Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

Postcolonial Feminisms

ENGL 769.401
instructor(s):

How are feminisms in different parts of the world, and as espoused by different subjects,  historically constructed, and how have they interesected and debated with one another? How do the histories of colonialism, sexuality, postcolonial nationhood and global capital shape these interesections and debates? In the academy, we often pay lip service to the idea of “differences” among women, and to such histories, and yet forget that (as Heidi Tinsman puts it),  “what constitutes useful categories of feminist analysis is a matter of geopolitics rather than epistemological catch-up.”  This course provides an opportunity to read and think about such debates, categories, histories and contemporary global relations, in order to discuss three key issues: identity, agency and social justice.

We cannot cover all parts of the world, and the syllabus does not include “token” essays to ensure coverage. Rather, it features representative writings that range over questions of racial, religious and ethnic difference, “third world” women in the West, feminist developments within the global South. Because of our location, we concentrate on materials that tend to be less visible in the US academy, although we begin by rehearsing critiques that were written both here and within Britain, and will regularly engage with scholars and activists working in the West.  Because of my own expertise in South Asia, and also because that locale shaped many early postcolonial debates, that region is the ground for studying some of the key historical interesections of colonialism, nationhood and gender relations for 4 weeks (3- 6). However, the rest of the syllabus discusses other regions, and I will welcome your engagement with other spaces and histories in your work. Readings include work by Maria Mies, Mrinalini Sinha, Chela Sandoval, Susan Okin, Joan Scott, Afsaneh Najmanadi, Valentine M. Moghadam, Ann Laura Stoler, Tani Barlow, Gayatri C. Spivak, Lata Mani, Hazel Carby, Inderpal Grewal, Caren Kaplan, Ann Rosalind Jones, Vandana Shiva, Oyeronke Oyewumi, Ifi Amadiume, and Saba Mahmood. 

Undergraduates are not permitted to take 700-level courses.