Rethinking Borders, Hospitality, and Citizenship
Rowman & Littlefield International, 2019
Rowman & Littlefield Press, 2018
Oliver’s engagement in various debates in applied ethics, ranging from our ecological commitments to the death penalty, from sexual assaults on campus to reproductive technology, shows the relevance of response ethics in contemporary society. In the age of pervasive war, assaults, murder, and prejudice, Response Ethics offers timely contributions to the field of ethics.
Carceral Humanitarianism: Logics of Refugee Detention
University of Minnesota Press, 2017
Sexual Violence from The Hunger Games to Campus Rape
Columbia University Press, May 2016
In Hunting Girls, Kelly Oliver examines popular culture’s fixation on representing young women as predators and prey and the implication that violence—especially sexual violence—is an inevitable, perhaps even celebrated, part of a woman’s maturity. In such films as Kick-Ass (2010), The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011), and Maleficent (2014), power, control, and danger drive the story, but traditional relationships of care constrict the narrative, and even the protagonist’s love interest adds to her suffering. To underscore the threat of these depictions, Oliver locates their manifestation of violent sex in the growing prevalence of campus rape, the valorization of woman’s lack of consent, and the new urgency to implement affirmative consent apps and policies.
Earth and World:
Philosophy After the Apollo Missions
Columbia University Press, 2015
Oliver begins with Immanuel Kant and his vision of politics grounded on earth as a finite surface shared by humans. She then incorporates Hannah Arendt’s belief in plural worlds constituted through human relationships; Martin Heidegger’s warning that alienation from the Earth endangers not only politics but also the very essence of being human; and Jacques Derrida’s meditations on the singular worlds individuals, human and otherwise, create and how they inform the reality we inhabit. Each of these theorists, Oliver argues, resists the easy idealism of world citizenship and globalism, yet they all think about the earth against the globe to advance a grounded ethics. They contribute to a philosophy that avoids globalization’s totalizing and homogenizing impulses and instead help build a framework for living within and among the world’s rich biodiversity.
Technologies of Life and Death:
From Cloning to Capital Punishment
Fordham University Press, 2013
The ethical stakes in these debates are never far from political concerns such as enfranchisement, citizenship, oppression, racism, sexism, and the public policies that normalize them. Technologies of Life and Death thus provides pointers for rethinking dominant philosophical and popular assumptions about nature and nurture,chance and necessity, masculine and feminine, human and animal, and what it means to be a mother or a father.
In part, the book seeks to disarticulate a tension between ethics and politics that runs through these issues in order to suggest a more ethical politics by turning the force of sovereign violence back against itself. In the end, it proposes that deconstructive ethics with a psychoanalytic supplement can provide a corrective for moral codes and political clichés that turn us into mere answering machines.
Knock me up, Knock me down:
Images of Pregnancy in Hollywood Film
Columbia University Press, 2012
How They Teach Us to Be Human
Columbia University Press, 2009
This kinship plays out in a number of ways. We sacrifice animals to establish human kinship, but without the animal, the bonds of “brotherhood” fall apart. Either kinship with animals is possible or kinship with humans is impossible. Philosophy holds that humans and animals are distinct, but in defending this position, the discipline depends on a discourse that relies on the animal for its very definition of the human. Through these and other examples, Oliver does more than just establish an animal ethics. She transforms ethics by showing how its very origin is dependent upon the animal. Examining for the first time the treatment of the animal in the work of Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, Derrida, Agamben, Freud, Lacan, and Kristeva, among others, Animal Lessons argues that the animal bites back, thereby reopening the question of the animal for philosophy.
Women as Weapons of War:
Iraq, Sex and the Media
Columbia University Press, 2007
Ever since Eve tempted Adam with her apple, women have been regarded as a corrupting and destructive force. The very idea that women can be used as interrogation tools, as evidenced in the infamous Abu Ghraib torture photos, plays on age-old fears of women as sexually threatening weapons, and therefore the literal explosion of women onto the war scene should come as no surprise.
From the female soldiers involved in Abu Ghraib to Palestinian women suicide bombers, women and their bodies have become powerful weapons in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. In Women as Weapons of War, Kelly Oliver reveals how the media and the administration frequently use metaphors of weaponry to describe women and female sexuality and forge a deliberate link between notions of vulnerability and images of violence. Focusing specifically on the U.S. campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq, Oliver analyzes contemporary discourse surrounding women, sex, and gender and the use of women to justify America’s decision to go to war. For example, the administration’s call to liberate “women of cover,” suggesting a woman’s right to bare arms is a sign of freedom and progress.
