Lecture by Kinneret Lahad: Empty Useless Time: repro-futurity, singlehood and excessive femininities
This lecture is part of the ASCA Workshop on Uselessness and open to the public.
This paper suggests that midlife singlehood can be a critical interpretive lens through which notions of excess, waste, and uselessness come to the fore. In this respect, this paper intends to illuminate and call into question some of the heteronormative temporal dimensions of desirability, the interstices of expected timelines and the borders of female respectability. The first part of my presentation will critically examine conventional discursive formations accentuated by global media as the figure of the “old maid”, the “overly selective single woman” and “leftover woman”. Those commonly associate the category of “extended” singlehood with excessive, empty and wasteful forms of temporalities. When one compares the temporal notions of singlehood to those related to conventional ideals of couplehood, parenthood, and family life, a temporal hierarchy is revealed, one which distinguishes between those who are on time/off time, investing time/losing time, accumulating time/wasting time, spending meaningful time/empty time or controlling time/controlled by time.
In the second part of my presentation, I propose to understand singlehood temporality not merely as a non-synchronized timeout or “wasting time” but also as a position from which one can pursue alternative articulations to standardized social rhythms and conventional life schedules. In that way, my analysis offers a much needed counter-logic to heteronormative notions of permanence, productivity and certainty. Singlehood as a concept can afford long, slow, unlimited breaks, delays, being useless, unnecessary and un called-for all of which are an inseparable part of our everyday experiences. Thus, by challenging the temporal rules of productivity and the socially proper, the concept of extended singlehood can represent a space and time within which one’s value as a woman is not determined by her exchange value and the judgmental scrutiny of men. From this point of view, occasional, midlife or lifelong singlehood can represent an option to refuse the control of the temporal regimes of female respectability and repro-futurity.
Kinneret Lahad is a senior lecturer at the NCJW Women and Gender Studies Program at Tel Aviv University, Israel. She had been involved in various prestigious research projects, which merited international attention, praise, and materialized in publications in leading journals. Her research interests are interdisciplinary and span the fields of gender studies, sociology and cultural studies. She has written extensively on female singlehood, families and time connecting them to sociological and feminist theory. Her forthcoming book A Table for One: A Critical Reading of Singlehood, Gender and Time will be published by Manchester University Press during 2017. She has also co-edited a book on mechanisms of denial and repression in Israeli society and is currently co-editing an edited book on feminism, emotions and academia to be published by Palgrave. Her current projects include independent and collaborative studies on aunthood, friendships, blended families, feminism and emotions, feminist age studies and solo dinning and belonging. For the last years she has taught in various academic institutions in Israel, Italy and the UK. She has been a visiting scholar at Columbia University (NY,USA), a visiting scholar and professor at Venice International University, a visiting lecturer at the Master MIM Erasmus Mundus graduate program at Ca'Foscari University in Venice and an honorary research fellow at Manchester University (UK). Links to her papers and work can be found here: (https://telaviv.academia.edu/KinneretLahad/Papers).