Professor Tina Chanter
Words by Lisa Burns
Professor Tina Chanter of Kingston University, feminist philosopher, led a talk on Feminist Art, Politics, and Gender, as part of the Women in Philosophy strand of the Humanities in Public programme at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU), with a large crowd of philosophy enthusiasts attending the event.
The talk focused on the link between politics and aesthetics in Jacques Ranciere’s work. Chanter highlighted the ways in which art forms have been used to ask the question, “Who counts as a political subject?” Chanter used two works of art to highlight this link between art and politics; the first was Sophocles’ Antigone and the second was Phillip Noyce’s 2002 film Rabbit Proof Fence.
Antigone, the daughter of Oedipus, refused to be defined by her incestual origins. By ‘refusing to acquiesce to a narrative’, which is so negative, she became a political model or heroine. Thus, Chanter emphasised, Antigone provides inspiration for women, who are so often hindered or defined by accidents of birth; i.e. gender. In Antigone, Chanter suggested, women have a model for the ‘redefinition of women…crossing over to the public sphere of politics.’
Chanter also discussed the reworking of Eurocentric orientations in feminist discourses. She did this through an analysis of Rabbit Proof Fence, a film about the westernisation of Aboriginal children in colonised Australia. By examining this film, Chanter raised some very interesting points about prejudice and the blind spots that people can have regarding them. She questioned why some people are able to see situations from other points of view while others are not. Using the example of Kenneth Branagh’s colonialist character in Rabbit Proof Fence, she noted that for such people, ‘something happens at the level of sensibility’.
“If one is not exposed to feminist discourses,” Chanter argued, “They will not be able to comprehend that their ideas are potentially misogynistic. That ‘there might just be different ways of seeing things’ is incomprehensible if one has not been exposed to different points of reference.” These ideas certainly prompted attendees of the lecture to examine their own blind spots and assumed ways of thinking.
When asked what she hoped the practical implications of her studies would be, Chanter stated that she simply hopes to encourage critical thinking. “I’m a feminist philosopher,” she said, “But I’ve become more and more interdisciplinary as I’ve gone along.” This statement was evident in the lecture itself, as Chanter had combined the genres of philosophy, feminism, racial theory, psychoanalysis (even Freud had a look in), and film theory. “It’s interesting to mix things up,” she added.
On that note, the lecture ended, leaving the attendees to mingle and mull over the interesting and complex ideas Professor Chanter had served up. All are warmly invited to the next ‘Women in Philosophy’ event, which is to be held on Monday 3rd March. It will cover the topic of ‘Facing Prejudice: Negotiating the Cultural Politics of Identity’. More details of this event can be found here. It is surely not to be missed.
Lisa Burns studies History and English at MMU. When she’s not got her nose in a book, she loves having adventures in the great outdoors! Follow her on Twitter: @LittleRobin09