The Identity Politics of Postcolonial Feminism

The Identity Politics of Postcolonial Feminism

Strategies of Essentialism

By Mridula Nath Chakraborty

The Identity Politics of Postcolonial Feminism provides an original analysis of the conceptual categories of essentialisms (situated and strategic) and the politics of location evoked and practised by five hyphenated South Asian postcolonial feminists in the contemporary Anglo-North-American academy: Himani Bannerji, Inderpal Grewal, Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Sherene H. Razack and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. 

Hardback, 250 Pages

ISBN:9781785278495

March 2024

£80.00, $110.00

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About This Book

The Identity Politics of Postcolonial Feminism is a first-instance analysis of the strategic essentialisms effected by five postcolonial feminists in the contemporary Anglo-North-American academy: Himani Bannerji, Inderpal Grewal, Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Sherene H. Razack and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. The years 1980-2000 are marked by intense debates in hegemonic Anglo-American feminist theory on the issue of sexual differentiation as the determining factor of feminist experience, method, knowledge and practice. Racialised feminists from the constituencies of Black and postcolonial feminisms and of feminisms of colour oppose gendered essentialism on the grounds of their differential locations and oppositional histories of consciousness. In the displaced, diasporic space of white settler colonies, scholars from the third world are invited to and interpellated by the identity politics of women of colour, even as their own class status in their nations of origin combined with a class(-ical) colonial education mitigates against their occupation of the place of the silenced and the marginalised in the knowledge hierarchy of the academy. As postcolonial scholars with substantial histories of their own, they arrive in the metropolitan academy as outsiders to its institutional politics but very much as insiders to its epistemological structures. Postcolonial theorists are thus marked by their origins, both in the geo-political three-worlds schema as well as in their negotiated speaking place in feminism. Here, they perform the paradox of diversity and enact the profound confusion between the public and the private that has characterised our times since the personal became the political.

The Identity Politics of Postcolonial Feminism provides an intimate entry point into the strategic essentialisms effected by postcolonial feminists who perform the paradox of diversity and enact the profound confusion between the public and the private that has characterised our times since the personal became the political. Walking along the razor’s edge of a constructed chromatic hierarchy in the multicultural nations of Anglo-North America, the author’s primary theorists constantly hotfoot between self-identified and state-imposed selves, between their essence and experience, embodiment and ethics, hyphenation and hybridity, authenticity and appropriation, and between being native informants and subalterns for the feminist nation. She proposes that this methodology provides postcolonial feminists with a powerful way of rethinking identity, through a hotfooting around essentialism that takes into account the intimate correlation between originary physical/psychic places and the processes of arrival in othered spaces. The red thread running through this study is the simultaneously claimed and contested site of South Asian/Indian identity for all five of the author’s primary feminists.

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Author Information

Mridula Nath Chakraborty is a literary critic, postcolonial feminist theorist and cultural studies scholar.

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Table of Contents

Preface; 1. Introduction: Hotfooting Around Essentialism: A Retrospective Account; 2. Outside in the House of Colour: A Second Look at Postcolonial and Transnational Feminisms via Chandra Talpade Mohanty and Inderpal Grewal; 3. Thinking through Visibility: Two ‘Minority’ Feminists in Canada: Himani Bannerji and Sherene H. Razack; 4. Everybody’s Afraid of Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak! Interviewing the Postcolonial Critic/Strategic Feminist/Native Informant; Conclusion: Sites of Contention: At the Movies, in the Classroom and at the Conferences.

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