The MWS Podcast: Episode 28, Nina Davies on her work in social care and on feminism

In this latest member profile Nina Davies tells us about growing up in Singapore, doing VSO in Malawi, Buddhism and her work in social care. She then goes on to talk about the importance of feminism in her life, her interest in Lacanian Psychoanalysis, and the work of Judith Butler and Donna Harraway. Finally, she explains what were the reasons that made her join the society.


MWS Podcast 28: Nina Davies as audio only:
Download audio: MWS_Podcast_28_Nina_Davies

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About Barry Daniel

I live in the Lake District in the UK where I run a guesthouse with my partner Kate and my cat Manuel. I enjoy painting, hillwalking, reading, visiting and entertaining friends, T’ai Chi and playing the guitar. I’m engaged to a certain degree in the local community, as a volunteer with Samaritans and I’m a fairly active member of the local Green party. I’ve had a relatively intuitive sense of the Middle Way most of my adult life but it found a greater articulation and a practical direction through joining the society. It’s also been interesting and great fun engaging with other people with a similar outlook. My main contribution to the society is conducting the podcast interviews, something that gives me a lot of satisfaction and that I’ve learnt a lot from.

3 thoughts on “The MWS Podcast: Episode 28, Nina Davies on her work in social care and on feminism

  1. Hi Nina,
    Thank you for a very interesting podcast, many of your experiences resonate with me, one of my regrets is that I didn’t spend time living abroad. When I hear of authors whom others have found inspiring I try to learn more about their work, one drawback is that I scrape the surface of many subjects and become the master of none, but none the less something useful usually sticks, I do enjoy delving into new territory.

  2. Great to hear more about your experience and perspectives, Nina. I get the impression that we had similarly mixed experiences of the FWBO. I’m very much struck by the individuality of the people who join the society, and you seem to be another person who has become involved for very individual reasons, as part of an autonomous process!

    I have a couple of questions about the ideas that you said had inspired you. I have been reading a bit about Lacan recently, and used to have a colleague who was a deeply convinced Lacanian, but I have never studied Lacan in any depth. My impression is that Lacan’s ideas about language and symbols do pick up on the weaknesses of representationalism, and the way in which representational language creates a basis for metaphysical oppositions. However, he seems to pile far too much significance on speculative theories about childhood experience, just as Freud does. Would you agree?

    My other question is about cyborgs. I don’t think I quite understood the appeal here, as the limitation of machines is that they lack organic experience and just process what has been programmed into them. In that sense there seems to be a resemblance between the limitations of machines and those of insufficiently integrated left hemisphere function in the brain, an idea I discussed in this blog post a while ago: http://middlewayphilosophy.wordpress.com/2013/01/08/the-new-chinese-room/ . Does Harraway really want us to overcome gender limitations by becoming machine-like? I’m afraid I wouldn’t see that as an advance! Machines do not seem to be capable of attention, reflection or integration, and they need us organic beings to integrate their functions so that they address conditions (rather than just ‘mindlessly’ going through a process that is inappropriate to the environment), just as the left hemisphere needs the right to integrate its goals and representations.

    1. Thank you for your comments Norma and Robert!

      Robert: I have read enough Lacan to be convinced that as a therapeutic model it does not hold a lot of hope! However, as a commentary on what could be happening to a child as it becomes a part of language and culture, Lacan’s work has been enormously influential. He was inspired by Claude Lévi-Strauss and my feeling is that much of what he says is more relevant to how groups behave rather than how individuals develop. Both Lacan and Lévi-Strauss follow structural linguistics and as such place great emphasis on the oppositions in language. Language structures Lancan’s “symbolic” and his unconscious – this is the Oedipus complex “the name of the father”. The relationship with the mother equates to the “imaginary” and is the stuff of subjectivity but this is ultimately defeated by the symbolic. As a say, I don’t think his theories tell us a lot about subjective experience but I do think they contribute to our understanding of how the unconscious is “out there” in the structures of our cultures and societies. Lacan borrows much from Melanie Klein in his understanding of “the imaginary” … but he did not seem to incorporate the insight of her therapeutic techniques into his work. So … Lacan’s ideas give us a starting point from which to deconstruct the phallocentric and as such have been useful to postcolonialists and feminists, understanding the anxiety that falls outside the white/male middleclass middle and the demonising of “the other”.

      Cyborgs: I don’t think Haraway is saying that we should be more like machines. Haraway is working at the edge of language. There is a sense that, following post-Lacanian feminism , feminist writing needs to escape the structures of the male, heteronormative centre. Haraway draws on many influences to try to find a more ethical way forward for the scientific community and for feminists. Science fiction is a way in which a feminist future can be imagined. Haraway perceives that we are all part machine and that this could be useful to us. She sees the Internet as an expression of interconnectedness; we are implicated in and connected to the exploited workers in Silicon Valley, the pornography, the new freedoms of information and everything else out there. “By the late twentieth century, our time, a mythic time, we are all chimeras, theorized and fabricated hybrids of machine and organism; in short, we are cyborgs.” http://www.egs.edu/faculty/donna-haraway/articles/donna-haraway-a-cyborg-manifesto/
      In short, Haraway says we are not innocent bystanders; we are all responsible. We should take what science has given us and use this opportunity to move forward and not to be held back by the excuse of our histories, the excuse of the Oedipus complex because we do not have to be “women” or “men” as history has defined.

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