Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Under Western Eyes: Feminist Scholarship and Colonial Discourses

Chandra Talpade Mohanty, 1988

It ought to be of some political significance at least that the term "colonization" has come to denote a variety of phenomena in recent feminist and left writings in general. From its analytic value as a category of exploitative economic exchange in both traditional and contemporary marxisms (particularly contemporary theorists such as Baran, Amin and Gunder-Frank) to its use by feminist women of color in the U.S. to describe the appropriation of their experiences and struggles by hegemonic white women's movements, colonization has been used to characterize everything from the most evident economic and political hierarchies to the production of a particular cultural discourse about what is called the "Third World."' However sophisticated or problematical its use as an explanatory construct, colonization almost invariably implies a relation of structural domination, and a supression—often violent—of the heterogeneity of the subject(s) in question. What I wish to analyze is specifically the production of the "Third World Woman" as a singular monolithic subject in some recent (Western) feminist texts. The definition of colonization I wish to invoke here is a predominantly discursive one, focusing on a certain mode of appropriation and codification of "scholarship" and "knowledge" about women in the third world by particular analytic categories employed in specific writings on the subject which take as their referent feminist interests as they have been articulated in the U.S. and Western Europe.

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