Reflection on “Rereading Beauvoir in the 21st Century” (2022)

Maria Genova is completing an M.A. at the University of Calgary. Her research interests include feminist philosophy, philosophy of language, and social epistemology. She has recently presented on the topics of the constitutional theory of speech acts, as well as approaches to reading Beauvoir’s metaphysical novels.

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The 27th International Conference of the Simone de Beauvoir Society was hosted virtually in the spring of 2022 by John Carroll University through the Philosophy Department’s Don Shula Chair. Organized by Deniz Durmuş, Qrescent Mali Mason, Marine Rouch, and Dianna Taylor, this year’s conference considered how we might read and reread Beauvoir in the 21st Century. These rereadings included current analyses and critiques of Beauvoir’s thinking as well as applications of Beauvoir’s philosophy to contemporary issues. The theme of the conference brought Beauvoir’s works to bear on new areas of research within queer theory, postcolonial and decolonial theories, and critical theory. The conference addressed how Beauvoir’s work is situated in academia today and whether and how we should resituate it given subsequent developments in feminist and existential ethics.

Held over three days, the conference featured speakers from a diverse assemblage of institutions and fields, including philosophy, literature, history, sexuality and gender studies, film and media studies, and political studies. This year’s panels included Intersectionality and Decolonial Critiques; Disobedience and Resistance; Oppressive Institutions and Oppressive Violence; Love, Marriage and Sexuality; Dialectical Thinking in Beauvoir’s Philosophy; Confronting Femininity, Mortality, and Old Age; Beauvoir, Philosophy, and Ecology; Audiences and Interpretations: Reception of Beauvoir; Femininity; Existentialism, Literature, and Cinema; Perspectives on Embodiment; and Freedom and Gender Oppression. The conference featured keynote presentations from Megan Burke presenting “On the Freedom of Trans Kids,” and Margaret Simons presenting on “Beauvoir and #MeToo.”

Many talks grappled with past readings of Beauvoir’s works, often challenging or reconsidering how Beauvoir’s work was interpreted both during her lifetime and in subsequent years. Some of these talks invited us to consider interpretations of Beauvoir’s works through newer research orientations, engaging in critiques from, for instance, new materialist, ecofeminist, and postcolonial and intersectional feminist perspectives. Further, several talks considered the reception of Beauvoir’s work across varying audiences, including the reception of Beauvoir in such areas as Fiji and the Pacific and in Chinese universities. One particular highlight of this year’s conference was a consideration of what is at stake in how we read and interpret Beauvoir’s work today. Many of the presentations touched on how we might read Beauvoir in light of new research being done in areas of intersectionality, queer theory, and feminist phenomenology. In addition, several presentations interpreted and otherwise recontextualized Beauvoir’s philosophical and literary work on the topics of marriage, love, sexuality, mortality, and old age. Several others invited reconsiderations of embodiment, freedom, and gendered oppression through the lens of her work. These talks were particularly interesting in how they navigated tensions between Beauvoir’s philosophy and its contemporary reverberations.

A striking aspect of this year’s conference was the extension of Beauvoir’s work across disciplines and fields of research. Several talks applied Beauvoir’s work to research in ecology, cinema, narrative theory, and environmental justice. Additionally, several presentations highlighted the particular relevancy of Beauvoir’s work today, inviting considerations of how we might use Beauvoir’s work to address contemporary issues in law enforcement and the policed academy, warfare in Europe, the #MeToo movement, as well as gender performance and political disobedience.

On a personal note, what I found particularly notable during this conference was not only the pluralism demonstrated through the wide range of topics, fields, and disciplines, but the pervasiveness and applicability of Beauvoir’s work across time. The diverse group of scholars and projects at this year’s conference exhibited the multivalent nature of Beauvoir’s work and further demonstrated just how complex and incisive the French thinker was. Her work does not stagnate, but demands to be evaluated and reevaluated, read and reread as we consider how her theories have shaped – and are in turn reshaped by – research today. The discussions generated during this conference drew out the parallels and differences between the social and political circumstances that characterized Beauvoir’s lifetime and those which are currently manifest today. While Beauvoir seems to have lived a life apart from us, these proceedings have shown that her work is as pertinent and applicable as ever and that further study of her work is and continues to be necessary.

 

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Citer ce billet
Maria Genova (2022, 8 septembre). Reflection on “Rereading Beauvoir in the 21st Century” (2022). Chère Simone de Beauvoir. Consulté le 25 avril 2024, à l’adresse https://doi.org/10.58079/qwse

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