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Butler quote 2 Group Three

November 5th, 2011 · 5 Comments

As a result, the “I” that I am finds itself at once constituted by norms and dependent on them but also endeavors to live in ways that maintain a critical and transformative relation to them. This is not easy, because the “I” becomes, to a certain extent unknowable, threatened with unviability, with becoming undone altogether, when it no longer incorporates the norm in such a way that makes this “I” fully recognizable. There is a certain departure from the human that takes place in order to start the process of remaking the human (Butler 2004, 3-4).

Tags: Emily · Group Three · Jillian · Maddy · Star · Uncategorized · Violet

Mohanty & Knowledge (Final) by Emily

October 12th, 2011 · No Comments

The conceptualization of knowledge is constantly brought up in Chandra Mohanty’s Feminism Without Borders. Historically, our higher education system has reiterated who is considered powerful in our society, while also relying on the knowledge we are raised around to influence our educational experience. The development of the current higher education system has led to individual spaces for women to be able to express their knowledge in an area called “the academy”. Mohanty focuses on this particular academy and its teachings, the Western world and its idea of the Third World Woman, and what needs to be done to decolonize this theory and create an appropriate form of knowledge.

This academy revolves around the idea that “for knowledge, the very act of knowing, is related to the power of self-definition” (Mohanty 195) and focuses specifically on women’s studies, black studies, and ethnic studies. These particular fields provide “a space for historically silenced peoples to construct knowledge” (Mohanty 195). Due to political movements, society has been able to dissect the typical form of education and reformed the way that knowledge is created and learned. However, it is important to take into consideration that there is a substantial threat against these particular programs because “the values and ideologies underlying the corporate, entrepreneurial university directly contradict the values and vision of a democratic, public university” (Mohanty 174). As schools suffer from budget cuts, they begin to cut these programs that aren’t seen as important or necessary to education and the creation of knowledge.

An important concept to understand is Mohanty’s idea of border crossing and the fact that these changes across systems do not just exist within the United States, but across the world. Mohanty discusses her experiences in the US along with India by saying she believes that “meanings of the “personal” are not static, but that they change through experience, and with knowledge” (Mohanty 191). These experiences exist in the theory of understanding each other’s differences and building to make them influence our knowledge in a positive way, through history, location, and context. These three aspects combine to create Mohanty’s theory of knowledge, which results as a combination from reflexive and situated knowers. Although this racial knowledge may only come to us subconsciously, it continues a vicious cycle of opinions based on race, class, gender, nation, sexuality, and colonialism. By dissecting the view of “whiteness” (Mohanty 191), society can analyze power, equality, and justice in developed countries such as the United States and across the world in India.

Feminist knowledge plays an important role in education and the workplace. The idea of the Third World Woman has become rather problematic because of the recurring image it portrays in feminist education. Women are denied their individuality and classified as a single unit, but education “need[s] to be attentive to borders while learning to transcend them” (Mohanty 2). The lace making industry in Narsapur, India is a perfect example where women are exploited through the labor market while men live off the products that they produce. Mohanty concludes that “women internalized the ideologies that defined them as nonworkers” (Mohanty 151) in a society where they viewed their work as a housewives’ responsibility rather than labor.

Mohanty discusses the popular discourse as the intersection between power and knowledge. In terms of Feminism Without Borders, this discourse is the validation of other systems and their existence. It exists based on how it constitutes our identity in our daily lives, the collective action we take to change it, and its pedagogical teachings throughout society. This discourse can be changed through women and their development of knowledge turning into activism. If women are able to individually conceptualize the controlling images of society, their role in the higher education system, and how they affect our knowledge, then they can create policies, ideas, and development. Whether using examples from India or the United States, and whether discussing the image of Third World Women or feminists today, these changes are necessary and imminent for society and its knowledge.

 

Mohanty, Chandra Talapade. Feminism Without Borders: Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity. Durham: Duke University Press, 2003. Print.

