Worlds, BALTIC (2022). Alongside exhibitions, I have made it a priority to create public engagement opportunities designed to reach different audiences including Witchy Methodologies at ICA (2017), the Native Tongue Reading Group at Jerwood Space (2017), ~all the feels~ at FACT (2019), and the Teardown! Reimagine! workshops for young people and families at QUAD (2020). This research has made an impact through pedagogy, with the development of teaching resources that draw on the speculative practices I explore in this thesis. Examples include Recipes for Disaster, a public workshop hosted at Chelsea Space (2021); and Mapping My Research, a seminar for MA Fine Art students at Camberwell College of Arts,UAL (2022). This research also informed Tactical Subjectivities: Creative Perspectives on Theories and Practices of Identity, a course for BFA Fine Art students at Slade School of Fine Art, UCL (2016 and 2017). The wider social impact of work informed by this research is evidenced by Potential Wor(l)ds a public project with Aliyah Hussain that contributed to the European Union’s Re-Imagine Europe initiative (2018-2020) and the Moving Worlds workshops I delivered as artist-in-residence at the National Centre for Gaming Disorders (2022). These projects demonstrate the impact of practicing the difference beyond academic and artistic contexts.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Practicing the difference – Reading Luce Irigaray with feminist science fiction
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author 2022. Original content in this thesis is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0) Licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/). Any third-party copyright material present remains the property of its respective owner(s) and is licensed under its existing terms. Access may initially be restricted at the author’s request.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > The Slade School of Fine Art
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10161775
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