More notes on Feminism without Borders

More Notes on Feminism Without Borders:

Mohanty says we must be aware of Third World difference, which is caused by an ethnocentric, paternalistic attitude that defines third world women as: religious (not progressive), family-oriented (traditional), legally unsophisticated (unconscious of their own rights), illiterate (ignorant), domestic (backward), and sometimes revolutionary (40).

Universal images of Third World woman: the veiled woman, the powerful mother, the chaste virgin, the obedient wife, and so on, which exist in universal, ahistorical splendor, set in motion a coloinialist discourse that exercises a very specific power in defining, coding, and maintaining existing First/Third World connections (41).

Scholars often located third world women in terms of underdevelopment, oppressive traditions, high illiteracy, rural and urban poverty, religious fanaticism, and “overpopulation” of particular Asian, African, Middle Eastern, and Latin American countries (47).

This universal definition is linked to the larger economic and ideological praxis of “disinterested” scientific inquiry and pluralism that are the surface manifestations of a latent economic and cultural colonization of the “non-Western” world (42).

We must define Third world women in their historical specificity and as dynamic, not frozen in time in the form of a spectacle (48).

Defining Third world women in terms of their “problems” or their “achievements” in relation to an imagined free white liberal democracy effectively removes them (and the liberal democracy) from history, freezing them in time and space (49).

We must recognize that our commonality is our oppositional political relation to sexist, racist, and imperialistic structures—that is our common struggles against specific exploitative structures and systems that determines our potential political alliances (49).

Chapter 2:

With the internationalization of economies and labor and the migration of factories to third world countries in search of cheap labor, transnational feminists must be concerned with questions of culture, knowledge production, and activism in an international context (44-45).

“Imagined communities” which allows commitment of horizontal comradeship (Arnold) leads us away from essentialist notions of Third world struggles, suggesting political rather than biological or cultural bases for alliances (46).

Imagined communities of women with divergent histories and social locations, woven together by the political threads of opposition to forms of domination that are not only pervasive by also systemic (47).

What transnational feminist scholars in rhetoric can study is Third World women’s writing and other non-discursive means as a tool for self-preservation and revolution (51).

What we must realize is that Third world women’s writing on feminism has consistently focused on the idea of the simultaneity of oppressions as fundamental to the experience of social and political marginality and the grounding of feminist politics in the histories of racism and imperialism (52).

We have begun therefore to rewrite history based on specific locations and histories of struggle of people of color and postcolonial peoples, and on the day to day strategies of survival utilized by such peoples (52). These rewritings must be grounded in and informed by the material politics of everyday life, especially the daily life struggles for survival of poor people—those written out of history (53).

Defining “feminism”

To define feminism purely in gendered terms assumes that our consciousness of being “women” has nothing to do with race, class, nation, or sexuality, just with gender (55). But women are intersections of various system networks of race, class, (hetero)sexuality, and nation (55).

We need to understand the complexities of these systems and locate women within their particular historical conjunctures, while insisting on the dynamic oppositional agency of individuals and collectives and their engagement in “daily life”. It is this focus on the dynamic oppositional agency that clarifies the intricate connection between systemic relationships and the directionality of power (55).

Dorothy Smith defines these sites of intersected struggles as “relations of ruling”—a concept that grasps power, organization, direction, and regulation as more pervasively structured than can be expressed in traditional concepts provided by the discourses of power (56). Mohanty claims this concept can help specify the relations between the organization and experience of sexual politics and the concrete historical and political forms of colonialism, imperialism, racism, and capitalism (56). This concept also posits multiple intersections of structures of power and emphasizes the process or form of ruling, not the frozen embodiment of it (56). It can lead us out of the binary, often ahistorical binds of gender, race, and class analysis (57).

Colonialism, Class, and Gender:

Ruling Apparatus: that familiar complex of management, government administration, profession, and intelligensia, as well as the textually mediated discourses that coordinate and interpenetrate it (58).

For instance, the British colonial state’s ruling apparatus was established through the bureaucratization of gender and race specifically in terms of the institution of colonial services (59). With the creation of the “English gentleman” as the natural and legitimate ruler, colonial rule operated by setting up visible, rigid, and hierarchical distinctions between colonizers and the colonized (59).