Tags: Emily · Group Three · Uncategorized

Mohanty- Gender- Final

October 12th, 2011 · No Comments

Mohanty’s book, Feminism Without Borders, examines the role of Third World women in the world and within feminist efforts. One of her largest critiques of how Third World women are conceptualized is that they are often placed together, based on their gender, as women without the acknowledgement of their different situations and histories. Mohanty stresses the distinction between the two different conceptualizations of the female gender – Woman and women. A Woman is the conceptualized notion of how the female gender should be and is produced by hegemonic discourse; women are historical subjects that reflect women in different locations with different histories. Thinking of Third World women as a universal group defined as Woman is very problematic for Mohanty. One of the groups that she is questioning is Western Feminists and the fact that they conceptualize the Western female gender much differently than the Third World female gender, and seem to group all Third World women together universally because it seems as though white privilege is what provides individualism. Mohanty does believe that change is possible but only when differences are acknowledged and explored so that there can be solidarity without universalism.

For Mohanty one of the largest critiques of Western Feminism and travesties for Third World women is that Western Feminists blur the line between the idea of Woman that is produced by hegemonic discourse and women as unique historical subjects. All different third world women become grouped together and thought of as one Third World Woman. They are defined by society’s conceptualization of a gender without looking at any of their differences or uniqueness. Third World women as a group are then characterized universally as powerless victims. “This is because descriptive gender differences are transformed into the division between men and women. Women are constituted as a group via dependency relationships vis-à-vis men, who are implicitly held responsible for those relationships.” (25) In this light there is a monolithic notion of sexual difference and the world is transformed into victims and oppressors – There is little room for individual histories. Western Feminists use this grouping of women as a category of analysis and try to make universal claims about male dominance because of their assumed “sameness” of oppression. They incorrectly analyze Third World Women and claim that they are all; victims of male violence, universally dependent, playing specific roles in familial structures, oppressed by religion and development, and that married women are victims of the colonial process. Even without knowing much about the topic and lacking research it seems absurd to me to believe that all women in the Third World are oppressed in all these ways. There must be differences based on individual locations and histories, and that is exactly Mohanty’s critique.

For Mohanty gender is important on two fronts. Firstly, she is critical of the reality that Third World women are grouped as one based purely on their gender without examining any of their uniqueness and secondly, it is important to note that for Monhanty there is a large difference between the conceptualization of Woman in the third world vs. the Woman in the Western world. Western Feminists discourse gains power from the systemizational oppression of Third World women. Mohanty believes that change will occur only when we start to acknowledge the different realities women from around the world and stop trying to group them together and study them universally. The focus should then be on real shared oppressions like how labor roles are defined and Third World women are exploited within these roles. This will lead to solidarity in the cause without the troubles caused by using only one conceptualization of the female gender for Third World women.

 

-Violet Batcha

 

Tags: Group Three · Uncategorized · Violet

Feminism- Chandra Talapade Mohanty

October 12th, 2011 · No Comments

Chandra Talapade Mohanty says that there’s an imagined community in which Third world women lie. This is convenient because it avoids the idea of Third World struggles, “Suggesting political rather than biological, or cultural bases for alliance” (Mohanty, 46). She explains that, the boundaries are not limited for these concepts and a coalition or union, a “community” exists.  Mohanty explains that gender is not singular. That it has been described as a domestic male/ female institution, but this is not true across all race and class. Institutions such as politics’ and police won’t stand in the way of what may be a domestic situation for a middle-class white couple, but this is not so for a poor African-American woman.

It is not gender that declares the lack of “Third World” feminism, but the distinct distance between the woman of color to the white man and the closeness of the white woman to the white man. It has been a privilege for the white woman in this relation when pertaining to representation in society. Western feminism has been developed off of this asis explaining why women of western countries cannot represent “Third World” women in a proper way without the lack of relation, experience, and historical context.

“The argument then is about a process of gender and race domination, rather than the content of “Third World.” Making Third World women workers visible in this gender, race, and class formation involves engaging a capitalist script of subordination and exploitation. But it also leads to thinking about the possibilities of emancipatory action on the basis of the reconceptualization of “Third World women” as agents rather than victims.” (Mohanty, 143)

Chandra Talapade Mohanty presents that we need to remove discourses presenting “third world” women workers as victims, and empower them with a sense of agency that legitimizes the vital role they play in local and
global economies. Capitalism should be the common theme around which feminists organize. The language of “progress” and “development” are assumed to “naturally” accompany the triumphal rise of global capitalism. We need new
world order and by assuming that these discourses automatically go along with
change in society will not create opportunity and change. Mohanty argues for a
socialist future that will deconstruct notions of “otherness” as defined by a
norm that perpetuates the inequalities of a capitalist system. Mobilization,
organization, and a feminist consciousness that supports Transnationality is
necessary for this transformation.

