Feeling the real: the non-nomadic subject of feminism


NORA Conference 2019 : Border Regimes, Territorial Discourses and Feminist Politics


Following trails of thought in ‘non-philosophy’, Katerina Kolozova has suggested that we should approach the subject not as a construed figure or even map of positions that can only think itself, but rather as a radical concept, that can enable thought to align with the real, instead of absorbing it in the totality of any system of linguistic representation and/or meaning. It is in my attempt to feel and correlate with the real that the figure of ‘the nomadic subject’ has recently come to haunt me as a concept that needs to be revisited. Nomadism as a spatial concept denoting uncharted movements has opened up non-static ways of theorizing the subject in feminist theory and beyond. But it seems that the nomads of the real world and their torturing wanderings today, have challenged the romance of unregulated movement and force us to radically rethink the very concept of nomadism itself. The real that has conditioned our being-in-the-world and our very ability to think, is continually urging us to respond to the questions it raises and to react to the necessities it creates, no matter how chaotic or ungraspable they are.


The question I therefore raise in this paper, which draws on a Leverhulme funded research project, is whether nomadism has become an abstraction that has lost sight of ‘the real’. To put it simply: can we still use the nomadic subject in the era of the recent waves of forced displacement that have uprooted millions of people across the globe and have forced them to take up nomadic paths as the only feasible way of going on living? When the majority of these forced nomads is according to policy reports and the media ‘women travelling alone’, meaning women without the company of male guardians, how can the feminist notion of the nomadic subject enable us to grasp the lived experiences of women on the move? In the light of feminist relational ethics how do uprooted and wandering women challenge our perception of the subject of feminism and force us to revise who we are and how we relate to ourselves and to others?