Also, institutionalized ideologies and knowledges legitimated the practices of ruling. For instance, racism in the context of colonialism and imperialism takes the form of simultaneous naturalization and abstraction. It works by erasing the economic, political, and historical exigencies that necessitate the essentialist discourse of race as a way legitimate imperialism in the first place (61).

The State, citizenship, and racial formation:

Gender regime: a regime whereby the state is the primary organizer of power relations of gender (64).

While imperial rule was constructed on the basis of a sharp sexual division of labor whereby (white) masculinity was inseparable from social authority and masculine adventure was followed by masculinized rule, the notion of citizenship created by bourgeois liberal capitalism is predicated on an impersonal bureaucracy and a hegemonic masculinity organized around the themes of rationality, calculation, and orderliness (65).

Civil affairs = masculinity, Human/social affairs = femininity

*construction of immigration and nationality laws and thus of appropriate racialized, gendered citizenship, illustrates the continuity between relationships of colonization and white, masculinist, capitalist state rule (66).

Racism: Elizabeth Higginbothom—an ideology that legitimates the exclusion of nonwhite people from particular areas of social and economic life, simultaneously promoting a tolerance of these inequities on the part of the ruling class (65)

Racial formation: Micheal Omi and Howard Winant—process by which social, economic, and political forces determine the content and importance of racial categories, and by which they are in turn shaped by racial meanings (66).

In US, racial formations include citizenship and naturalization laws, social and welfare policies and practices that often arise as a response to oppositional movements (66).

*The 1960s expansion of multinational export-processing labor-intensive industries to the Third world and the US-Mexican border is the newest pernicious form of economic and ideological domination (72).

*World market factories relocate in search of cheap labor and find a home in countries with unstable (or dependent) political regimes, low levels of unionization, and high unemployment. Young women make up this labor force and therefore embody and personify the intersections of sexual, class, and racial ideologies (72).

We need to focus on women as agents not victims—agents who make decisions, have critical perspective on their own situations, and think and organize collectively against their oppressors (72).

We need to analyze the sexualization and racialization of women’s work in multinational factories and relating this to women’s own ideas of their work and daily life and thereby define self and collective agency that takes apart the idea of “women’s work” as a naturalized category (74).

Understanding the construction of “third world women’s work” in relation to the state and the international economy is crucial because of the overwhelming employment of 3 world women in world market factories, sweatshops, and home work so we can understand the systemic exploitation of poor 3 world women (74).

Testimonials: Purpose is to document and record history of popular struggles, foreground historical and experiential “truth” which has been erased or rewritten in hegemonic elite or imperialist history, and bear witness in order to change oppressive status (81).

Strategy of testimonials is to speak within a collective, as participants in revolutionary struggles, and to speak with the expressed purpose of bringing about social and political change (81).

Key Question: how do we theorize and locate the links between history, consciousness, identity, and experience in the writings of Third World Women, writings and narratives that are constitutively about remembering and creating alternative spaces for survival, which figure self and political consciousness??? (82-83)

We need to renegotiate how we conceive of the relation of self- and collective consciousness and agency; and specifically the connections between this and historical and institutional agency; and specifically the connections between this and historical and institutional questions. These narratives are essential to analyze 3 world women because they help us understand epistemological issues which arise with the politicization of consciousness, our daily practices of survival and resistance ( 83).

One of concrete tasks: historicize and denaturalize the ideas, beliefs, and values of global capital such that underlying exploitative social relations and structures are made visible (125).

Since international division of labor, under which women and children are exploited in the name of capitalism, is central to establishment, consolidation, and maintenance of current world order, we must investigate and interrogate the connections between exploitation and capitalism, and the specification of a process of cultural and ideological homogenization across national borders, in part through the creation of the consumer as “the” citizen under advanced capittalism (141).

Spatial Economy: the manner in which capital utilizes particular spaces for differential production and the accumulation of capital and in the process, transforms these spaces (and peoples) (141).

The logic of a world order characterized by a transitional economy involves the active construction of and dissemination of an image of the “Third World/racialized, or marginalized woman worker” that draws on indigenous histories of gender and race inequalities,. This worker’s identity is coded in patriarchal terms that define her in relation to men and the heterosexual, conjugal family unit.

Essentialy, we must make 3 world women visible in this gender , race, class formation ,which involves engaging a capitalistic script of subordination and exploitation (143).


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