Oliver also considers what forms of cultural meaning, or lack of meaning, could cause both the guiltlessness demonstrated by female soldiers at Abu Ghraib and the profound commitment to death made by suicide bombers. She examines the pleasure taken in violence and the passion for death exhibited by these women and what kind of contexts created them. In conclusion, Oliver diagnoses our cultural fascination with sex, violence, and death and its relationship with live news coverage and embedded reporting, which naturalizes horrific events and stymies critical reflection. This process, she argues, further compromises the borders between fantasy and reality, fueling a kind of paranoid patriotism that results in extreme forms of violence.
The Colonization of Psychic Space:
A Psychoanalytic Social Theory of Oppression
University of Minnesota Press, Fall 2004
Eloquently arguing that we cannot explain the development of individuality or subjectivity apart from its social context, Kelly Oliver makes a powerful case for recognizing the social aspects of alienation and the psychic aspects of oppression.
Oliver explores the ways in which the alienation unique to oppression leads to depression or violence; and how these affects can be transformed into agency, individuality, solidarity, and community.
Race, Sex and Maternity in Film Noir
University of Minnesota Press, 2002
“Intriguing…a well-written and meticulously researched book…builds a sophisticated argument…a provocative collection of modern and inventive psychoanalytic readings of various film texts. I recommend this book to any reader who enjoys cultural criticism, psychoanalytic film analysis, and film studies that posit the importance of gender and race issues to film analysis.”
University of Minnesota Press, 2001
Challenging the fundamental tenet of the multicultural movement-that social struggles turning upon race, gender, and sexuality are struggles for recognition-this work offers a powerful critique of current conceptions of identity and subjectivity based on Hegelian notions of recognition. The author’s critical engagement with major texts of contemporary philosophy prepares the way for a highly original conception of ethics based on witnessing.
Magnificent in its breadth of comprehension, depth of, and originality of vision, Witnessing provides us with rich clues as to how ethics might be possible in a multicultural world. This work will be of considerable importance for those interested in rethinking the meaning of ethics in the context of issues of race, gender, and ethnicity.
—Cynthia Willett, author of Maternal Ethics and Other Slave Moralities
Subjectivity Without Subjects
Rowman & Littlefield Press, 1998
In Subjectivity Without Subjects, well-known philosopher and feminist theorist, Kelly Oliver looks at aspects of popular culture, film, science and law to examine contemporary notions of paternity and maternity.
Oliver studies the roles of paternal responsibility, virility and race in such events as the Million Man March and the growth of the Promise Keeper’s movement and suggests alternative ways to conceive of self-other relations and the subjective identity at stake in them. In addition she offers a detailed analysis of particular works by such well-known film-makers as Polanski, Bergman and Varda in developing a theory of identity that opens the subject to otherness or difference.
Subject Between Nature and Culture
Routledge Press, 1997
Family Values shows how the various contradictions at the heart of Western conceptions of maternity and paternity problematize our relationships with ourselves and with others. Using philosophical texts, psychoanalytic theory, studies in biology and popular culture, Kelly Oliver challenges our traditional concepts of maternity which are associated with nature, and our conceptions of paternity which are embedded in culture.
Oliver’s intervention calls into question the traditional image of the oppositional relationship between nature and culture, maternal and paternal. Family Values also undercuts recent returns to the rhetoric of a “battle between the sexes” by analyzing the conceptual basis of these descriptions in biological research and the presuppositions of such suggestions in philosophy and psychoanalysis. By developing a reconception of maternity and paternity, Family Values offers hope for peace in the battle of the sexes.
Philosophy’s Relation to the “Feminine”
Routledge Press, 1995
In Womanizing Nietzsche, Kelly Oliver uses an analysis of the position of woman in Nietzsche’s texts to open onto the larger question of philosophy’s relation to the feminine and the maternal. Offering readings from Nietzsche, Derrida, Irigaray, Kristeva, Freud and Lacan, Oliver builds an innovative foundation for an ontology of intersubjective relationships that suggests a new approach to ethics.
Indiana University Press, 1993
This first full-scale feminist interpretation of Kristeva’s work situates her within the context of French feminism. Oliver guides her readers through Kristeva’s intellectual formation in linguistics, Freud, Lacan, and poetics. This comprehensive introduction to Kristeva makes accessible her important contributions to philosophy, linguistics, and psychoanalytic feminism.