Women's Empowerment and Leadership Development for Democratisation

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Under Western Eyes: Feminist Scholarship and Colonial Discourse




Chandra Talpade Mohanty's 1984 essay, "Under Western Eyes: Feminist Scholarship and Colonial Discourses" states,

"The relationship between 'Woman'—a cultural and ideological composite other constructed through diverse representational discourses (scientific, literary, juridical, linguistic, cinematic, etc.)—and 'women'—real, material subjects of their collective histories—is one of the central questions the practice of feminist scholarship seeks to address."

In this essay, Mohanty critiques the political project of Western feminism and its discursive construction of the category of the "Third World woman" as a homogenous entity. Mohanty states that Western feminisms have tended to gloss over the differences between Southern women, but that the experience of oppression is incredibly diverse, and contingent upon geography, history, and culture. Her paper was a seminal work, highlighting the difficulties faced by feminists from the Third World in being heard within the broader feminist movement, and it led to a "redefining of power relationships" between feminists within the First and Third worlds.

To read the full article, please download the pdf.  You may also like to read Mohanty's later work Feminism Without Borders: Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity in which she argues for a bridging of theory and praxis, and the personal and the political. As well as reprinting "Under Western Eyes", in the final section, "Reorienting Feminism", Mohanty offers a response to criticism of the essay, and "reiterates her belief in the possibility, indeed necessity, of building common political projects between Third World and Western feminisms".

Chandra Talpade Mohanty
Published Date: 
Political and Public Participation