“The only way to get a little measure of power over your own life is to do it collectively, with the support of other people who share your needs.”( Mohanty, 168).

Allow women power over their own lives, agency is the result of self-definition. Commonality can provide a way of “reading” and understanding the world though the lenses of class, race, and gender inequalities. This will foster a transnational feminist movement that moves away from the universality of experience and toward an acknowledgement of history, agency, and commonality (but commonality as a medium for solidarity); Also, to value women workers as individuals, so that they can make demands and receive monetary compensation. This will support their independence and legitimize their role within workspaces. “Third World” women shouldn’t be singular in society and the world of feminism, but recognized as an independent and unique equal contributor to what we understand feminism to be as a whole.

Monica

Mohanty, Chandra Talapade. Feminism Without Borders:
Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity
.Durham: Duke University Press,
2003. Print.

Tags: Uncategorized

Please Knock First: An Examination Of How Capitalism Erodes Culture [Final]

October 12th, 2011 · No Comments

Kate Aseltine

There is a serious problem with the way women living in the “Third World” have come to be conceptualized in the West. Stationed within our own “Euro-centric” discourses, we often overlook the varying and distinctive cultural contexts these women occupy. By viewing these women only through the lens of Western capitalist ideologies, we are complicit in the controlling imagery that “undercuts women’s agency by defining them as victims of a process of pauperization or of “tradition” or “patriarchy” rather than as agents capable of making their own choices.”(Mohanty 151). We overlook the examples of Third World women who have carved a space for themselves, as teachers, as entrepreneurs, as leaders, or we disregard these women as “outliers” from the normative subjugation. Though Mohanty would not hesitate to concede that the lives of many women in the Third World are bleak, she argues that the capitalist strategies of the West are not a solution. In fact, these subversive and increasingly globalized forms of capitalism are, in her estimation, structurally responsible for their strife.

Yet again, we find capitalism painted as the antagonist, determined to thwart an egalitarian future, and with good reason. As Mohanty emphasizes,” The common interests of capital (e.g. profit, accumulation, exploitation) are somewhat clear at this point” (Mohanty 140). As I argued in my previous blog, capitalism functions by creating inequitable power levels, establishing dominions of domination and subordination, and designating social groups as the privileged or “the other.” Those who occupy the space of this “other,” or minority, are then positioned to be utilized as cheap labor and are stripped of their rights by de-humanizing controlling images.“In the United States, histories of slavery, indentured servitude, contract labor, self-employment, and wage work are also simultaneously histories of gender, race, and (hetero)sexuality, nestled within the context of the development of capitalism (i.e. of class conflict and struggle)” (Mohanty 146). Mohanty utilizes the example of slavery in the United States, when African American men and women were used as “chattel” to serve Caucasians and produce agriculture in the South, and the subjugation of people of color and women continues to be a salient issue today.

Mohanty also cites Dorthy Smith’s concept of “relations of ruling” to explain why capitalism is complicit in the construction of these inequities. Smith argues that there is a “specific interrelation between the dynamic advance of the distinctive forms of organizing and ruling contemporary capitalist society and the patriarchal forms of our contemporary experience,” which is maintained by, “government, law, business and financial management, professional organization, and educational institutions” (Mohanty 56). Mohanty asserts that the result of Western ideologies penetrating the space of Third World women has been the spread and intensification of these relations of ruling, rather than the dissemination of liberal feminisms. In her estimation Western discourses will continue to have toxic implications until they are removed from this matrix of domination. In spite of the role the American spirit of individualism has played in empowering women to demand fair compensation and agency, it is essential to keep in mind cultural distinctions that imperil the replication of this trend, unless we are conscious of the nuanced roles culture and tradition play in the lives of Third World women. We cannot diagnose an illness until we have evaluated all of its symptoms, and we would do well not to prescribe discourses with structurally oppressive side effects.

