The issue here will be to de-emphasize the binaristic opposition inherent in the two contending positions, in order to locate a reflection on African women's writing within the interstitial spaces between the two theoretical possibilities. Carving out a space of in-betweeness between the traditionalist and counter-traditionalist articulations of African discourse has enormous advantages, in terms of the possibility it offers of bringing out historical continuities in the African experience, and also of de-essentializing some of the more romanticized perspectives of the traditionalist position.
The notion of essentialism is used advisedly here, because one cannot be too 13 circumspect in deploying it within the context of African discourse. The problems it poses for African Studies will be examined later. The advantages of locating one's arguments in the space of in-betweeness have been underscored by two African scholars in particular, Harry Garuba and Mahmood Mamdani. While proposing a broad-ranging theory of animist realism as a conceptual prism for African literary and cultural discourse, Garuba resists any temptation to read Africa's animist heritage and the practices of modernity as binary structures of opposition.
His exploration of the interstitial spaces and connections between them allows him to identify continuities and structural links between African animism and the contemporary socio-political institutions of modernity What Garuba does in the fields of literature and culture, Mahmood Mamdani does in the field of political discourse. His opinion on interstitial positionality, as expressed in his book, Citizen and Subject , is worth quoting in some detail: The solution to this theoretical impasse - between modernists and communitarians, Eurocentrists and Africanists - does not lie in choosing a side and defending an entrenched position.
Because both sides to the debate highlight different aspects of the same African dilemma, I will suggest that the way forward lies in sublating both, through a double move that simultaneously critiques and affirms. To arrive at a creative synthesis transcending both positions, one needs to problematize each. However, his other call to problematize each position is very useful in underscoring the importance of the interstitial space. The focus on possibilities lying between the two positions somewhat weakens the traditionalist viewpoint which attributes the present disadvantaged condition of African women solely to external factors like colonialism and the concomittant Western sexist 14 ethos it implanted in Africa.
African women, one must admit, suffered forms of sexist and patriarchal oppression peculiar to the African cultural situation long before contact with the West. In the same vein, it problematizes the counter-traditionalist position which relies mainly on myths and oral tales as in the case of Schipper and downplays the role of imperialism and colonialism in the present predicament of African women.
The appropriate discursive move becomes to centralize the historical event of colonialism with a view to determining its role, i f any, in the amplification or modification of forms of patriarchal and sexist oppression which were not entirely absent in precolonial African cultures. Colonialism and the Production of African Female Subjects This study takes the colonial experience as a principal discursive marker in African women's writing, but not because of a conviction that another inventory of the consequences of colonialism is still necessary.
Rather, this emphasis is to acknowledge the fact that no enduring analysis of the socio-historical trajectory of the subject can be envisaged in places like Africa, Asia or Latin America, without taking into account the central role of colonialism in the vitiation of that subject. The necessary enterprise of making an inventory of the consequences of the colonial encounter has already been amply performed in the case of Africa by, among others, Frantz Fanon in The Wretched of the Earth and Chinweizu in The West and the Rest of Us The consequences of colonialism in the Indian context can be found in the works of scholars like Ashis Nandy and Homi Bhabha, and in the reflections of the Indian subalternists whose work a major part of the theoretical framework for this study.
Suffice it to say here, then, that my interest in the dynamics of colonialism goes beyond the conceptualization of that event in terms of the political domination and economic exploitation of the colonized, as amply investigated in some of the works cited above. I am mainly interested in colonialism as a transformative event which fundamentally altered the social and cultural life of the colonized societies of Africa for good. Through its brutal insertion into the socio-cultural scheme of things in Africa and its eventual domination of that terrain, colonialism wittingly 1 4 ascribed to itself the cardinal role of being the sole producer of new and subservient African subjectivities.
In essence, colonialism not only affected what Biodun Jeyifo calls "the nature of things"15 but also became the main determiner of the very process of being in Africa. It is within this broad perspective that Eloise Briere's description of colonial contact as generative of "une nouvelle organisation sociale"1 6 becomes particularly pertinent.
M y position on colonialism's investment in the construction of novel and subservient African subjectivities is also informed by Briere's telling description of colonialism as having affected "le psychisme profond du colonise et de la colonisee, lui volant - au moins en partie - ses structures d'insertion et d'equilibre social, sa langue, son imaginaire et son Dieu. While it is true that contact with the West 16 cannot be said to be solely responsible for the introduction of sexism and an oppressive patriarchal ethos into African cultures, it is also true that colonialism inscribed hitherto unknown forms of sexism and male-centrism within the African worldview, thereby taking existing gender asymmetries to new heights.
Mamdani has provided some illuminating insights into this aspect of the colonial experience: Like all colonial powers, the British - I add the French and the Portuguese -worked with a single model of customary authority in precolonial Africa. That model was monarchical, patriarchal, and authoritarian.
It presumed a king at the center of every polity, a chief on every piece of administrative ground, a patriarch in every homestead or kraal. Whether in the homestead, the village, or the kingdom, authority was considered an attribute of a personal despotism. The consequences of the patriarchal assumptions of the colonial authorities were predictably disastrous in matriarchal societies - as in Ghana - where central social authority was not vested in a male member of the extended family. Colonialism, being a masculinist ideology, automatically masculinized any space upon which it inflicted itself.
