Ludic Feminism and After

Postmodernism, Desire, and Labor in Late Capitalism
Teresa L. Ebert
A provocative and controversial challenge to postmodern academic feminism


Following the equal-rights struggles of the 1960s, feminism became involved in the theoretical problems posed by poststructuralism, psychoanalysis, semiotics, queer theory, postcolonialism, and Marxism. After years of debate about whether feminism can or should accommodate these other modes of contemporary thought, Ludic Feminism and After provides a way of making a leap forward.

Teresa Ebert rethinks such notions as "pleasure," "essentialism," "performance," "labor," "class," "body," and "difference" through readings of influential texts by feminists such as Gayatri Spivak, Rigoberta Mench, Donna Haraway, Jane Gallop, Judith Butler, Diana Fuss, and Teresa de Lauretis. She not only engages the theories of Derrida, Foucault, Lyotard, and Baudrillard, but also moves beyond the academic arena to address the "backlash" phenomenon and the writings of "popular" critics like Camille Paglia. Ebert argues that the crisis of feminist theory in postmodernity is about the very meaning of politics and the possibility for effective social change.

The future of feminism and feminist theory, believes Ebert, lies in reclaiming radical knowledge(s) that have been obscured by what she calls "ludic theory": the branch of postmodernism that sees politics primarily as a linguistic and textual practice, and focuses on subverting cultural representations of difference. She argues instead for the possibilities of a "resistance postmodernism" in feminism: theory grounded in the social struggle over the "material differences" of labor and access to economic means and resources.

Ebert's provocative and powerful book challenges ludic feminism within the academy, and outlines transformative politics and feminist theory that can address material crises, such as the international trade in young women for prostitution, dowry murders in India, and the genocidal rape in Bosnia. The author seeks to go beyond dominant theories to open a radically new space for an active third wave feminism. Ludic Feminism and After is sure to be influential and controversial.

Teresa Ebert is Associate Professor of English, State University of New York at Albany.

Praise / Awards

  • "Ebert keeps in view the political consequences of what she sees as the middle-class individualism and privilege that inform 'ludic feminism.' She is a first-rate scholar whose work deserves favorable comparison with that of many of the figures she engages--Butler, Cornell, and Gallop in the field of feminist theory; Harvey and Callinicos in the field of Marxist theory."
    --Barbara Foley, Rutgers University
  • "Ludic Feminism and After delivers that sudden, implosive shock of recognition in the very midst of complexity. It won't always command agreement by any means, but readers will find it challenging, and changing, the terms of their work."
    --Evan Watkins, Pennsylvania State University
  • "Teresa Ebert is not playing around. She is quite seriously mapping the outside of discourse for those who have lost their way in Foucauldian forests. Ludic Feminism and After knocks the philosophical stuffing out of most of the feminisms and versions of postmodernism which circulate as both high and low theory today. Hers is a vigorous materialist voice crying in the name of Karl Marx in the academic wilderness at the low point of his reputation and the credibility of the Left. Her arrival on the intellectual scene is surely out of sync with everything else that is going on, but that does not diminish the force of her argument or the wicked crunch of her critique. Posing a strong challenge to every major feminist theorist from Butler to Spivak, Gallop to Fuss, Teresa Ebert brings us back to basics. For her, labor and desire are not discourses and women's oppression is a set of political realities to be struggled against. Good girl feminists, go home. Everybody else, take notes. You certainly won't agree with Ebert, but she returns the debate to honorable ground and real issues."
    --Jane Marcus, The City College of New York and CUNY Graduate Center
  • "Teresa Ebert's book is a powerful demystification of postmodernism and its feminist discourse. It tears aside the veil of words and language games which hide the reality of our world."
    --Nawal El Saadawi, Duke University
  • "A bold, timely, and necessary book, and the most sustained, systematic, and focused critique of contemporary feminism yet to emerge. It will focus the debate about postmodernism and poststructuralism around important social and intellectual concerns."
    --Susan Bordo, University of Kentucky
  • ". . . Ludic Feminism and After situates itself as a corrective to a feminism and a marxism that have strayed evermore from the analytical dictates of historical materialism. Against the force of this spiraling critical errancy, Ebert claims to extract from the writings of Marx and Engels an adequate feminist critique of the lived and imagined conditions of existence in the late twentieth century."

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 352pp.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Paper
  • 1996
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-06576-9

Add to Cart
  • $29.95 U.S.