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Towards Day 18 (Th, 11/6): "Under Western Eyes"

Anne Dalke's picture

check in w/ Nkechi re: visits from Riva, Camphill villagers

I. coursekeeping:
I apologize
for not telling you that Victor and Orsola were coming;
I think that threw some of you...?

did you find it useful, or not....?
I thought it helpful to learn about the approach, and know of the presence of the group on campus--
I noted esp. the presumption of co-counseling that we are all "naturally loving, intelligent, cooperative, zestful,"
and just need some help accessing those qualities, because we've been trained not to use them, or hurt...

I did feel that class was truncated and jumpy, because we made time for that.
So today's adjustment: keeping to the task, the single task of making sense of Mohanty's work,
and applying it to local questions like our own practice and pedagogy here
(want to cross those barriers abradycole described, between theoretical conversations and practical change...)

couple of announcements first:
I've made some adjustments to the syllabus,
in response to the various adjustments
we've been making here. Next week I do want us to read and discuss
Marjane Satrapi's graphic novel, Persepolis
(we have been short on textual analysis, and I want to do a couple more...)
so I will be expecting a webby post from you on Monday night:
as you did for Americanah, give your initial reactions to Satrapi's novel:
What interests (grabs/puzzles/troubles) you?
Or: what would you like us to talk about?
(Hummingbird, bridgetmartha should stay away from screens--
come w/ some thoughts you've gathered to share; I might ask
you to start us off...)

We'll focus on the first 1/2 ("The Story of a Childhood") on Tuesday;
for Thursday, you'll look on the second 1/2 ("The Story of a Return"),
along with a short news article about the "truth of sex" in Iran.
I'll be gone then, to the NWSA conference in Puerto Rico, to talk about my prison work,
but I am expecting you to hold class as usual, and I'd ask that several of you
to put up reports about what emerges in the discussion...(I'm not assigning these,
but this would be a great task to assign yourself if you still owe me some weekly postings
--you should have done 9 for me by now, as well as your one paper so far; if you are
behind you should catch up by writing about what's going on now, not on what's passed...)

III. for today,
I asked you to focus on Mohanty's essay....
None of you posted on this,
so let's start with a writing prompt--what were your reactions to this essay?
What interests (grabs/puzzles/troubles) you? What would you like us to talk about?
If you don't know, focus in on her final line:
"feminists need to be anticapitalists...our minds must be as ready to move
as capital is, to trace its paths and to imagine alternative destinations.

bridgetmartha, Hummingbird, nbarker, rb.richx, rosea to begin...?

It was Mohanty who wrote the paper analyzing Minnie Bruce Pratt's piece on Identity:
"There is an irreconcilable tension between the search for a secure place from which to speak,
within which to act, and the awareness of the price at which secure places are bought,
the awareness of the exclusions, the denials, the blindnesses on which they are predicated...
The tension between the desire for home, for synchrony, for sameness, and the
realization of the repressions and violence that make home, harmony, sameness imaginable...
...what distinguishes [our] justification of the homogeneity [of the women's community]
from the justifications advanced by...the Klan for "family, community, and protection"?]

I really liked the way, in this essay, that Mohanty reviewed where she had been,
and contrasted that with where she is now—no longer “under Western eyes,”
but negotiating the One-Third World from the inside. I liked her notation that
“differences are never just ‘differences,’” and as an English teacher, I especially appreciated her acknowledgment
(even as she offered a range of new terms) that “our language is imprecise"--as well as her observation that  
“the way we theorize determines the kind of stories we tell in the classroom.” I loved, too, the line she shared
from Eisenstein, that “women’s and girls’ bodies determine democracy…when they are free to choose their lives.”

I also appreciated the three models for internationalizing women’s studies curriculum which Mohanty offered;
these reminded me of the old piece by Peggy McIntosh, on The Interactive Stages of Curricular Revision:
What are the shaping dimensions of the discipline?
How change to reflect women's experience?
(typologies scare me/stage theories are dangerous:
reinforce hierarchies of power, value/"interactive phases" are felt continually...)

1. Womanless History: those in public power
2. Women in History: the exceptional few
3. Woman as Problem/Anomaly/Absence in History:
"It's not an accident that we were left out...
the gaps were there for a reason."
4. Women AS History: life below the faultline
subject as authority on own experience
honor particularity, stress diversity, identify commonality
5. History Redefined/Reconstructed to Include Us All
not reconstructed ladder, but
revolutionary relation between devalued/valued
broken pyramid stands for our culture as a whole

Mohanty's models are
“feminist as tourist,”
“feminist as explorer,"
“feminist solidarity,”  or comparative feminist studies.

