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Silverman, D.K. (2003). Theorizing in the Shadow of Foucault: Facets of Female Sexuality. Psychoanal. Dial., 13(2):243-272.

(2003). Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 13(2):243-272

Theorizing in the Shadow of Foucault: Facets of Female Sexuality

Doris K. Silverman, Ph.D.

Foucault challenged the unified, the foundational, and the codified system of knowledge because he believed that the epistemological privilege attached to “scientific” theory lead to a dominating discourse. This occurs, Foucault believed, not only through social institutions, but also through the language, rituals, and practices of ordinary communicative experiences, which are vehicles for the subtle domination of knowledge; and all knowledge serves power and the dominant hierarchy. Engaging with Foucault, I challenge some traditional psychoanalytic views and indicate how the psychoanalytic discourse contributed to the shaping of female sexuality. Using a “genealogical” approach such as Foucault considered, I trace some of the historical factors as well as the Zeitgeist for women that shaped early psychoanalytic views. I offer, as well, challenges to Foucault's position because I maintain the relevance of truth claims for the advancement of a psychoanalytic theory of mind and behavior. Such claims, however, need to be held lightly, subject, as they inevitably are, to revision through the acquisition of new knowledge. I present the attachment system as a contrast, as well as an addition to some traditional theorizing, thereby expanding our notions of early development and its interdependent base. I especially challenge the concept of early-stage symbiosis and its role in limiting and constraining women's lives.

In this article I focus primarily on the power relations that have shaped female sexuality and have influenced our knowledge and understanding of female development. I challenge some normative views. Such a challenge to normativity is consistent with Foucault's entire intellectual journey, as his biographer comments (Eribon, 1991).

My vision includes a conviction about the importance of theory construction and its development, and it proceeds from my focus on research data about the organization of mind and the nature of early bonding. I structure my presentation of female sexuality around the inclusion of such knowledge. I concede that as I upend an old “truth” about the developmental line of female sexuality, I am establishing a new one that will need future interrogation. My hope is that the new narrative will offer another perspective to our view of female sexuality.

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