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Rey Ty and Maimouna Konaté. (2007).  Critical Post-Colonial Feminist Theory: Past Contributions, Gaps, and Future Possibilities.

Rey Ty and Maimouna Konaté. (2007). Critical Post-Colonial Feminist Theory: Past Contributions, Gaps, and Future Possibilities.



Rey Ty and Maimouna Konaté. (2007). Critical Post-Colonial Feminist Theory:

Rey Ty and Maimouna Konaté. (2007). Critical Post-Colonial Feminist Theory:
Past Contributions, Gaps, and Future Possibilities.



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    Rey Ty and Maimouna Konaté. (2007).  Critical Post-Colonial Feminist Theory: Past Contributions, Gaps, and Future Possibilities. Rey Ty and Maimouna Konaté. (2007). Critical Post-Colonial Feminist Theory: Past Contributions, Gaps, and Future Possibilities. Document Transcript

    • Critical Post-Colonial Feminist Theory: Past Contributions, Gaps, and Future Possibilities Rey Ty and Maimouna Konaté Abstract Literatures on feminist theory abound: they challenge the dominant traditional modernist worldview that uses the male perspective as the standard by which all social phenomena are measured. Thanks to feminists, theories now span the whole range of the ideological spectrum. However, post-colonial feminism is still on the fringes. Rejecting sweeping generalizations, this paper highlights specific cases from Asia and Africa in order to analyze the different actions and discourses of women from the Third World. By so doing, this research contributes to mainstreaming women’s voices from the Global South as well as promoting post-structural analysis which treats women, not as an indistinct unified blob, but as a heterogeneous group of individuals and groups with discrete identities and dissimilar agenda. Introduction Research Problem The so-called objective science does not reveal inequalities, differences in gender, class, countries, color, ethnicity, abilities or religion. In particular, there is a lack of women’s voices in the dominant literature. When they do exist, in the form of critical theory and feminist theory, they are usually from the West. Aside from Freire (1970), we do not hear much about post- colonial thinkers. For this reason, subaltern voices in Africa, Asia, and Latin America in general are muted, including women’s. The rationale of this paper is to question the current state of feminist theory and to contribute to the literature in adult and community education about feminism in Third World countries. Purpose of the Study This paper aims to examine the praxiological contributions of women’s movements in Asia and Africa to the development of a more inclusive feminist theory building. Research Questions This collaborative research deals with women’s movements in the Third World, which work for the construction of a just society by struggling against the constraining economic, social and cultural structures. In the poor countries, traditional culture, male domination and poverty cause the oppression and marginalization of women. This study examines the contributions of women’s movements in the Global South to gender equality in the context of social, gender, and national liberation. It addresses the following questions: Based on the emerging data, 1. What are the contributions of critical theory and feminist theory to understanding the women’s question in general?
    • 2. What are the gaps that the existing critical feminist literatures lack in terms of theory, methodology, and content? 3. How can the development of a grounded model fill the gap in critical feminist theory thereby enriching the field of adult education? Research Methods The research paradigm is critical research, where the researchers are changes agents who accept multiple truths, with the view to women’s emancipation everywhere. This is a collaborative study which is composed of two parts: first, a review of literature of feminist theory; and, second, a qualitative research using the case study design that investigates an Asian case study and an African case study—specifically, the Philippines and Mali. To identify the trends and past contributions in the literature as well as the abstracts in ESBSCO Host, ERIC, ERIC Digest, InfoTrac, OCLC Search, and ProQuest were used as research databases to gather refereed journals and academic books related to the topic. The case studies from Asia and Africa were used to provide data from which a grounded model emerged. This research builds on the triangulation or the cross-checking of multiple sources of information based on field research, non-participant observation, community dialogue, interviews, document analysis, electronic-mail communications, and literature review. The analysis of data involved grouping and developing codes or categories out of the emerging themes. The data that emerged from the systematic research findings provides the raw materials in the generation of a grounded model. Our positionality as feminist Asian male and African female researchers, respectively, is an important factor that affected data collection, analysis, and interpretation. Findings A Review of