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TitleFeminist Film Studies: Writing the Woman into Cinema (Short Cuts)
ISBN 139781904764038
CategoryArts - Film
File Size2.1 MB
Total Pages144
Table of Contents
1	Structuring a language of theory
2	Textual negotiations : female spectatorship and cultural studies
3	Race, ethnicity and post-colonialism/modernism
4	Conceiving subjectivity, sexual difference and fantasy differently : psychoanalysis revisited and queering theory
Document Text Contents
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Page 72


Feminist inquiry into race and representation grew out of a wider encoun-
ter between feminism and postmodernism - emerging in the late 1980s
- linked to debates initiated by Jean-Francois Lyotard (The Postmodern
Condition, translated in 1984) and Fredric Jameson ('Postmodernism, or
the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism', also published in 1984). Barbara
Creed examines the impact of postmodernism on the feminist academy,
and in particular the influence of Lyotard's theory of the collapse of grand
narratives which 'have been used to legitimate the quest for knowledge
and the importance of scientific research' (1987: 50). Questioning the
legitimacy of master narratives and their signifying practices, along with
changing post-colonial attitudes toward ethnic groups and cultural identi-
ties in the wake of 1960s liberation movements (civil rights, anti-Vietnam
war protests), undermined the position of Western institutions as a site
of 'truth' and power. Identifying feminist interventions into discussions
on race, this chapter charts how scholars disrupt master narratives and
orthodox (white) feminism to produce new truths about female subject-
ivity, representation and experience.

Interrogating the historical invisibility and theoretical elision of women
of colour took on a new emphasis within the context of a postmodern dis-
course - questioning the hegemonic nature of dominant narratives and
who had the right to speak. It led scholars to think about the conditions
in which knowledge about race and gender is made possible. Such a dia-
logue was anticipated some years earlier by second-wave feminism and its
critique of patriarchy. However, whereas Claire Johnston and Laura Mulvey
felt that female absence within the signifying processes of mainstream


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(patriarchal) cinema was lamentable, feminists influenced by postmodern
thinking identified the theoretical possibilities in those very spaces over
which the dominant patriarchal fiction had lost control. This opened up
new avenues of inquiry based on the possibilities afforded by resistance,
absence and uncertainty which were constituted in Black feminist liter-
ary criticism, histories of slavery and the colonial imagination as well as
post-colonialism and revisions of psychoanalytic paradigms. Focusing on
the crisis of narrative allowed feminists to take up a number of important
issues - questions to do with who has the right to speak about another,
systems of knowledge and a belief about the world within which the power
to define the Other is constituted, and the desire to think differently linked
to the postmodern concept of 'hybridity'. I begin by setting this debate on
race and representation in context by identifying key problems as well as
methodologies which helped film feminism unlock questions of ethnic dif-
ference, represenation and subjectivity.

An oppressive orthodoxy

l\ know nothing about her.' (Fanon 1986:180)

Orthodox feminist application of psychoanalytic models based on a rigid
binary understanding of subject formation increasingly came under scru-
tiny from within the feminist academy. For those concerned with race,
these theories failed to account for racial and sexual difference beyond
the closed Oedipal world, bell hooks in particular felt that the orthodox
feminist approach, 'rooted in an ahistorical psychoanalytic framework,
silenced racial difference - of a racialised sexual difference* (1993: 295).
Others condemned the psychoanalytic approach for its deficiencies as
a methodology to account for complex historical encounters involving
gender and race (Bobo 1989; Mercer 1994; Young 1996; Gaines 2000).

Understanding how patriarchy constitutes power to oppress all women
underpins the orthodox thinking - and caused the critical impasse.
Rooted in a Marxist dialectic of class struggle and economic divisions of
labour, Marxist feminist analysis could not conceive of categories beyond
those defined by a strict binary structure - male/female, active/passive.
Specifics of gender identity and race became elided in favour of a broader
ideological agenda that reference sexual difference in terms of male power
and female subordination. But it soon became apparent to scholars that


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