Asymmetrical Reciprocity and Practical Agency: Contemporary Dilemmas of Feminist Theory in Benhabib, Young, and Kristeva
This essay presses the need for developing a richer phenomenological description within feminist theory of the process whereby two different persons realize reciprocal recognition. A phenomenological examination of the implicit yet differing ontological assumptions that Benhabib and Young hold, reveals how both the dimensions of symmetry and asymmetry must operate in order to develop the expanded consciousness and affective empathy requisite to recognize another as a three-dimensional moral agent. Implicit in this process, I suggest, is a constructive rather than projective use of imagination. Relying on Kristeva, I sketch a picture of how imagination plays with both dimensions of sameness and difference in communicative interaction. That interplay may catalyze a genuine awakening to the irreducible realities of difference without projecting distorting stereotypes onto other social groups.