In the Blog
Letters Lived Contributor: Nina Power
Illustration: Erin McPhee
Nina Power teaches philosophy at London’s Roehampton University and Critical Writing in Art & Design at the Royal College of Art. Power writes articles on European Philosophy, atomism, pedagogy, art, and politics for several magazines including The Guardian, New Statesman (like fellow contributor Juliet Jacques), New Humanist, Cabinet, Radical Philosophy, and The Philosopher’s Magazine, where she is also reviews editor.
Power’s contribution to Letters Lived: Radical reflections, revolutionary paths is particularly unique because of its tone — Power writers to her younger self as one would converse with a very close friend. She talks about growing up in an uneventful small town and initially being drawn to theory out of frustration:
“…You worry that the world cannot be changed, that everything is already ruined. The pessimism that plagues you continues for quite some time, in fact, but it won’t last. The desire you have to help, to make things better, to change things for good can only be — and this is what you don’t yet know — collectively expressed. It is this, in a way, that you long for above all else, but your suspiction of groups, of belonging, of, well, being any kind of cliche (let’s put it in the way you understand it) is getting in the way.”
Power narrows the gap between adolescence and adulthood. Now twice the age of her teenage self, she still deals with uncertainty and includes hilarious anecdotes about her less than adept driving skills to this day. She also assures young Nina that her solitary moments with literature will become more interesting when they actualize with the support of a like-minded collective.
In Power’s critically acclaimed 2009 book, One Dimensional Woman, she uses her theoretical lens to tackle debates on everything from pornography to the hijab, and suggests new ways of thinking about contemporary feminism in the realms of work, sex, and politics. Power’s honesty concerning personal growth and the root of her early anxieties in this Letters Lived chapter make for an accessible introduction to her theory-based texts:
“Curiously enough, you —15 year old Nina — don’t feel particularly bad about sex or your body. I remember you thinking how upsetting it was that some friends of yours were self-harming, starving themselves, feeling generally awful about their physical existence and guilty for wanting to be sexual. Your intuitions about the culture that permits and encourages this is subtle and not-so-subtle ways are correct, by the way, but carry on not feeling bad about physicality.”
You can find out more about One Dimensional Woman here. Nina Power is currently working on a book around the collective subject of European philosophy.