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Assignment name: Module 1 Reflection Paper
Name: Barbara Kralovicova
Handed in: 2018-09-21 15:45
Generated at: 2018-10-03 01:31

The Role of Feminism and Development from a Post-colonial

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Lund University
Fall 2018
MIDA 11 International Development Perspectives

Barbara Krá?ovi?ová

1. Introduction

The main purpose of this paper is to introduce the basic concept of postcolonialism and its role
as a critical tool after and of the colonial period. Colonialism, which lasted over five hundred
years (Syed & Metcalfe, 2017), can be only hardly forgotten and erased from the history,
however, the history that has been written about this topic is often times rather bias and lacks
proper criticism (Lin, 1998). Understanding of problems that were caused by colonial
superpowers in the past is a crucial step in improving the present direction of the world. This
paper aims to look at postcolonial theory as a critical approach to colonialism, while especially
focusing on their perception of development and role of feminists within it. The author of this
work beliefs that by narrowing the topic of postcolonialism, the reader can get a clearer and
more tangible idea behind it applicability.

The following questions are being asked and analyzed in this work:

What is the opinion of post-colonialism on development? What kind of role do feminists have
in postcolonialism?

Finally, it will try to display how the interaction of feminism and development create a
theoretical and practical sphere and offer a wide set of challenges and key issues that the western
practices of development should face.

2. The Origins and the concept Postcolonialism
The post-colonial theory emerged as a criticism to colonialism that so hugely shaped the
direction of the world as we know it today. It analyses how the historical effects of colonization
were not just a process in the past but can be seen in the present in the base knowledge as well
as different forms of power relations between the west and their formerly colonized territories
(Radcliffe, 1999). Even though looking at the past economic, cultural and political aspects of
colonized territories will give us different results to present, it can be seen that they are marked
by colonialism. The power relations that were created during the period of colonization
artificially created a certain sense of differentiation between “us” and “the others” while
regarding one group as being superior to the other (Loomba, 2007). This type of global
inequalities that are established between poor and rich was shaped by colonial power relations.

While the western knowledge was seen as the universal base, post-colonialism is attempting to
deconstruct and problematize it in order to critically engage with it (Kothari, 2005).
Most of the studies regarding post-colonialism were mainly focused on sociology, geography
or anthropology and the development field wasn’t regarded as one of the main trajectories (Syed
; Metcalfe, 2017). Generally speaking, postcolonial perspectives can be referred to as anti-
colonial. Further support can be found in the theoretical knowledge of post-colonialism that has
been influenced by poststructuralism and well as Marxism, which was considering both
linguistic and cultural analyses as well as political economy approaches (Blunt ; Wills, 2000).
Post-colonialism rejects established methods of the past as well as accustomed ways of thinking
and therefore shares similarities with Dependency theory as well as feminism which in their
essence are also a criticism to the development and North-South relations (McEwan, 2001).

2.1. Development and Postcolonialism

“It is from those who have suffered the sentence of history–subjugation, domination, diaspora,
displacement–that we learn our most enduring lessons for living and thinking.”

Homi Bhabha “The Postcolonial and the Postmodern”

Postcolonialism is rather critical of development and is stating that the application of these
critiques can help in better understanding of the world and the placement of Europe in the center
of development through colonialism (Biccum, 2002).
Firstly, postcolonialism is trying to change the terms that so harshly divide the world through
dominant discourses. This means that terms that are associated with negative assumptions, such
as ‘the Third World’ are homogenic to people and countries and create mind correlation with
failure, poor political and state structure and economic backwardness (Chen ; Morley, 2006).
This further reflects in the second point of postcolonial critique, where the western world, that
stands for creative ideas and economic wealth tries to clearly distinguish itself from the rest of
the world. Post-colonialists seek to disrupt the homogenic distribution of space and time that
was created through colonialism (McEwan, 2001).
Bringing the terms into the practice, colonized countries should be able to claim their own past.
In this way, they should be also allowed to destabilize the dominant discourses of imperial

Europe. McEwan (2001) further comments that post-colonialism criticizes the lack of
theoretical presence of acknowledgment of the harmful consequences of colonization. It states,
that the Eurocentric disciplines have been insensitive to the values, culture, and practices of
‘the Third World' countries. Moreover, postcolonialism questions the advancements of the
technological process and industrialization and in this way continuously creates a challenge for
the non-western countries to reshape their views through new knowledge. Biccum (2002) states
that this critical application of teleology is essential for understanding and further display of
Eurocentrism at the center of the concept of Development.

2.2. Postcolonialism and feminism

Postcolonialism, as well as feminism, witnessed radical growth in their capacity to push forward
the unpredictability and assortment of life within a global and social perspective in the past
twenty years (Parashar, 2016). Both are compatible in the task of bringing closer the distance
between the center (western world) and the margins (third world countries) and well as help in
exchange of knowledge that margins have to the center. As critical discourses, they are able to
produce change and carry out detracting thinking in order to withdraw from the mistakes of the
past (Marchand, 2009). Further on, postcolonialism is stimulated by the encounter with
feminism to ‘produce a more critical self-reflexive account of cultural nationalism’ as is stated
by Leela Gandhi (1998, p.102). However, this paper is taking on a task in pointing out that
westernized feminism is not spared of criticism from a postcolonial perspective.