the Contributions of Past Theories This section documents the rich contributions on feminist theorizing in the past. Using ideology as a classificatory scheme, the most generally recognized feminist theories include (1) libertarian, (2) social democratic, and (3) Marxist feminism. One, libertarian feminists (Mingst, 2004) believe in both de jure and de facto gender equality, such as suffrage and non- discrimination in law and in practice. Two, social democratic feminists ((Duncan, Jancar- Webster & Switky, 2004)—who oppose injustice—believe that the women’s question must be situated in the socio-economic context. Hence, social democratic feminists focus their social analysis and social work efforts towards social change through social reform. Critical feminists link gender analysis with class, ethnicity, color, culture, religion, and abilities. Three, Marxist feminists (Baylis & Smith, 2005) believe that class and gender intersect. Peasant women and proletarian women are oppressed who can only be free, if society will be free through revolutionary change. Not usually discussed, as feminist theories as such, are reactionary and conservative feminist theories. They have definite views of women’s role in society, therefore they are worthy to be discussed and labeled as feminist theories. Both of which, though, are not true feminist theories, as they do not advance but suppress the status and condition of women in society. Reactionaries want to bring back the defunct practices, say, of banning women from studying or leaving their residence under penalty of physical punishment or stoning to death. Conservatives (Fukuyama, 1998; Lukas, 2006) are romantic feminists who believe that men and women are biologically different and that women are weak and need “gentlemen,” say, to open the door for
    • them and pay the bill as unquestionable standard practice. For these reasons, reactionary and conservative feminism are not true feminism. In summary, the major feminist theories include reactionary, conservative, libertarian, social democratic and Marxist feminism. See the continuum below. Gaps The foregoing section indicates that feminists of all types engage in dialogues and debate about the role and status of women in society. The literature on feminist theorizing cited in the preceding section is impressive. It spans the whole ideological spectrum, indicating that not all women are alike and that gender analysis is complex and must take into account class, ideology, and other such positionalities. Thanks to feminist theorizing, gender sensitivity is growing. However, based on the data that emerged, gaps still exist. For instance, conservative, and libertarian feminist theories are essentialist, as they assume that all women are alike, which they over-generalize and universalize. Furthermore, they only use Western women as the exemplar by which women of all colors around the world are measured. Critical feminism is an advancement over the previous types of feminism, given that women are not generalized as all belonging to one homogenous group, as each woman is unique and carries unique set of multiple economic, philosophical, ideological, political, social, cultural, and sexual identities. However, critical feminism only looks at the conditions of women in Europe, the U.S., Canada, and Brazil. The voices of women in all the Third World countries are not heard. They are all lumped under the umbrella of post-colonial feminists, again wrongly generalized as belonging to one homogenous group. Future Possibilities To fill the gap, this research examined two case studies, one in Asia and another in Africa, in order to dig deeper into the uniqueness and peculiarities of each case. Below is a discussion on the role of women’s organizations in social change in the Philippines and Mali. See figure below which situates Third-World feminism in the ideological spectrum. Revolutionary Third World Left-Wing Centrist Right-Wing Extreme Right Marxist Feminism Post- Colonial Feminism Critical & Social Democratic Feminism Libertarian Feminism Conservative False “Feminism” Reactionary False “Feminism” Figure 1: Ideology and Feminist Theory, including Post-Colonial Feminism (Ty, 2007b) The Philippines. A national organization of women—called General Assembly Binding Women for Reform, Integrity, Equality, Leadership, and Action (GABRIELA or GAB for short) —mobilizes women at the grassroots level who are involved in political advocacy work. It is the largest women’s organization in the Philippines. GAB has branches mostly in the local rural villages, but also in the cities, regions, provinces, and at the national level. As a movement, members are united in their struggle against imperialism, feudalism, and corruption. They do not simply struggle for women’s right in the abstract (Maza & Tujan, 1993). GABRIELA (2007a) deals with the concerns of women as women, striving to liberate Filipinas from economic and political oppression, discrimination, sexual violence and abuse, neglect and denial of their health and reproductive rights. In addition, they struggle for the rights of peasants and workers, both female and male, as they compose the majority of society. GABRIELA (2007b) is an integral
