Foucault writes about power (which is a multiplicity in power relations, rather than just a top-down or vertical relationship) in his book chapter, Methods found in The History of Sexuality Volume 1. Although foucault does not specifically talks about feminism in this chapter, his theories on power are very pertinent and relatable to Butler’s feminist theories. Due to power, even power that we may be unaware of on a daily basis, our sexuality is being performed because of norms that dictate the importance of materialization of one’s sex. After analyzing both Butler’s materialization theory and Foucault’s concept of power we can see how Foucault’s theory directly relates to materialization mainly that materialization of sex in our society is a direct representative of Foucault’s “docile bodies.” examinations based on Foucault’s work have turned to the materiality of the body, and these have offered insights that develop his work and also build notions of performativity.
The presentation of gender has offered an account that takes a particular western view; that whilst gender is constructed, sex is a biological constant. It was this that allowed me to discuss male and female “hijra,” because from this point of view their gender changed when they became “hijra” but their sex remained the same. Judith Butler has now robustly challenged this point of view, through her work on the body, performativity, gender and difference 1993). Sex, Butler argues, is just another regulatory ideal, like gender, that we are required to live up to by society (Butler 1993, 1). Far from being a biological given, “sex is an idealised construct that is forcibly materialised through time” (Butler 1993, 1). The maintenance of a simplistic sex=natural: gender=cultural dichotomy, is simply a continuation of the problematic Cartesian duality between nature and culture that has bedevilled archaeology and other social sciences for years (Ingold 2000). Thus Butler wishes to rephrase the question away from “how is gender constituted as and through a certain interpretation of sex?” to “through what regulatory norms is sex itself materialised? And how is it that treating the materiality of sex as a given presupposes and consolidates the normative conditions of its own emergence?” (Butler 1993, 10). The argument that sex is far from a simplistic, natural bifurcation is even supported by biology itself which has shown there are 11 different chromosomal categories of sex, with the traditional man XY and woman XX simply the extremes on both sides. There have also been cases of sex reversal where a person with XY chromosomes has a female phenotype or XX have a male phenotype. So even from the simplistic view of the natural sciences, sex cannot be presented as an unthinking universal bifurcation.
Categories of sex and gender are constructed against an outside, against non-viable choices, that secure the boundaries of sex (Butler 1993, 8). The construction of these categories is through exclusion, through abjection, through making some bodies unthinkable (Butler 1993, 188). In the heterosexual hegemony of modern western society, these abjected bodied maybe homosexual, but in other societies, different bodies may lie outside the regimes of power and discourse constructed through performativity.
It is important at this point to emphasise that one aspect of identity, be it sex or gender cannot be privileged at the expense of another. All areas of identity be it age, race, status, sexuality, sex or gender interrelate with one another. Gender may be understood very differently depending on the age of the subject or the sexuality. We cannot assume either that all of these areas had an affect on the identity of people in the past. Foucault has demonstrated the changing concern with sexuality since classical times, for example (Foucault 1978).There may also have been alternative categories of identity that remain hidden from us. However the need for a vocabulary in order to discuss these issues means that despite difficulties surrounding them, these terms will continue to serve as short hand for the various areas of identity we wish to discuss. Despite this it is essential to remember that each area is entirely interdependent on the next, no-one area can be understood without reference to another (Butler 1993, 116).
Foucault’s power concept and Butler’s materialization concept relate to each other particularly because a central aspect of Butler’s materialization concept is there is the presence of power that functions within normality which is forcing people to perform their sex based on materialization. Simply put, the norm in society is to act out sex based on biology/materialization and this “norm” is a type of power that people are forced to perform. This type of societal power that dictates norms is the type of power that Foucault discusses. Mainly, when we are acting out our sex because a higher power, society, says we should act this way our bodies are turning into docile bodies, just as Foucault predicts is the result of power. Our bodies are molded into the normative body and without even being conscious of it we perform our sexuality based on materialization. And as Foucault theorized that power is productive and in this instance it is again the docile body being created. Overall, Butler’s materialization concept is mirroring Foucault’s docile body concept.
A focus on the modes and the means of representation of the subaltern, or women in a postcolonial context, will shed light on one of the main issues raised by the collusion between the subaltern studies discourse, or by extension the postcolonial studies discourse, and the feminist discourses. This will raise the important question, how do we narrate the oriental Woman, or the third-World woman, without speaking of her, or without condemning her to the quintessential docile wife or the vengeful goddess? Differently put, how can one emancipate feminism from monolithic thought that is euro-centered? Can one edify a feminism that could consider cultural specificities, which would be consistent with this ‘historically muted subject of the subaltern woman’ in Spivak’s words and understand identity as being ‘relational and historical’?
The gender issue in a postcolonial context follows a painful path, which colludes with the polemical history of the ethnocentrism of Western academic discourses and their universalist agenda. The ‘second wave’ of Western feminist critique is concerned with identifying the ramifications of the patriarchal structures aiming at oppressing women as a whole, thus striving to identify the main enemy and the unique type of oppression, which was rapidly subject to controversies within the ranks. Identifying a unique enemy had the consequence of erasing all the specificities, whether social, racial, cultural, or sexual, of this oppression and, consecutively, of denying all other cumulative forms of oppression. Hence, black Feminism, for example, denounced the universalizing elitism of such discourses, which are produced by and for the white, middle-class, heterosexual woman. Such criticism was crucial as it helped a great deal in focusing attention on identity, with all its heterogeneity, and thus denied universalism and categories, including that of the ‘oppressed group’. In this view, therefore, the‘sorority’ claimed by the main feminist wave of the 1970s, which called for solidarity within a common struggle against male oppression, can be seen not only as utopian but also as a negation of the differences against which the ‘third feminist wave’ rose up on a massive scale
The condemnation aimed at promoting a feminism that would be racially, socially, and sexually aware, and which identified as its ‘main enemy’ the sum of the systems of oppression in Western countries. The condemnation also sought to edify a ‘postcolonial feminist, i.e. post colonially aware’ feminist discourse stemming from an articulation of gender oppression, class/caste/ethnic group/race oppression, and also geographical and historical oppression as an extension of the orientalist discourses. Spivak, for example, identifies a simplistic and universalizing conception of women along with a typically orientalist essencialization of the ‘Other’.
