Blogging the Theoretical

September 17, 2011 · 7 Comments



White men are the dominant culture in society. As a result their views are considered the “norm”, for “suppressing the knowledge produced by any oppressed group makes it easier for dominant groups to rule because the seeming absence of dissent suggests that subordinate groups willingly collaborate in their own victimization” (Collins 5). In addition, “past practices such as denying literacy to slaves and relegating Black women to underfunded segregated southern schools worked to ensure that a quality education for black women remained the exception rather that the rule” (Collins 7).  Nevertheless, knowledge is not just gained in school; it is acquired through skills, observation, and experience. One does not need to know how to spell, read or write to be enlightened or knowledgeable, and African American women are a great example. For years these women have been silenced, but never silent among themselves, for they have been theorizing through out history.

Through observation and experience these women were able to make sense of the oppressor and in turn make sense of their situation. For example, “domestic work allowed African American women to see White Elites, both actual and aspiring, from perspectives largely obscured from Black men and from these groups themselves” (Collins 13).  This enabled them to gain knowledge that influenced black women’s critical social theory.

African American women also gained knowledge through living conditions; “the majority of African-American women lived in self-contained Black neighborhoods where their children attended overwhelmingly black schools, and where they themselves belonged to all-Black churches and similar community organizations” (Collins 12).  These conditions allowed them to discuss political and social issues, a long with family stories passed down from generations openly. This encouraged “African American men and women to craft distinctive oppositional knowledge’s designed to resist racial oppression” (Collins 12). Collins use of quotations from multiple voices such as intellectual Alice Walker, blues singer Aretha Franklin, to the everyday black women denies any possible view that only a few Black women can theorize emphasizing the importance of oral traditions.

Oral traditions educated black women on history and thoughts of others who were illiterate due to the political structure and social regulations imposed on them. This influenced the ideas and actions of Black women intellectuals. These intellectuals are discovering and reinterpreting the minds and talents of grandmother’s, mothers, and sisters who have been oppressed. “In my own work I write not only what I want to read- understanding fully and indelibly that if I don’t do it no one else is so vitally interested, or capable of doing it to my satisfaction- I write all the things I should have been able to read (Walker 1983, 13)” (Collins 16).  Through songs and writings one can begin to understand that among U.S Black women “all were in some way affected by intersecting oppressions of race, gender, and class” (Collins 15).

I believe that oral tradition was vital for theorizing Black women’s feminist thought. Black women could gain knowledge through situations and experience’s from women who never stopped theorizing. From this they could talk about it and theorize more among each other through Black neighborhoods, schools, churches and other organizations. This created a “collective knowledge that served a similar purpose in fostering Black women’s empowerment” (Collins xi), for knowledge plays a key role in empowering the oppressed.



Collins, Patricia Hill. Black Feminist Thought. New York: Routledge Classics, 2009


Categories: Group Two · Troli

7 responses so far ↓

  •   emseav09 // Sep 17th 2011 at 1:42 pm

    Excellent integration of quotes and I like how you worked in the few suggestions I had for you about the oral traditions and specific examples to help strengthen your argument. Nice Job!

    I really enjoyed reading what you wrote and your ideas were organized in a great fashion. The only thing I might add is making sure that you can express just how important these oral traditions were to black women and the gathering of black women and sharing there stories is how they shared what they knew about the world. It is important to express just how important these oral traditions were in shaping the minds of black women.

  •   emseav09 // Sep 17th 2011 at 1:43 pm


  •   jmrodr09 // Sep 18th 2011 at 4:23 pm

    Troli –

    I enjoyed reading your passage on how Black women gained knowledge through their experiences and observations. You provided good examples by providing quotes that were relevant to your term and the understanding of knowledge. There was a good relation to the past and present which made your passage stronger.

    In the beginning you mentioned “white men being the dominant culture in society” and I think this is somewhat true but I feel as if you should tinker the words a little and instead of using the term “men”, rephrase the sentence in a way that illustrates that both white men and women were the dominant role players in society….stating that what ever they did was the norm.
    Other than that, I felt as if this was a very well written passage. Good work!

    From Jennifer R.

  •   kaasel09 // Sep 18th 2011 at 6:33 pm

    I think it would be interesting for you to examine a couple of things:
    1) Is it possible that the isolation experienced by Black women, which you cite as contributing to the hegemonic nature of their experience, has limited their conception of identity in that they have been unable to develop in different contexts which would facilitate the creation of a range of identities that could combat controlling images?
    2) How do you feel about Nash’s argument that not every element of the Black women’s experience can be used as concrete data?
    You have certainly touched on some interesting points and made a sound argument for the importance of the oral tradition in the preservation of Black culture. I also think you pulled some excellent quotes from the reading though I think some of these could be fleshed out even further. Overall- great Job!

    – Kate

  •   bphess09 // Sep 18th 2011 at 7:33 pm


    Nice work on your post! The transitions are very smooth and you saved your most important point until the end; I agree with Erika to really emphasize how oral traditions shaped the epistemic communities of Black women.

    I think you’ve done a great job teasing out the ways in which Black women gained knowledge. Consider why each of these aspects of Black female epistemology is vital in their conceptual identity and how while male supremacy shape this “identity”.


  •   ogmcma08 // Sep 18th 2011 at 10:00 pm


    Awesome job on the post! Your integration of Collins quotations really got your point across, and it made your argument even smoother.

    I think you could expand your discussion on the oral traditions of Black women and possibly give a few more examples of how it shaped their perceptions. Also you could think of some modern day examples to add as well.

    Also you could further examine this concept of theorizing in relation to Nash’s argument.
    Overall awesome job!

  •   ogmcma08 // Sep 18th 2011 at 10:01 pm


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