A glimpse into Topia’s latest issue

York-based TOPIA: Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies has released its latest issue titled, “Concrete Matters: Feminist Cultural Materialism”. Guest editors Tracy Kulba (University of Alberta), Mary Elizabeth Leighton (University of Victoria) and Cheryl Suzack (University of Alberta) present a cutting-edge issue that examines the legacies of materialist theory and cultural production on contemporary feminists. “Concrete Matters” features articles by Barbara L. Marshall (Trent University), Julia Emberley (University of Western Ontario), Jennifer Henderson (Carleton University), Susan Hamilton (University of Alberta), Lisa Robson (Brandon University) and The Cultural Memory Group (University of Guelph) as well as an afterword by Jo-Ann Wallace (University of Alberta).

Marshall tracks the development of debates concerning gender as a concept within feminism and in post/anti feminist literature from the past decade. Marshall explores the effacement of material difference as an anchor for political identities through the reassertion of universality against particularity.

Emberley examines the politics of desire in the formation of the western bourgeois woman to situate this figure in an economy of dissimulation. Emberley strives for a transnational and materialist feminist politics of reading that critically challenges labouring and desiring relations of power in colonial, postcolonial and global contexts.

Henderson confronts the materiality of feminist discourse to call for self-reflexive historicization and critique. Following Deleuze and Foucault, the essay proposes the machinic assemblage as an alternative metaphor for the organization of power and argues for micro-analytic techniques.

Hamilton raises key questions about Victorian feminism’s aims, strategies, and sites of articulation through an analysis of Frances Power Cobbe’s 1878 essay, “Wife Torture in England”. The paper illuminates how Cobbe produces a new cultural narrative about feminism by using a popular culture narrative – the narrative of sensation – to specific political ends in a particular textual space, the periodical press.

Robson focuses her analysis on women’s education and rationality in relation to late 18th-century radicalism by considering Amelia Opie’s feminist materialist critique of radical philosophy. Robson argues that Opie reconstructs rationality by exposing the necessity of its full cognizance of and connection to concrete reality.

The Cultural Memory Group explores not only the memorialization of Theresa Vince, who was murdered by a male colleague in 1996, but also the ethics of feminist memorialization and collaboration across communities of difference. As a research collective of social justice workers and academics, the Cultural Memory Group aims to practice principles of feminist memorializing in their own composition and methods and to produce activist research which both understands and materially supports the hinge between memorialism and activism – between remembering Theresa Vince, protesting violence against women, and changing the future.

In her afterword to the special issue, Wallace revisits the ideas of collectivity and community to value cultural feminist materialism not only as a method of scholarly analysis but also as a social practice that moves inside and outside of the academic institution.

For more information on TOPIA 13, visit the Topia Web site.