10.1007/s10746-019-09528-0 ">

“The separation that is not a separation but a form of union”: Merleau-Ponty and feminist object relations theory in dialogue

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History and Philosophy

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Human Studies


© 2019, Springer Nature B.V. We often think of normal childhood as a progressive development towards a fixed—and often tacitly individualistic and masculine—model of what it is to be an adult. By contrast, phenomenologists, psychoanalysts, sociology of childhood, and feminist thinkers have set out to offer richer accounts both of childhood development and of mature existence. This paper (1) draws on accounts of childhood development from phenomenologist Maurice Merleau-Ponty and object relations theorist D. W. Winnicott in order to argue that childhood development takes place in “transitional spaces”; (2) explores typical gendered patterns in the formation of selfhood that “split” relationality and separateness into the “feminine” and the “masculine”; and (3) offers a phenomenology of perception, love, and objectivity in order to show the manner in which, contra individualistic and masculine visions of adulthood, maturity requires an embrace rather than eschewal of ambiguity, and the capacity to continue to dwell in the transitional space between relatedness and separateness.

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