    • component of the national liberation movement for genuine national liberation, a democratic and representative government as well as gender equality in all aspects of life. Clearly, GAB does not view the women’s question as separate from the national question. They challenge, oppose, and struggle against political, economic, and cultural hegemony in an effort to create counter- hegemonic structures and liberating cultures. Mali. In Mali, traditional customs and practices, illiteracy, poverty, the misinterpretation of Islam and patriarchy oppress and marginalize women. However, most women take pride in their cultural values, which they believe should be conserved, as culture made them who they are. With their participation in the Association des Femmes Fabricantes de Savon de Koulikoro Plateau I (AFFSKP), they became change catalysts. They develop job skills and rebuild their lives by mutual assistance. Before they became members of the organization, most of them were disengaged and lonesome. After joining AFFSKP, their lives have changed significantly. By working together and sharing experiences, they supported, taught and learned from one another. They developed a cottage industry--soap making—which provided them with economic empowerment. Clearly, the AFFSKP as a social movement provided the primary learning site for rural women in Mali where they learned about equitable distribution of resources first-hand. Economic independence was a form of transformation that had occurred in the women. In the past, Malian women were the proprieties of their husbands who provided for the needs of the family. This situation is changing, as a growing number of men are now unable to perform these roles, owing to unemployment and other related other matters. These changes elevate women’s status in the family. The interviewees become breadwinners in their families, became autonomous, and assumed some power within the family, and the husbands now cannot simply control their wives’ lives anymore. Their economic independence empowers them to make decisions in their families and in their community as well as to make informed decisions about their lives. Money is the key to their freedom, without which, their choices are very limited. There are role reversals in their families. Some husbands are willing to take care of the children and do the household chores, whilst their wives are out making soap: a situation the women express had never happened before they joined their organization and started bringing money home. Their husbands are now supportive of their wives, when the latter have needs associated to their income-generating projects. With respect to their involvement in politics, the participants felt that politicians exploit them for campaigning purposes during elections, for women have always been good at organizing and mentoring, but they never took advantage of the decision-making level, and the elites did not care about women’s issues once they got elected. Gains Theories Contributions Gaps How to Fill the Gap Future Possibilities Feminist Theory Gender Sensitivity Euro-centric Essentialism Recognition of the Contributions of Third- World Women Critical Post-Colonial Feminist Theory Critical Theory Partisanship or Non-Neutral Perspective Focus on the West and Brazil mostly Bringing the Third World to Theory Building Third World Theory Political and Economic Struggle against Feudal Culture & Foreign Domination Invisibility for the Most Part Inclusion of the Post- Structural Voices of Women in the Third Word Figure 2: Taxonomy of Contributions, Gaps, and Possibilities of Feminist Theory Building (Ty, 2007a)
    • Conclusion Restatement of the Research Problem Literatures on feminist theory from the West do not adequately explain the conditions and struggles of Third World women. Throughout history, women have experienced male domination, colonial oppression, and unequal cultural treatment, which have negatively impacted their role, status, and position in society, despite their playing a crucial role in social development. Africa, Asia, and Latin America are no exceptions to the rule. What binds together women in the Global South is economic, patriarchal, and cultural oppression. Third- World women are focused on economic survival. However, women in the Global South are also responsible for maintaining not only their family, but also their village and their community at large. Summary Feminist theory and critical theory in the Global North positively contribute to highlighting the importance of gender issues in the mainstream discourse. However, there remains a gap in the literatures as they do not explain the women’s condition in the poor countries. In the case studies, women in the Philippines engage in political advocacy to promote women empowerment, while women in Mali engage in economism, demonstrating that there are different paths to promoting women’s rights. This research contributes to the theory building by centering the previously marginalized women’s voices from the Global South. Furthermore, it