Mohanty, C. Talpade. 1997. “Under Western Eyes: Feminist Scholarship and Colonial Discourses.”

Mohanty, Chandra Talpade. 1997. “Under Western Eyes: Feminist Scholarship and Colonial Discourses.” In Dangerous Liaisons: Gender, National, and Postcolonial Perspectives. Ed. A. McClintock, A. Mufti, and E. Shohat.  Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Colonization as recent phenomenon in feminist and leftist literature, through Marxist and WOC use to describe white feminist appropriation of WOC experiences – indicative of political and economic hierarchy, production of discourse about “Third World.” Mohanty questions monolithicism of the Third World Woman as a victim of structural domination and violent suppression, discursively – through the assumption and codification of “knowledge” held by “scholars” who do not have this identity. Notes that Western feminist discourse/politics are also not homogenous, but attempts to draw attention to textual strategies of casting Others as non-Western, scholars as inherently Western.  These practices limit coalition-building, through casting WMCF priorities as normative for all.  “There can, of course, be no apolitical scholarship” (online). Relationship of Woman (cultural and ideological corporation of discourse) versus women (real subjects) – Western discourse promotes sexual difference in Third World as monolithic patriarchy, which are colonized and homogenized by Western feminists to describe women’s experiences within this world – however, we need to contextualize culture, ideology, and socioeconomic conditions to situate – those which are highly interconnected with first world economies (universalism cannot be presumed).


  • Women are pre-constituted, homogenous, and of identical orientations and desires, regardless of social location or experiences of oppression; patriarchy is experienced universally, and should be addressed/analyzed in universalist ways
    • Dichotomy between Third World Woman as “ignorant, poor, uneducated, tradition-bound, domestic, family-oriented, victimized” and Western women as “educated, modern, as having control over their own bodies and sexualities, and the freedom to make their own decisions” (online)
    • TWW as objects, even within Western feminist discourse – grouped, geographically bound – this is highly reductionist
    • “Sisterhood cannot be assumed on the basis of gender; it must be forged in concrete, historical, and political practice and analysis” (online)
    • Presumption that ideologies are not interconnected with historical and sociopolitical practices; are isolatable, and impact women (and) men in the same way, regardless of other variations in social locations
    • What if we flipped the language used for description of TWW onto Western Women? How would such ideas be received?
  • Methodological tools are universal and demonstrate cross-cultural validity
    • Analogies of inequality unfairly applied- segregation in work is not the same as rape, without properly contextualizing and historicizing this (where do these institutions or practices come from? How are they experienced over time, by women of different social locations?)
    • Social value and importance of different instances of inequality may take different priorities to different women; instances of inequality are not necessarily translatable
    • “If such concepts are assumed to be universally applicable, the resultant homogenization of class, race, religious, cultural, and historical specificities of the lives of women in the third world can create a false sense of the commonality of oppressions, interests, and struggles between and amongst women globally. Beyond sisterhood there is still racism, colonialism, and imperialism!” (online)
    • “Feminist work on women in the third world which blurs this distinction [kx^ between discourses of representation and material realities – Woman vs. women] (which is present in certain Western feminists’ self-representation) eventually ends up constructing monolithic images of “Third World Women” as women who can only be defined as material subjects, not through the relation of their materiality to their representations” (online)
  • Methodologies and analytic tools do not have an operational or epistemological power to them
    • Construction of binaries creates issue of power, homogeneity – but this is merely discursive self-selection – “opposition is a generalized phenomenon created as a response to power – which, in turn, is possessed by certain groups of people. The major problem with such a definition of power is that it locks all revolutionary struggles into binary structures – possessing power versus being powerless” (online).
    • Notion of women’s activity as necessarily have to be laborious is not universally-held, but are still, apparently, adjudicated by Western norms and priorities (this seems to be an issue of Marxist feminists – work is not central to all feminist activity)
    • “This mode of feminist analysis, by homogenizing and systematizing the experiences of different groups of women in these countries, erases all marginal and resistant modes of experiences” (online).

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