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Transcript of Postcolonial feminism(s)
How would you define postcolonial feminism emerging in the 1990s?
Key concerns, debates and ideas
By Tessy Vanderhaeghe & Juliette Sanchez-Lambert
The path to postcolonial feminism...
"...it has taken considerable epistemological toil for white women to see that for many years they said 'women' but were thinking only of themselves" (Bulbeck, 1998: 220)
Black feminist thought
Feminist critiques of postcolonial theory
Feminist postcolonial theory
Feminist postcolonial critique of Western feminism
Postcolonial feminism and Western feminism
The example of Chandra Talpade Mohanty
Examples of feminist critiques of postcolonial theory
Widely cited postcolonial author
Very influential work
A man who has a language consequently possesses the world expressed and implied by that language
.” (Fanon, 1952)
Talks about "le noir" in French (understand "the Black man")
Who is "the masked woman"? (Bergner, 1995)
Another very renowned postcolonial author
His work on Orientalism (1978) was very influential
Discusses very little female agency
Uses few women artists or authors (Lewis and Mills, 2003)
Analysis of a key postcolonial feminist text
Gayatri Spivak, "Can the Subaltern Speak?" (1988)
Emergence of Black Feminism
White scholars recognized the differences but not central to their analysis
Most of white feminist
Reproduce racism stereotype
Reclaim the night
-> lack of consideration of other women’s needs
white feminist women needs = everybody’s needs
- Black feminist detached themselves from white heterosexual feminist
– Combahee River Collective by black and lesbian feminists
Exposing ideas of intersectionality by fighting against
“racial, sexual, heterosexual and class oppression”
Concept of intersectionality
Black feminist have a unique position: under two systems of oppression
Give them a
specific point of view
“Black feminism thought consists of specialized knowledge created by African-American women which clarifies a standpoint of and for Black women. It encompasses theoretical interpretations of Black women’s reality by those who live it.”
(Hill Collins, 1990)
Beyond everyday sexism, live in a society
“denigrated women of African descent”
Double oppression provides an
on Black womanhood unavailable to other groups
Standpoint can diverge depending on other factors: sexual orientation, age, class.
Hills Collins - Black Feminist Thought
Collins rejects the idea of "hierarchies of oppression"
“All group possess varying amounts of power and privilege in one historically created system” (Hill Collins, 1990: 246)
Race affects all of us
Criticism of Black Feminism Thought
Naïve optimism of a politics of solidarity
All oppression are equal
Black women have a superior standpoint
Who is black?
Oppressed by racism?
Difference between Black African American and Black African?
Who is Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak?
Born in India
Professor at Columbia University - Department of English and Comparative Litterature
“Para-disciplinary, ethical philosopher”
well known for her work in postcolonial theory
Structure of the article
I. Starting point: Foucault and Deleuze article on “Intellectuals and Power”
II. Discussing and critiquing previous attempts to conceptualize the Subaltern
III. Derrida more useful in conceptualizing the Other (than Foucault and Deleuze)
IV. The problematic question of the woman as Subaltern (in a postcolonial context)
Can the Subaltern Speak?
= can the subaltern, such as women in ex-colonies, speak for themselves and resist oppression?
Spivak explains why they cannot
The Intellectual cannot be neutral
The intellectual is complicit of making the Other as the Self’s shadow
Subject is not unified: dislocation interests/desires
Workers’ struggle and the international division of labour
Critique of European ethnocentrism
Foucault and Deleuze useful for Western thinkers, interested in the "decay of the West" (p. 90)
Derrida more useful: definition of the Subject through selectively defining the Other (p.88)
Conceptualizing the subaltern as the Other
Epistemic violence and the subaltern woman
My readings are […] an […] examination, by a postcolonial woman, of the fabrication of repression, a constructed counternarrative of woman’s consciousness, thus woman’s being, thus woman’s being good, thus the woman’s good desire, thus woman’s desire
” (p. 95)
Looks at the codification of Hindu as an example of
The example of the practice of sati
Sati = traditional Indian practice by which a widow commits suicide by burning herself alive on her husband’s pyre
Between patriarchy and imperialism, subject-constitution and object-formation, the figure of the woman disappears, not into pristine nothingness, but into a violent shuttling which is the displaced figure of the ‘third world woman’ caught between tradition and modernisation
" (p. 102)
Critique of Spivak's article
Difficult to read: "I am very well-known for not making myself clear"
Feminist critique: does not explore her positionality
Under Western Eyes: feminist scholarship and colonial discourses (1991)
Who is Chandra Talpade Mohanty?
Born in India
Professor of Women's and Gender Studies, Sociology, and the Cultural Foundations of Education at Syracuse University
Her goal = “
deconstructing and dismantling
” hegemonic Western feminisms (p.83)
3 axes of feminist discourse
about women in the Third World:
1) Women as an already constituted coherent category
2) No proof of universality
3) Consequence: model of power they imply
They are not “
politically immature women who need to be versed and schooled in the ethos of Western feminism
Under Western Eyes revisited: feminist solidarity through anti-capitalist struggles (2003)
a changing, globalized world
New feminist analysis
Link with anti-globalization struggles
Own critique of her 1986 piece
Feminists need to be anti-capitalists, and anti-capitalists need to be feminists (P.550)
Critique of Mohanty
Anti-globalization or anti-capitalist?
Feminist solidarity: based on which criteria?
"Teaching active citizenship": what does that entail?
Key concerns and ideas of postcolonial feminist theory
Critique of Western feminism:
Western feminists have either ignored Third World Women or recolonized them by imposing their ideas and values
We need to rethink our ways to conceive and talk about these women
Critique of postcolonial theory:
We need to discuss the colonial and the postcolonial in more gender sensitive ways
Feminist postcolonial theory:
We should include more feminist writers in postcolonial studies
The relationship between Black Feminism and feminist postcolonial theory
Feminist movements who are only concerned with changing the situation of white middle-class women will only change the top of the pyramid
But if we improve the women's situations at the bottom (working class Black women), we can change the entire structure of the society (Davis, 1990)
a concern for fighting oppression against all women
Points for discussion
Who can be a Black feminist? Who can be a postcolonial feminist?
Is postcolonial feminism still useful today in conceiving intersectionalities?
Do you think we can speak for other women? Or should we only speak for ourselves?
Can we only give an opinion (be neutral intellectuals)?
How can we link the local and the global in feminist thinking? Is transnational feminism the answer?
By criticizing the
racism and ethnocentrism
in western-white heterosexual feminism
Imposed itself as an
point of view
Is a precursor
of postcolonial feminism(s)
Caslin (n.d.) - Parallel between feminism discourse and postcolonial theory:
Rejecting the establish system of the hegemonic white male
Fighting against imperialism and patriarchy
Facing oppressing ideologies