In further examining the relationship between the women of the Third World and the West, Mohanty evaluates the historic tradition of our interactions, positing that the Eurocentric colonizers of the past seem to have been replaced, by a modern model of infiltration disguised as “globalization.” Capitalist interests in the Third World have changed very little over the past 500 years. The West continues to strip women of the Third World of culture and agency, and leech their resources and labor. Women are the cheapest producers of foreign goods, and women of the Third World make the ideal employees. Using the example of female lace workers in Narspur, India, Mohanty asserts that jobs and tasks are established within an “ideological construction… in terms of notions of appropriate femininity, domesticity, (hetero)sexuality, and racial and cultural stereotypes.” These discourses drastically belittle what women, particularly women in the Third World, are capable of by portraying them as infantile, a controlling image we reinforce every time we think of them simply as victims. Job typing has facilitated the creation of a social identity: workers are isolated within their sex, race, and class, and this isolation perpetuates their subjugation. The work of these women is shaped within this framework, and “tedious” and “unskilled.” The effect of this definition of women’s labor is not only that it makes women’s labor and its costs invisible, but that it denies women power and agency, effectively trapping them within a position of subordination. Capitalist principles stress that valuable labor and laborers, exist only within the masculine sphere, which is why Mohanty argues that, “Analyzing and transforming this masculine definition of labor, which is the mainstay of capitalist patriarchal cultures, is one of the most significant challenges we face” (Mohanty 151).

Our role in the future of our increasing globalized, and capitalistic world is changing dramatically, and we must adjust our conception of ourselves accordingly. Within the globalized, capitalistic matrix of domination we no longer occupy the role of citizens –we are consumers. This has dramatic implications on the way we interact with our political systems, particularly the ones responsible for perpetuating this matrix. When we subscribe to controlling images of women of the Third World, we take a step backwards. When we vote for a system sustained by subjugation, we deny ourselves a more egalitarian future. To combat this, we must rethink what we know about positionality and experience. Mohanty suggests that by spreading globalized socialism, rather than capitalism, we can enable a system that would foster solidarity across borders, without violating the vital cultural contexts these borders represent.  Unlike capitalism, socialist ideologies stress the importance of a political climate that supports equality and assures individual agency is nurtured by the state- a political system for the people, as juxtaposed to a political system for the powerful. Commonality fosters cooperation, but productive solidarity cannot exist without an acknowledgement of culture, history, and difference.

 

Tags: Chandra Mohanty · Group Two · Kate · Uncategorized

Mohanty and Gender (Final)

October 10th, 2011 · No Comments

Chandra Mohanty’s Feminism without Borders addresses many critical and multifaceted issues and present-day feminism. Mohanty establishes essential links and connections between the working lives of women in the Third World as well as the United States and how these connections show similar ideological patterns within varying class/ cultural structures. Mohanty looks at the gendered politics within the global labor force. Mohanty deconstructs the ideologies around female labor forces in Narspur, India and the Silicon Valley, California and how the out-of-the-home jobs are seen as secondary to their wife and motherly duties.

