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Mohanty—Under Western Eyes Feminist Scholarship and Feminist Discourse
- 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 movement colonization has been used to characterize
everything from the most evident economic and political hierarchies to the production of a
particular cultural discourseabout 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
- My concern about such writings derives from my own implication and investment in contemporary
debates in feminist
theory, and the urgent political necessity (especially in the age of Reagan) of forming strategic coalitions
across class, race, and national boundaries. Clearly Western feminist discourse and political practice is
neither singular nor homogeneous in its goals, interests or analyses
- These limitations are evident in the construction of the (implicitly consensual) priority of issues
around which apparently all women are expected to organize
- Thus, feminist scholarly practices (whether reading, writing, critical or textual) are inscribed in
relations of power-relations which they counter, resist, or even perhaps implicitly support.
- would like to suggest that the feminist writings I analyze here discursively colonize the material and
historical heterogeneities of the lives of women in the third world, thereby producinglre-presenting
a composite, singular "Third World Woman"-an image which appears arbitrarily constructed,
- I argue that assumptions of privilege and ethnocentric universality on the one hand, and inadequate
self-consciousness about the effect of Western scholarship on the "third world" in the context of a
world system dominated by the West on the other, characterize a sizable extent of Western feminist
work on women in the third world.
- cross-culturally singular, monolithic notion of patriarchy or male dominance leads to the
construction of a similarly reductive and homogeneous notion of what I call the "Third World
Differencen-that stable, ahistorical something that apparently oppresses most if not all the women
in these countries. And it is in the production of this "Third World Difference" that Western
feminisms appropriate and "colonize" the fundamental complexities and conflicts which
characterize the lives of women of different classes, religions, cultures, races and castes in these
- I am trying to uncover how ethnocentric universalism is produced in certain analyses, and in the
context of a hegemonic FirstlThird World connection, it is not very surprising to discover where the
ethnocentrism derives from.) As a matter of fact, my argument holds for any discourse that sets up
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