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Reading: Predictable Medea


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Theorising the Maternal

Predictable Medea


Elisabetta Bertolino

About Elisabetta
Elisabetta Bertolino is a doctoral candidate in Critical Legal Theory at the School of Law, Birkbeck University of London. She is interested in rethinking the ontological approach of our being in the world beyond the institutionalised judicial instance. The body as singular, vulnerable and dependent is at the core of her research. Some of her work includes 'Beyond Ontology and Sexual Difference: an Interview with the Italian Feminist Philosopher Adriana Cavarero' (differences, 2008), 'Is There Such a Thing as a Mediterranean Feminism?' in Feminisms: Within and Without, edited by Rebecca Pelan, (Syracuse University Press, 2007) and 'The Politics of Subjectivity in the Women, Law and Development Discourse' (Australian Feminist Law Journal, 2006).
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By focusing on the tragedy of the 'unpredictable' infanticide perpetrated by Medea, the paper speculates on the possibility of a non-violent ontological subjectivity for women victims of gendered violence and whether it is possible to respond to violent actions in non-violent ways; it argues that Medea did not act in an unpredictable way, rather through the very predictable subject of resentment and violence. Medea represents the story of all of us who require justice as retribution against any wrong. The presupposition is that the empowered female subjectivity of women’s rights contains the same desire of mastering others of the masculine current legal and philosophical subject. The subject of women’s rights is grounded on the emotions of resentment and retribution and refuses the categories of the private by appropriating those of the righteous, masculine and public subject. The essay opposes the essentialised stereotypes of the feminine and the maternal with an ontological approach of people as singular, corporeal, vulnerable and dependent. There is therefore an emphasis on the excluded categories of the private. Forgiveness is taken into account as a category of the private and a possibility of responding to violence with newness. A violent act is seen in relations to the community of human beings rather than through an isolated setting as in the case of the individual of human rights. In this context, forgiveness allows to risk again and being with. The result is also a rethinking of feminist actions, feminine subjectivity and of the maternal. Overall the paper opens up the Arendtian category of action and forgiveness and the Cavarerian unique and corporeal ontology of the selfhood beyond gendered stereotypes.
How to Cite: Bertolino, E., 2010. Predictable Medea. Studies in the Maternal, 2(1), pp.1–10. DOI:
Published on 01 Jan 2010.
Peer Reviewed


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