Splitting me apart, drawing me back together at the 4S panel on Feminist Postcolonialism

At 4S, a senior scholar gives a talk on improper subjects of science, Iranian-American women, Indian-American women. She explains to us that they are conflicted and incoherent, split between loyalty to their “dominant” cultural affiliation and their “home” culture. Which women is she speaking for? Doesn’t this repeat the mistake that Kimberle Crenshaw’s intersectionality attempts to move beyond? Being black and woman is not only being a member of two communities. It is being a coherent person of one’s own, I would even prefer cyborg, but it is to be vulnerable to two sets of violence, and become vulnerable in new combinations of ways that don’t make for two merged kinds of life but rather a kind of life all its own. I am confused as to why the scholar asks questions that postcolonial and feminist STS people have been working on for almost two decades, but seems to insist on working with standpoint theory and only reaching just barely beyond it to graze intersectionality. In doing so, she speaks up for me, the subject accused of incoherence in the audience, without my consent or being concerned with the understandings of scientific personhood that I’ve been building as a good enough way to make it through my impropriety.

Who speaks for the gendered postcolonial subject? Why? And what projects are they up to? (To riff off of historian and postcolonial STS scholar Kavita Philip)

Just after, Deboleena Roy of Emory gave a fantastic talk on looking at technologies that shape certain Indian women’s bodies at specific times and specific places. “We’re looking at situatedness, local effects in contact zones of empire.” She points to how epigenetics research is beginning to show the compiled, biological effects of ongoing stress, violence, and injustice on the body. Specific bodies with specific injuries, with stories that might put them in affinity and solidarity with others but that also must be regarded in their specifics.

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2 Responses
  1. plastic says:

    She definitely was. And it was part of a panel of great work, so the scholar is making space for a powerful conversation. That said, roads and good intentions…

  2. Beth Reddy says:

    It is my hope that this person was trying to do something worthwhile while she was devaluing and splitting selves around her.