Home and the Woman Question: A Feminist Genealogy of Neoliberal Discourse

Franklin, Jane Margaret (2014). Home and the Woman Question: A Feminist Genealogy of Neoliberal Discourse. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000f014


This thesis is about the woman question and how it presents in neoliberal discourse through the story of home. It begins with an observation that home has an increasing visibility in popular culture and academia where it is explored, investigated and displayed. Home is also of interest to feminist theorists who recognise the struggle women have to be at home in the world and the potential of home as a critical space. In contrast to feminist theory and cultural celebration, home has a utilitarian, hidden and abstract quality in Government discourse in Britain. My argument is that the woman question threads through this abstract rendition of home, yet as home becomes more prominent, gender disappears. Questions of gendered and unpaid domestic labour, of women's rights in the public sphere, and of lived material inequalities, circulate in academic and cultural debates yet do not disrupt the story of home as it is played out in policy settings. In this study I analyse neoliberal discourse and its social turn to discern its logic, and how it works strategically through policy language to reconfigure or produce gendered subjects and social life in its own terms. Feminist theorists have uncovered neoliberal strategies and their effects, and I have drawn on their work to focus on subjectivity, agency and situation as an indication of the presence of home where it is abstract or absent as a word in neoliberal language. The study aims to bring unspoken and unwritten assumptions about home into view, so as to focus on the work that home does to constitute and regulate gender. The purpose is to make contemporary configurations of the woman question, as they filter through the idea of home, available to feminist critique and politics.

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