2.3. The intersection of postcolonialism, development and feminism

The intersection of postcolonialism, development and feminism have based on Munck (1999)
the most interesting interaction between the theoretical and practical sphere and offer wide
sphere of challenges and key issues that the western practices of development should face.

The first issue relates to the western feminism that is perceived as being hegemonized by the
third world. Less than four decades ago, it was assumed by western feminists that the problems
they were facing were universal to all women (McEwan, 2001). The activism as well as
oppression of women around the world was taken in common forms and only after extensive
research including various number of factors, such as nationality, language, region or race, it
was clearly shown that there is a need for better acknowledgment of the differences that were

being presented (McEwan, 2001). A significant number of publications by black feminists (e.g.
Lorde, 1984; Davis, 1982 ) state, in essence, the same principle: Feminism was for a long time
managed by the western view which led to the understanding of gender relations and sexual
politics to be hardly relatable to women outside of the western world. Moreover, the integrity
of social structures in the ‘South' may have been also negatively affected by the movements of
western feminists as the post-feminist have criticized (Cold-Ravnkilde, Engberg-Pedersen ;
Fejerskov, 2018). The historical and cultural difference in the lives of black women as well as
the fact that feminism existed in countries outside of the western world even before the 1960s
was pointed out by Burton (1999). Mohanty (1988) further added that western feminist should
not be perceiving themselves as dominant, but rather should share a common interest with
feminist around the world while considering the specifiers of each country (McEwan, 2001).
Post-colonialism as Mohanty pointed out shown, that the power representation that was done
by western women was yet another aftereffect of colonialism and was increasingly being
scrutinized. Being a postcolonial feminist, one allows herself to be open to hear different
opinions just as well as critiques instead of pushing forward colonialist supremacy (Marchand,

3. Conclusion
“Until the lion learns how to write, every story will glorify the hunter.” J. Nozipo Maraire
As was well explained and pointed out by El Morally (n.d.) in a critical paper, to be able to
enhance development programs and help in a way of gender mainstreaming, people from the
Orient and the South need to be given the legitimate space in the international community.
History has been always written by the winners, but postcolonialism and especially postcolonial
feminists as its shown in this paper, are able through critical analyses of the past, achieve greater
gender equality, which will further help not only generations to come but also institutions to
work better.
By providing a poof on how the application of postcolonial thinking on development and
western feminism functions, this work aimed to show that critical acknowledgment of past
colonialism can improve the present situation of women’s representation. As was shown in this
paper postcolonial perspective is crucial in mainstreaming of gender and it is important to be
present inside of the system to be able to play an active role in changing it.

4. Sources

Bhabha, H. K. (1994). The postcolonial and the postmodern. The location of culture, p.3.

Biccum, A. R. (2002). Interrupting the discourse of development: On a collision course with postcolonial
theory. Culture, Theory & Critique, 43(1), 33-50.

Blunt, A., & Wills, J. (2016). Dissident geographies: an introduction to radical ideas and practice. Routledge.

Burton, A (1999). Some trajectories of ‘feminism’ and ‘imperialism’. In Sinha, M., Guy, D. and Woollacott,
A., editors, Feminisms and internationalism, 214-224.

Chen, K. H., & Morley, D. (Eds.). (2006). Stuart Hall: Critical dialogues in cultural studies. Routledge, 201-

Cold-Ravnkilde, S. M., Engberg-Pedersen, L., & Fejerskov, A. M. (2018). Global norms and heterogeneous
development organizations: Introduction to special issue on New Actors, Old Donors and Gender Equality
Norms in International Development Cooperation.

Davis, A. (1982). Women, race and class. Vintage.

El Morally (n.d.). Why a Post-Colonial Perspective is Crucial in Mainstreaming Gender: An Analysis of the
Gender and Class Inequalities Reproduced by International Development, 8-17.

Kothari, U. (2005). From colonial administration to development studies: a post-colonial critique of the
history of development studies. A radical history of development studies: Individuals, institutions and
ideologies, 47-66.

Lin, L. (1998). Leela Gandhi. Postcolonial Theory: A Critical Introduction. ARIEL: A Review of
International English Literature, 29(4), 102.

Loomba, A. (2007). Colonialism/postcolonialism. Routledge.

Lorde, A. (1984). Sister outsider. Freedom.

Marchand, M. H. (2009). The Future of Gender and Development after 9/11: insights from postcolonial
feminism and transnationalism. Third World Quarterly, 30(5), 921-935.

McEwan, C. (2001). Postcolonialism, feminism and development: intersections and dilemmas. Progress in
Development Studies, 1(2), 93-111.

Mohanty, C. T. (1988). Under Western eyes: Feminist scholarship and colonial discourses. Feminist review,
(30), 61-88.

Munck, R. (1999). Deconstructing development discourses: of impasses, alternatives and politics. Critical
development theory: Contributions to a new paradigm, 196-210.

Parashar, S. (2016). Feminism and Postcolonialism:(En) gendering Encounters.

Radcliffe, S. (1999). Re-thinking development. In Cloke, P., Crang, P. and Goodwin, M., editors, Introducing
human geographies, 84-91.

Syed, J., & Metcalfe, B. D. (2017). Under western eyes: A transnational and postcolonial perspective of
gender and HRD. Human Resource Development International, 20(5), 403-414.


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