The universalism and ethnocentrism of certain feminist discourses continue to see whiteness as so natural, normative and unproblematic that racial identity is a property only of the non-white gave rise to a wave of questioning, which in effect led to renewed reflection on the arbitrary categorizations instituted by feminist discourses and extended the quest for specificity to an extra-European dimension. It thus promoted the systematic integration of cultural, geographical, and historical features in any discourse on women, on their representation, and on patriarchy. For this reason, therefore, the link established between colonial oppression and male oppression is crucial; it is crucial, not as a collusion, but in the process of their reification of the Other, the Other which is condemned to be muted, i.e. to be ‘spoken for’. The ‘postcolonial feminism’ advocated by feminist theorists such as Spivak, therefore, requires the necessary acknowledgement of the heterogeneity of women, and not just one woman, as the subjects of their own history and discourse; this kind of heterogeneity is subverted by the ethnocentrism of certain feminist rhetoric that reproduces orientalist discourses.
The representation of the ‘Third-World Woman’, therefore, raises two pertinent issues. These issues are the encialization of ‘womanhood’ and the homogeneity at the heart of this fiction of womanhood, on one hand, and the identification and definition of patriarchy, on the other hand. While these two issues are inextricably linked to the ‘postcolonial issue’, the relationships they maintain with it are quite distinct. If the issue of patriarchy understands ‘postcolonial’ in terms of domination versus submission, the issue of the representation of women understands postcolonialism through its cultural expression as a culture of contacts and a relationship with diversity. There is an important dimension here, given that the genesis of postcolonial studies lies in the cultural field and that the first symptoms of the ‘postcolonial situation’ were located in literature, it is essential to identify the link between gender and postcolonialism in cultural expression, and not only in social or political expression.
Given the facts that we have explored in this paper, the paradox of post- coloniality undoubtedly demands such a timeless cycle. Taken as a whole, though, the operation leads toward a kind of material metaphysics. This post will focus on the concepts of history and of representation, these concepts cause problems for postcoloniality as Spivak describes it as “the colony” exists in the past, as a memory, then something is wrong with historical imagination. After all, the colony continues to shape everyday life. That is why, on Mbembe’s account, representing such a memory requires a critique of time itself. Spivak’s methodological traditions opens one such critique. This view grounds the possible conditions for her representation of colonial memory. Following Spivak’s logic, postcoloniality coexists historically with coloniality. The paradox of this situation leads this iteration of her methodology to its conclusion. Spivak works to recover Woman in her historiography of colonialism and its after effects. In so doing, her methodology aims also to recover a supplement of colonial logic. She frames her methodology this way:
“…the ‘setting-to-work’ mode of deconstruction breaks hesitantly into an active resistance to the inexorable calculus of globalization, where ‘democratization’ is often a description of the political restructuring entailed by the transformation of state capitalisms and their tributary economies of rationalized financialization; or it may be engaged in displacing the binary opposition between economic growth and well-being by proposing alternatives to ‘development’. These efforts do not, of course, produce a sustained formalized theory that is recongnizably deconstructive. This is the risk of a deconstruction without reserve.” (430).
Indeed, such a ‘sustained formalized theory’ would indicate something more orthodox than her own work. In Spivak’s words, deconstruction makes possible an ongoing ” differing and deferral- of the capital-ist harnessing of the social productivity of capital” (430). In this view, therefore, the theory becomes the act of disrupting the system within which it has been produced. At the same time, however, such a transformation requires a suspension of historical movement. In nut shell, deconstruction disrupts history by reifying temporal stasis. In this way, Spivak’s methodology invokes a Marxist or socialist political program, but without its historical grounds. Mobilizing deconstruction reinvigorates otherwise tired and failed projects of alterity. These include oppositions posed by Marxism and feminism to dominant logical systems, such as patriarchal global capital, or to coloniality. This in essence means that making deconstruction operational and instrumental leads to an historical dilemma. In Spivak’s work, this dilemma irrupts in its absence. In other words, although she calls for theory that works on behalf of workers, she minimizes and marginalizes the historical failures of establishing an alternative system to capital. This includes how Spivak leaves Marxist and feminist elements unaccounted for in her own representations of anticolonial uprisings. To supplement coloniality rather than simply to oppose it, Spivak draws on potential ‘alternatives’ and ‘resistances’ to that ongoing history. The memory of coloniality made possible by her methodology becomes coloniality’s supplement. The time of the representation of that memory, however, that is to say, postcolonial time, becomes a problem for the linear historical development that coloniality presupposes. Spivak’s continual vaccilation between paradigms, therefore, makes any description of postcoloniality always ready than that of coloniality itself. Broadly speaking, therefore, her critique of postcolonial logic ,its reliance on colonial reason, positions her as a postcolonial intellectual precisely because she produces her critique from an historical situation contingent upon this post/ colonial conflation.
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