The second section, Demystifying Capitalism, looks at the exploitation of Third World women workers, by comparing various situations in many diverse locations. First, Mohanty expresses the idea of “the sexual politics of global capitalism” (141) and how globalization has led to the exploitation of women workers across national borders. Mohanty goes on to discuss a few key examples of women workers in the Third World and how the work they are doing, or how they are viewed doing the work leads to patriarchal domination. Before going into the specifics of the examples, Mohanty sets the stage very nicely by stating: “While the global division of labor looks quite different now from what it did in the 1950s, ideologies of women’s work, the meaning and value of work for women, and women’s struggles against exploitation remain central issues for feminists around the world. After all, women’s labor has always been central to the development, consolidation, and reproduction of capitalism in the United States and elsewhere” (146). Mohanty looks at the ways in which women of different races, ethnicity’s, as well as social classes have profoundly different experiences of work in the developing economic world. The increasing division of the world into consumers vs. producers has had a tremendous effect on Third World women workers who have been seen internationally as anything from agricultural workers, manufacturing workers in textiles, electronics, garments as well as toys, to workers of the sex and tourist industry (146). This is further deconstructed when Mohanty says: “The value, power, and meanings attached to being a consumer or a producer/ worker may vary enormously depending on where and who we happen to be in an unequal global system” (146-47). In comparing situations of women workers, Mohanty first looks at the lace makers in Narspur. The women of Narspur are responsible for making products, and ultimately mean that men “live on profits from women’s labor” (149). Mohanty discusses the polarization between that of men and women’s work. “Men actually define themselves as exporters and businessmen who invested in women’s labor, bolstered the social and ideological definition of women as housewives and their work as ‘leisure time activity’” (149). Through this we see a patriarchal definition of work and Mohanty looks at this definition of work to further her discussion of worker and non-worker, and ultimately how it leads to the further exploitation of women. “In other words, work, in this context, was grounded in sexual identity, in concrete definitions of femininity, masculinity, and heterosexuality” (149). Naomi Katz and David Kemnitzer show a comparison of the Third World “women’s work” to that of “women’s work” within the US in looking at the production strategies/ processes that produce an “ideological redefinition of normative ideas” of Third World factory workers in the Silicon Valley of California, where immigrant women are the primary workforce. Katz and Kemnitzer discuss that gender stereotypes are used in the Silicon Valley to attract females who may be “more suited” to perform “tedious, unrewarding, poorly paid work” (Mohanty 153). Through this patriarchal view of women and women’s work we see how the “normative definitions of women as wives, sisters, and mothers- always are in relation to conjugal marriage and the ‘family’ (150). Clearly these stereotypes and heterosexual, patriarchal ideologies around gender are used to devalue the work that women do outside of the home. Here we see a disparity between the labor of men and women once again. Men are seen as the “businessmen, the exporters of goods” (149), and the so-called basis for capitalism, but in all actuality the men are “running of the same economic wheel” as the women, but the work of men is always more highly regarded. Men’s work is seen as something of great value as well as believed to be the basis for the economic system. Since men run the economic system, the work of the women in production and manufacturing is not highly regarded and the women get looked over. The work of men is being commodified and the work of women is not even acknowledged on the same scale to be considered an asset to the global economy, almost as an unnecessary/ disposable resource. Men should try to sustain a global economy without the use of women’s work in production and manufacturing as see just how “disposable” or unnecessary women’s work is and see how far they get!

In these instances we see how Mohanty examines globalization and capitalism in terms of division of labor to show how ideas of “woman’s work” come into play, not only in Third World countries, but within the United States as well. These examples of the lace workers in Narspur and the electronic workers in the Silicon Valley show the “gendered” politics of the global labor market. Mohanty establishes essential links and connections between the working lives of women in the Third world as well as the United States. These connections show similar ideological patterns within varying class/ cultural structures. Woman’s work is viewed in terms of leisure time or something to do in their “free time” and comes secondary to their roles within the family structure; taking care of the children, the house, and being their for the husbands. Based on these ideas woman’s work outside the home is judged on a completely different scale compared to men, but Mohanty explains how woman’s work has indeed been the backbone of the capitalist system for some time.

Tags: Erika · Group Two · Uncategorized

Please Knock First: An Examination Of How Capitalism Erodes Culture

October 6th, 2011 · No Comments

By Kate Aseltine

 

There is a serious problem with the way women living in the “Third World” have come to be conceptualized in the West. Stationed within our own “Euro-centric” discourses, we often overlook the varying and distinctive cultural contexts these women occupy. By viewing these women only through the lens of Western capitalist ideologies, we are complicit in the controlling imagery that “undercuts women’s agency by defining them as victims of a process of pauperization or of “tradition” or “patriarchy” rather than as agents capable of making their own choices.”(Mohanty 151). We overlook the examples of Third World women who have carved a space for themselves, as teachers, as entrepreneurs, as leaders, or we disregard these women as “outliers” from the normative subjugation. Though Mohanty would not hesitate to concede that the lives of many women in the Third World are bleak, she argues that the capitalist strategies of the West are not a solution. In fact, these subversive and increasingly globalized forms of capitalism are, in her estimation, structurally responsible for their strife.

Yet again, we find capitalism painted as the antagonist, determined to thwart an egalitarian future, and with good reason. As Mohanty emphasizes,” The common interests of capital (e.g. profit, accumulation, exploitation) are somewhat clear at this point” (Mohanty 140). As I argued in my previous blog, capitalism functions by creating inequitable power levels, establishing dominions of domination and subordination, and designating social groups as the privileged or “the other.” Those who occupy the space of this other, or minority, are then positioned to be utilized as cheap labor and are stripped of their rights by de-humanizing controlling images.

