2018 — Interview

Doing Gender:
Helen Hester On Xenofeminism

Interviewer: Robert Barr

With: Helen Hester

The Quietus

There are obviously science fiction resonance here, yes – particularly with the work of Octavia Butler, who is very much beloved amongst some members of Laboria Cuboniks! More generally, though, the prefix comes from the Greek ‘xenos’, meaning the stranger, the outsider, or the alien. Crucially, we’re looking to develop a feminism that is hospitable to difference – one that’s more capable of fostering solidarity without assuming sameness as a prerequisite – and we’re trying to think philosophically about what that might look like and think practically about how we could build it. In the book I talk about the generation of new kinds of support networks, and about xeno-hospitality as a commitment to forging alliances beyond the mere replication of the same. That to me is one important implication of the xeno in xenofeminism.

The idea of the alien relates also to xenofeminism’s self-image or attitude towards itself. If you are looking to create a gender politics that is hospitable to difference, to the unforeseen – to perspectives that you may not be able to imagine from your own limited vantage point – you have to keep a space open for this. The project has to be revisable, open to dissent and to change. To a degree, then, it has to remain alien even to itself.