Economies of Dissimulation: The Western Bourgeois Woman and the Limits of Libidinal Power

Julia Emberley

Abstract


This essay examines the politics of desire in the formation of the Western Bourgeois
Woman. I argue that this figure belongs to an economy of dissimulation: the circulation and
exchange of a generative libidinal power in the symbolic production and commodity
consumption of white feminine artifice. Furthermore, I address the problem of how this
figure displaces labouring female bodies in an international context. Two theorists whose
work both constitutes and organizes the limits of the labour/desire opposition are Karl Marx
and Michel Foucault. I am particularly interested in re-reading Marx through Foucault, with
an emphasis on the gender and materiality of the body and in re-reading Foucault’s
“Marxism,” his attempt to distinguish his theory of sexuality from Marx’s theory of class
relations as the privileged 19th-century discourse of historical truth. My approach is to
deconstruct the symptomaticity of Marx’s and Foucault’s analytical fields by using the
female bourgeois subject as a critical wedge within their respective conceptual schemes. My
aim is a transnational and materialist feminist politics of reading that critically challenges
labouring and desiring relations of power in colonial, postcolonial and global contexts. This
is a partial and provisional attempt to do so by working through an initial theoretical
problematic.

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