Quite contrary: Mary Daly within and without women’s studies

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Recent scholarship in the historiography of feminism has sought to challenge certain received histories of the movement which seem likely to obscure the social, intellectual and political complexity of the past, and indeed of the present. With good reason, such research has often preferred to focus on general intellectual currents rather than individual cases. This paper, however, focuses on some common constructions of one feminist in particular: philosopher and theologian Mary Daly (1928-2010). I hope to demonstrate that an analysis of one individual’s positioning within feminism’s history, as well as in relation to a conception of correct intellectual practice for women’s studies, can prove useful for broader attempts to make more complex our conceptions of feminist chronology, as well as for scholarship seeking to interrogate the institutional factors feeding into such stories. Through readings of both Daly’s own texts and those of her critics, this paper seeks to understand Daly’s positioning both in a common history of feminist progression, and in a concomitant story about the type of intellectual work appropriate to women’s studies. The central claim is that, in the constructions of Daly I examine, she is positioned as spatially external to the community and conversation of women’s studies as academic discipline, as well as temporally behind that conversation. This positioning is not unilateral, but itself feeds off as well as into Daly’s own self-positioning in relation to women’s studies. The constructions of Daly I am figuring are therefore not impositions but rather works of communal construction to some extent, since both Daly and her critics are intellectual agents who produce, maintain and modify stories about feminist history as well as women’s studies as discipline.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)32-43
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of International Women's Studies
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2012


  • Mary Daly
  • women's studies
  • historiography


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