This mechanism can be seen throughout out our nation’s history, and remains a salient issue today. “In the United States, histories of slavery, indentured servitude, contract labor, self-employment, and wage work are also simultaneously histories of gender, race, and (hetero)sexuality, nestled within the context of the development of capitalism (i.e. of class conflict and struggle)” (Mohanty 146). Mohanty utilizes the example of slavery in the United States, when African American men and women were used as “chattel” to serve Caucasians and produce agriculture in the South, and the subjugation of people of color and women continues to be a salient issue today. These points argue for a reexamination of the picture of Third World women that exists in our imagination.

In examining the relationship between the women of the Third World and the West, Mohanty suggests that the Eurocentric colonizers of the past seem to have been replaced, by a modern model disguised as “globalization.” Capitalist interests in the Third World have changed very little over the past 500 years. The West continues to strip women of the Third World of culture and agency, and leech their resources and labor. Women are the cheapest producers of foreign goods, and women of the Third World make the ideal employees. Using the example of female lace workers in Narspur, India, Mohanty asserts that jobs and tasks are established within an “ideological construction… in terms of notions of appropriate femininity, domesticity, (hetero)sexuality, and racial and cultural stereotypes.” These discourses drastically belittle what women, particularly women in the Third World, are capable of by portraying them as infantile, a controlling image we reinforce every time we think of them simply as victims. Job typing has facilitated the creation of a social identity: workers are isolated within their sex, race, and class, and this isolation perpetuates their subjugation. The work of these women is shaped within this framework, and “tedious” and “unskilled.” The effect of these definitions of women’s labor is not only that it makes women’s labor and its costs invisible, but that it denies women power and agency, effectively trapping them within a position of subordination. Capitalist principles stress that valuable labor and laborers, exist only within the masculine sphere, which is why Mohanty argues that, “Analyzing and transforming this masculine definition of labor, which is the mainstay of capitalist patriarchal cultures, is one of the most significant challenges we face” (Mohanty 151).

Our role in the future of our increasing globalized, and capitalistic world is changing dramatically, and we must adjust our conception of ourselves accordingly. Within the globalized, capitalistic matrix of domination we no longer occupy the role of citizens –we are consumers. This has dramatic implications on the way we interact with our politic systems, particularly the ones responsible for perpetuating this matrix. When we subscribe to controlling images of women of the Third World, we take a step backwards. When we vote for a system sustained by subjugation, we deny ourselves a more egalitarian future. To combat this, we must rethink what we know about positionality and experience. We need a movement built on solidarity, and productive solidarity cannot exist without an acknowledgement of culture, history, and difference.

 

Tags: Uncategorized

Knowledge

September 16th, 2011 · 3 Comments

Epistemology is a consistent subject matter throughout Patricia Hill Collins’ Black Feminist Thought. Collins argues that knowledge is frequently influenced by the politics of race and gender. She supports a common theme throughout the book that Black feminist thinkers are alone in maintaining their social theory, which “reflects the interests and standpoint of its creators” (Collins 269). Historically, what Black women know has not been considered knowledgeable because of the power relations and their control over who is believed in society and why. Collins looks into the subjugated epistemology and the validation process that must exist for a powerful group to be overcome in our society. African American women spent decades waiting for an epistemology that included their own beliefs until the arrival of Black feminist theory.

In her book, Collins discusses the differences between group knowledge and collective identity and its relation to epistemology. She makes a clear point to distinguish these two subjects and their relation to Black feminist theory. She argues that epistemologies are built upon experiences rather than learned positions, which is why many Black feminist thinkers support the theory based on their own knowledge and experiences. However, there is a particular strain in this standpoint. In discussing the common challenges, Collins says, “despite the fact that U.S. Black women face common challenges, this neither means that individual African-American women have all had the same experience nor that we agree on the significance of our experience” (Collins 29). However, in order to convince others that Black feminist theory is justifiable, the convincing must come from a group other than Black females themselves who may have emotional or moral connections.

In order to influence empowerment, Black feminist thinkers have created their own way of thinking through dialectical and dialogical relationships. The dialectical relationship “link[s] oppression and activism [while] a dialogical relationship characterizes Black women’s collective experiences and group knowledge” (Collins 34). These particular types of knowledge influence Black feminists and their individual understanding of the knowledge surrounding their unique epistemology. They also pay attention to the ethics of caring and personal accountability and their impact on Black feminist theory.

