Multicultural and Postcolonial Feminisms

Authored by: Monica Mookherjee

The Routledge Companion to Feminist Philosophy

Print publication date:  May  2017
Online publication date:  May  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138795921
eBook ISBN: 9781315758152
Adobe ISBN:


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The growth of writings on multiculturalism and postcolonialism over the past decades has produced new approaches to feminist philosophy associated with the “third wave.” These approaches have heightened appreciation of differences among women, such as class, geopolitical region, religion, and culture. This chapter examines and contrasts postcolonial and multicultural feminist approaches, and suggests that the main controversy between them lies in the multicultural feminists’ acceptance of the Enlightenment humanist subject, in relation to which the rights and interests of women are presented. Fraught debates around the world over practices like genital cutting and sexist cultural membership rules have heightened the relevance of these critical projects. Multicultural and postcolonial feminisms are increasingly crucial in a globalizing, diverse world. Though supporting the multicultural feminist agenda of pluralizing the rights of the humanist subject, this chapter also recommends engagement with postcolonial critics, who problematize the very notion of a unified subject of rights. Briefly, postcolonial feminists raise important moral-epistemological questions about knowledge of women’s interests, and reject a framing of their entitlements in terms of “culture” in any simple sense. However, common to both feminisms is the task of unsettling some universalist certainties of earlier liberal feminists. The approaches also share a desire to avoid the relativism of postmodern positions, which question the possibility of certain knowledge about human beings generally, and, in this context, of diverse women who are differently located in structures of power.

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