New Seminar Series – Postcolonial approaches to feminism

History of Feminism Network presents a seminar series in postcolonial approaches to feminism.

Over the last 3 decades, post-colonial studies have had a profound impact upon the study and practice of feminism. Historians have had increasingly to look to a multiplicity of ‘feminisms’ that emerged globally in the last two centuries. Meanwhile, study of what was traditionally labelled ‘first wave feminism’ (Anglo-American women’s movements of the nineteenth-century) has been transformed through the recognition of the extent to which western women’s claims for emancipation were bound up with imperialist and oppressive conceptions of citizenship. Postcolonial critiques have also been one of the most important factors in challenging and re-shaping feminist activism since at least 1980, with many assumptions about our ability to call for ‘universal’ liberation and to support women’s rights across the globe having been overturned.

This seminar series seeks to take account of these developments, and to ask where they leave us today – for both the theory and practice of feminism. We will re-visit classic texts of postcolonial histories of feminism, as well as hearing from new scholars working in this field. We will ask to what extent post-colonialism has succeeded in re-formulating historians’ periodisation and definitions of ‘feminism’. We also want to re-visit key feminist concepts such as ‘agency’, ‘difference’, ‘representation’ and ‘citizenship’ and to ask, in the light of post-colonial critiques, whether they continue to be of use to us as both historical concepts and political tools. Can a post-colonial analysis of inequities of power between women become the beginning rather than the end of a conversation about the possibility of transnational feminism and the building of solidarity across borders?

The seminars are designed to be for both academics and activists. We want to provide a space that encourages us to both approach ‘academic’ research in a politicised frame and to theoretically ground our ‘political’ activism. We will be reading both historical and theoretical texts, and although our discussions will always seek to take a historical view of the questions we address, we also welcome feminist scholars from a variety of disciplines.

This semester the seminars will take the form of a reading group. Please read the texts in advance and come along ready to discuss them.

16th Oct.  Anne McClintock, Imperial Leather: Race, Gender and Sexuality in the Imperial Context (Introduction and chapter 1).

13th Nov. Antoinette Burton, Burdens of History: British Feminists, Indian Women, and Imperial Culture, 1865-1915 & Sara Ahmed, ‘A Phenomenology of Whiteness’, Feminist Theory, 8 (2) (2007), 149-68; Sara Ahmed, Queer Phenomenology: orientations, objects, others (Durham, 2006).

18th Dec. Gayatri Chackravorty Spivak, ‘Can the Subultern Speak?’, in Cary Nelson and Lawrence Grossberg,  Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture and Mrinilini Sinha, ‘Introduction’, to Katherine Mayo, Selections from Mother India ed. Mrinilini Sinha (Michigan, 2000) pp 1-63.

All seminars take place in from 5.30-7.00pm in the Tillotson Room, 502, 30 Russell Square. Please contact Dr Naomi Hetherington or Dr Laura Schwartz for further details.


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