Key Concepts in Postcolonial Studies

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  • Topic: Colonialism, Postcolonialism, Neocolonialism
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 | The Imperial Archive

Key Concepts in Postcolonial Studies|  |  | |
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Navigation * Home * Key Concepts * African continent * Australia * Canada * Caribbean * India * Ireland * Nigeria * Transnational p-c Themes * Postcolonial Links|  |  |  |  |  |  | |  |  | Feminism and post-colonialism  Feminist discourse shares many similarities with post-colonial theory and for this reason the two fields have long been thought of as associative, even complimentary. Firstly, both discourses are predominantly political and concern themselves with the struggle against oppression and injustice. Moreover, both reject the established hierarchical, patriarchal system, which is dominated by the hegemonic white male, and vehemently deny the supposed supremacy of masculine power and authority. Imperialism, like patriarchy, is after all a phallocentric, supremacist ideology that subjugates and dominates its subjects. The oppressed woman is in this sense akin to the colonized subject. Essentially, exponents of post-colonialism are reacting against colonialism in the political and economic sense while feminist theorists are rejecting colonialism of a sexual nature.   Both women and ‘natives' are minority groups who are unfairly defined by the intrusive ‘male gaze' , which is a characteristic of both patriarchy and colonialism. Both peoples have been reduced to stereotypes (virgin, whore, savage, heathen) and denied an identity by the system that entraps them. In recent times, post-colonial studies has reacted to this viewpoint and subsequently involved itself with the issue of gender, questioning to what extent this affects the lives of colonial subjects who also happen to be female, i.e. investigating whether gender or colonial oppression is the more significant political factor in women's lives. To my mind, colonialism is the greater evil, because it automatically entails the threat of misogynistic, patriarchal beliefs, given the fact that imperialism was unequivocally male-centred and euro-centric, thus immediately labelling all foreign women alien subalterns. The obvious fact that colonial oppression affects the lives of women, both socially and economically, has forced post-colonial critics to adopt a keener awareness of gender roles when discussing imperialist exploits. Similarly, feminism has become much more aware of its post-colonial counterparts in recent times. In the 1980s, feminist critics Hazel Carby and Sara Suleri began to sense that Western feminism was rooted in a bourgeois, euro-centric prejudice that had to be remedied in order to avoid the continued neglect of the so-called 'Third World woman'. Chandra Talpade Mohanty for one is severely critical of regarding all women as a homogeneous group, without taking into account inevitable differences in ethnicity and circumstance. I would agree that this failure to acknowledge historical specificity is as damaging as other assumptions based in chauvinism and ignorance.   Feminists also tend to apply this intolerance of blanket terms to post-colonialism and have subsequently been highly critical of post-colonialists' tendencies to construct a single category of the colonized, thus ignoring the important issue of gender difference. The undeniable fact that colonial oppression affected men and women in different ways should be recognized, as females were often subjected to what has been called a ‘double colonization' , whereby they were discriminated against not only for their position as colonized people but also as women. According to Guyatri Spivak, this differentiation is essential for an exhaustive examination of colonial domination. The result of this treatment is ultimately the formation of the terminologically problematic post-colonial woman.   Even constructions of the pre-colonial are strongly influenced by the phallocentric prejudice that wrongly defines ‘native' women as passive and subsidiary inferiors. In...
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