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Possessing the Voice of The Other: African Women and the 'Crisis of Representation' In Alice Walker's Possessing the Secret of Joy

Nontsasa Nako


I open with a quote from Christopher Miller because it pinpoints one of the issues that plague feminist politics today, that of speaking about, for, or to, the Other. This is because even if feminism requires some women to speak on behalf of others, such acts of representation are fraught with problems in that who speaks and who is spoken about or for has depended largely on other categories such as power, race, class and sexuality. Indeed much of what has been written about mainstream feminism’s privileging of experiences of white middle-class women as experiences of all women, and its assumptions about all women who are not white and middle-class, has had a lot to do with representation; that is how mainstream feminists, often homogenised as Western feminists have represented themselves and Others. Indeed some self- labelled Third World theorist such as Chandra Mohanty, Uma Nayaran, Cherri Moraga and Gloria Anzaldua1 have emphasized the importance of recognizing the ethnographic diversities of different women’s realities as intersections of race, class, power and sexuality continue to create problems for categorising of gender. They have also pointed out the dangers of ignoring the historical, cultural and political contexts when formulating theories about women. But even if we feel that such criticisms of mainstream feminism’s omissions have run their course, the politics of solidarity persist within feminism, the need to institutionalize difference still exist.

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JENdA: A Journal of Culture and African Women Studies. ISSN: 1530-5686 (online).
Editors: Nkiru Nzegwu; Book Editor: Mary Dillard.

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