The presence and importance of wisdom and knowledge is shown throughout Collins work, especially when she says, “living life as Black women requires wisdom because knowledge about the dynamics of intersecting oppressions has been essential to U.S. Black women’s survival” (Collins 275). The shared experience of oppression can lead to a source of familiar resistance. Collins makes a point that many Black women’s experiences cannot be solely measured by empirical means. It is based from the institutionalized racism they have faced from slavery to our contemporary system of inequality. These types of relationship are what form Black feminist theory and give Black women their own way of thinking to create knowledge.

Collins, Patricia Hill. Black Feminist Thought. Routledge, 2009. Print.

Emily Marvin

Tags: Group Three · Uncategorized

Black Feminist Politics in the Theory of Patricia Hill Collins

September 16th, 2011 · 1 Comment

The prevailing logic for social subjugation is simple: a thing can only exist in juxtaposition to it antithesis. This discourse is of particular significance to examining how United States’ politics shape the experience[s] of Black women. In order to function as a capitalist society, the United States must facilitate a political economy composed of disparate levels, resulting what Patricia Hill Collins qualifies as a matrix of domination. Wealth does not exist unless until it can be contrasted to poverty, and, as wealth exists as the primary form of “capital” in capitalist societies, the United States has a vested interest in preserving a matrix of domination. Oppression is political, and the creation of public policy involves a concerted effort to establish a binary that preserves “advantaged vs. disadvantaged” social categories, within the axes of: race, gender, class, and sexuality. Though our political rhetoric glorifies a myth of American meritocracy, this discourse is simply an example of how dominant groups use their position to create “commonsense” social ideologies that allow them to maintain power. The United States’ matrix of domination is constructed and maintained by those whose axes our society privileges: wealthy, White males. An examination of the plight of Black females is of particular importance because their positionality within our transversal politics disadvantages them on the basis of race, gender, and, arguably as the result of this intersection, class.
The pursuit of capitalist gains has inspired a particularly oppressive set of structural “conditions” which are seminal to an understanding of Black women’s experiences. Patricia Hill Collins explains “ U. S. Black women’s definitions intermingle and become more salient: oppression via gender may be more prominent as a mother, race as a homeowner, class when applying for credit ” In this quote Hill Collins begins to tease out a form of oppression she categorizes as “structural domination of power:” oppression which is perpetuated via the social institutions maintaining Black women’s subordination (Collins 265). This theory of subjugation is particular relevant to the politics of oppression because it interrogates the effects of public policy on the lives of Black women. Historically, the United States upheld policies of de jure racism and sexism, which is to say the laws explicitly denied basic rights to women and to people of color. Today, the same inequalities exist, but as a result of de facto injustices as our new “enlightened” Constitution declares that all citizens have equal rights, regardless of race and sex. Collins argues that de facto inequalities are just as sinister as their more transparent, de jure forebears. She argues that the rhetoric of “color-blindness” that has resulted from this shift rewrites structural conditions but preserves an ideology of oppression that undermines the obvious disparities in the way people of color are treated in order to preserve the interests of the dominant group[s].
Patricia Hill Collins also seeks to emphasize the importance of the dialectic relationship between structural conditions and the actions of the individuals who occupy these structures. “Dialectic approaches emphasize the significance of knowledge in developing self-defined, group-based standpoints that, in turn, can foster group solidarity necessary for resisting oppressions” (Collins 293). As the root word “structure” suggests, Structural conditions are constantly being shaped and reformed by the individuals who inhabit the social/cultural contexts they outline. In this way, for better or worse, the relationship between the structure and the individual is symbiotic. Conditions can be altered by the individuals who seek to advantage themselves by forwarding a controlling ideology that will preserve the iniquitous status quo, but they can also be altered to empower Black women, and other minorities. By emphasizing and dispersing “counter-hegemonic knowledge” individuals have the power to create a more enlightened dominant discourse.

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New Data on Divorce Rates

August 26th, 2011 · No Comments

Given  our discussion on Wednesday, I thought many of

you would be delighted to know that divorce rates have

actually decreased. Here is a story on the new census and

what the economic costs of divorce can be for women.

Divorce Rates

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