also contributes to the literature by developing a grounded model—Post-Colonial Feminist Theory—based on the research findings and opens the feminist discourses for more possibilities to empower all women, both in the Global North and South. Fields Cases Main Objectives Countries Scope of Work Reach Continents Living- Standard Economism Political Advocacy Major Actual Outcomes GAB Political Work Philippines National & Local Urban & Rural Asia No Yes Political Empowerment AFFSKP Livelihood Project Mali Local Rural Only Africa Yes No Economic Empowerment Figure 3: Actions of Two Post-Colonial Grassroots Women’s Organizations in Asia and Africa Implications to the Practice and Theory of Adult and Community Education This research deals with building women’s communities, not only in the Global North or in the Global South as separate communities; thus, building the social capital of women around the world. It is important for the following reasons. One, women’s voices are often muffled, for which reason it is essential to push forward the feminist discourse. For this purpose, critical theory is useful in mainstreaming the hitherto marginalized voices of women. Two, however, oftentimes when women’s voices are heard in the literature, most emanate from the West and therefore critical feminist theory is still insufficient in bringing to surface the voices of women in the global peripheries, such as in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Women are still invisible and their voices are still muffled in these parts of the world. This paper contributes to feminist ideology and theory relevant to adult, popular, and community education. This paper shows that women’s struggle in the Global South is not a separate struggle but linked to a larger social struggle. Women’s movements in Third-World countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America challenge the economic, political, and cultural hegemonic structures and propose women’s
    • rights, a just economy, and equal rights, which immerse women in activities that facilitate social change. Thus, the raison d’être of Critical Post-Colonial Feminist Theory, which here is a grounded model based on the findings of our collaborative research, is strengthened. Reference Baylis, J. & Smith, S. (2005). The globalization of world politics: An introduction to international relations. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Cunningham, P. (1989). Making a more significant impact on society. In Quigley (Ed.).Fulfilling the promise of adult and continuing education. New Directions for Continuing Education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Duncan, W. R., Jancar-Webster, B. & Switky, B. (2004). World politics in the 21st century. New York: Longman. Fukuyama. F. (1998 September/October). Women and the evolution of world politics. Foreign Affairs, 77(5), 24-40. GABRIELA Network (a). (2007). Retrieved May 30, 2007, from http://www.gabnet.org/. GABRIELA Philippines (b). (2007). Retrieved July 28, 2007, from http://www.gabrielaphilippines.org/index.php. Holst, J. ( 2002). Social movements, civil society, and radical education. West Point, CT: Bergin and Garvey. Konaté, M. Experiences of post-colonial women in grassroots organizations in Mali: The case of the Association des Femmes Fabricantes de Savon de Koulikoro Plateau I (AFFSKP), Mali. In Proceeding of the Joint International Conference of the Adult Education Conference and Canadian Association of for the Study of Adult Education. Halifax, Nova Scotia: Mount St. Vincent University. Lukas, C. L. (2006). The politically incorrect guide to women, sex, and feminism. Washington, D.C.: Regnery Publishing, Inc. Maza, L. & Tujan, A. (1993 January). Women’s Rights, Women’s Liberation. Laya Feminist Quarterly. Mingst, K. (2004). Essentials of international relations (3rd edition). New York: W. W. Norton & Company. Sudarkasa, N. (1996). The status of women in indigenous African societies. In R. T. Penn & A. B. Rushing. (2nd Ed.). Women in Africa and the African Diaspora. Washington D. C.: Howard University Press. Ty, R. (2007a). Positivism and critical theory: But where’s the Third World? In Proceedings of the Sixteenth Annual African-American and Latino(a) American Adult Education Research Symposium. Chicago: Chicago State University. Ty, .R. (2007b). Western feminism and Third-World feminism. Unpublished. DeKalb: Northern Illinois University. Wollstonecraft, M. (1792). A Vindication of the Rights of Women. Young, R. J. C. (2003). Postcolonialism: An historical introduction. Naperville, IL: Blackwell Publishing. _____________________________________________________________________________ _
    • Rey Ty & Maimouna Konate, Department of Counseling, Adult, and Higher Education, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL 60115, rty@niu.edu and mkonate@niu.edu. Thanks to Drs. Jorge Jeria, Laurel Jeris, Richard Orem, Wei Zheng, Lisa Baumgartner, & Margaret Mbilizi. Presented at the Midwest Research-to-Practice Conference in Adult, Continuing, and Community Education, Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana, September 25-27, 2007.