Blogging the Theoretical

Mohanty & Knowledge (Final) by Emily

October 12, 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.

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