I was very struck, too, during an AALAC conversation on "Internationalizing Women's
Education, by one colleague's countering Mohanty’s claim that “feminists need to be anticapitalists”
(as antiglobalists “need to be feminists”) with a description of women’s local, market economies;
and the similar resistance of another to the position of “anti-"....

IV. Work together on applications: analyze both how we are doing feminism in this class--
what sort of feminism (which category, of hers or McIntosh's?)--
and how BMC is doing feminism, in light of Mohanty's analysis?
(cf. NYTimes article reporting on Admissions Office work in the mid-east...)

V. in closing: reflections on how we have been talking w/,
granting access, listening to each other?

additional topics you want to discuss on Thursday?

Reading Notes:
original essay critiqued Western feminist scholarship on Third World women,
exposed power-knowledge nexus of feminist cross-cultural scholarship
the particular as universally significant--using historical materialism as a basic framework
insistance on the specificity of difference ("differences are never just "differences"),
committed to building a noncolonizing feminist solidarity across borders
North/South as metaphorical rather than geographical distinction:
pathways of transnational capital/the marginalized poor
One-third World vs. Two-Thirds World:
distinguishing social minorities and social majorities by focusing on quality of life
draws attention to continuities and discontinuities between haves and have-nots,
highlights fluidity and power of global forces
nonessentialist categorization incoroporating an analysis of power and agency
our langauge is imprecise
indigenous claims for sovereignty situate them as central to definition of social majority
I am part of social minority with all its privileges, but political choices place me alongside 2/3 World
declining power of self-governance matched by rising significance of transnational institutions
rise of religious fundamentalisms; profoundly unequal "information highway"
urgent locus of struggle now: politics and economics of capitalism->
focus on anticapitalist transnational feminist practice, and need to organize against capitalism
earlier essay drew attention to what was left out of feminist theorizing:
material complexity, reality, agencyof Third World women's bodies and lives
capital now exacerbates racist, patriarchal, heteroseixst relations of rule
analysis anchored in experience of poor women of all colors in 2/3 World:
most inclusive paradigm for thinking about social justice:
think from space of the most disenfranchised, to envision just, democratic society

epistemic privilege of feminist standont theorists: materialist, realist, antithetical to postmodernist relativism
critical reflections on everyday lives of poor women of color allows analysis of power structure
patenting (=pirating) of indigenous knowledge--> intellectual property rights understood as possessive, privatized,
rather than as communal feminism without borders, intellectual commons
girls, women bear brunt of globalization: do bulk of work, get tiny portion of income
pay attention to their lives: demystify capitalism as debilitating sexism, racism, envision anticapitalist resistance
cf. global capitalism with place-based civic activism, concerned about health, safety of people and places
shift in focus to "under and inside" hegemonic spaces of the 1/3 World
antiglobalization movment never major focus for West/North women's movements, but always for Third World ones
Antiglobalization pedagogies (internationalizing women's studies = radicalizing it in '80s)"
feminist-as-tourist model: brief forays into non-Euro-American cultures,
with clear sense of difference and distance between local and global,
and U.S. as normative context; center/margin reproduced along Eurocentric lines,
originary feminsit (master) narrative confirmed with monolithic images of difference of Third World women
feminist-as-explorer model: cultural relativist story, with
power, agency, justice, common criteria for critique and evaluation silenced
areas to be studied "out there," never within US; avoids addressing US racism, etc.
feminist solidarity or comparative feminist studies model:
local and global exist simultaneously and constitute each other
emphasize relations of mutuality and coimplication, foreground struggle and resistance
create pedagogies that site complexities, singularities, interconnections
dangers of deradicalization and assimilation of post-colonial studies
set up paradigm of historically, culturally specific "common differences":
cross-cultural lens for theorizing experience, agency, justice
the way we theorize determines the kinds of stories we tell:
destabilize received truths in complexities contradictions of historical life
certain kinds of women preferred workers in global "flexible" temporary job markets....
making gender and power visible int he processes of global restructuring
(black inner-city youths situated as "redundant")
divide between false, overstated images of vitimized and empowered womanhood negate each other
whose agency is being colonized and who is privileged in these pedagogies?
feminists need to be anticapitalists; antiglobalizaiton activists and theorists also need to be feminists
gendered and raced bodies are the key to demystifying and combating the processes of recolonization,
and to challenging the unstated masculinism of this work
living inside Western eyes...borders are not really fixed,
Our minds must be as ready to move as capital is, to trace its paths and to imagine alternative destinations.