It thus dismantled the matriarchal systems that had coexisted with patriarchy in certain precolonial African societies, and those who lost out in that power game were, of course, women. Reacting to Ifi Amadiume's viewpoint1 9 in this respect, Mamdani argues that Matriarchy This autonomous space was uniformly destroyed by colonial rule. And in this sense the "world historical defeat" of the female gender was experienced in Africa not as much with the onset of state organization as with the consolidation of the colonial Perhaps Oyeronke Oyewumi's The Invention of Women provides one of the most illuminating accounts of how the social process of colonialism "invented" what 17 she sees as a hitherto unknown category of "woman" as inferiorized, silenced, devalued and subordinated to the category of man in Africa.
This work's thought-provoking subtitle indicates that the author is "making an African sense of Western gender discourses", many of which she finds irrelevant in the African context. Oyewumi explores how the masculinized and sexist ethos of the colonial machine eroded the presence of African women from such valorizing sites as politics, administration, religion, education, labour, and property ownership, especially of land.
So thorough were the colonial masters in their self-assigned duty of sexist social engineering that African women were eventually forced into the conundrum of what is now referred to in African feminist scholarship as "double colonization". They were dominated, exploited and inferiorized as Africans together with African men and then separately inferiorized and marginalized as African women.
Like Sofola, Oyewumi takes great pains to analyze the logical outcome of the colonial devalorization of African womanhood. The crucial point to be retained is that colonialism's most disastrous legacy lies in the dismantling of the traditional African public sphere and the subsequent erosion of the cultural ethos that governed social relations within it. In its place was constructed a new, "civilized" public sphere within which all the structures and institutions of power, agency and upward social mobility were located.
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African women were systematically excluded from this new site. It is true that there is no basis to hold that forms of patriarchal and sexist oppression did not exist in pre-colonial Africa. But it is equally true that nowhere in pre-colonial Africa did women constitute a "muted group"2 3, nor were they socially invisible. Pre-colonial African cultures had complex and democratic socio-political structures evolved in which women were active participants as agents. For instance, in the case of the Yoruba people of Western Nigeria, social positioning was determined mostly by seniority and not by gender.
The sexist categorization of some professions as feminine, hence inferior, was also largely unknown in several pre-colonial African societies where women and men alike indulged in such activities as farming and trading. Consequently, it can be argued that in view of colonialism's complete and radical transformation of social, economic, political and cultural space in the entire African continent, no single African woman escaped its inferiorizing effects.
Whether she lived in the city or in the countryside, she was subject to the same process of generalized sexist subservience by the colonial regime. A contrary argument might be made in some quarters, that more than thirty years after the attainment of formal independence by African countries, it is no longer safe to assume that the modern African woman is still subject to the effects of colonialism. This argument can be countered with the obvious fact that colonialism withdrew from Africa only after putting in place structures that would replace it with a no less pernicious heir: neo-colonialism.
It is even more pertinent to remember that all over Africa today, the subjectivity and the social position of every newly born girl is still being determined by the most sexist, subalternizing political 19 legacy of colonialism: the modern African state, appropriately defined by Oyewumi as "the state of patriarchy" African women, oppressed by tradition and religion in the pre-colonial setting before being muted and rendered invisible by the historical event of colonialism, will constitute the focus of reflection throughout this study.
Approaching the African female subject from the standpoint of her objectification by the combined, sometimes mutually reinforcing, effects of tradition and colonialism opens up very useful possibilities for a revisionist reading of the texts of francophone African women writers and the criticism they have so far generated. These writers, like their male counterparts, are mostly products of the ecole coloniale. Their texts are therefore irrevocably marked by that experience. Furthermore, one of the strategies deployed by colonialism to inferiorize women was to exclude them from educational institutions.
This explains why, for its first two decades, the production of modern African literatures was an exclusively male affair. The late coming to writing of African women in general, and francophone African women in particular, ensured that their writing, when it eventually emerged, was born into a subalternized ambiance. In other words, by the time pioneer African women's texts like Flora Nwapa's Efuru and Therese Kuoh-Moukoury's Rencontres essentielles were published, there was already a dominant male tradition constructed by critics as the norm.
The writings of male authors like J. Adeola James' review in African Literature Today of Idu, Flora Nwapa's second novel, and Ernest Emenyonu's rejoinder to this review in the same journal are also indicative of the existence of an early intra-male flow of usually condescending discourse on African women writers. African women's writing was therefore born into a pre-determined position of subalternity.
In view of the positioning and ontologizing, by male critics, of francophone African women's texts as somewhat "inferior" to the dominant male African texts, it is not surprising that the female characters in those works, usually alter egos of the authors, mostly occupy spaces of absence, silence or subordination. We shall examine the textual trajectory of those characters, mindful at all times of the extra-textual significance of their her stories.
Apart from Mudimbe's own work 2 5, the literature justifying the philosophical and historical foundation of that statement is vast and cannot possibly receive an exhaustive review here. However, it is worthwhile examining a relatively representative position on how that process of invention was effected.
Reflecting on the broader situation of spaces invented by the West all over the world, Gayatri Spivak states: 21 I am thinking about the imperialist project which had to assume that the earth it territorialised was in fact previously uninscribed. So then a world, on a simple level of cartography, inscribed what was presumed to be uninscribed. Now this worlding actually is also a texting, a textualising, a making into art, a making into an object to be understood26 emphasis added This statement sufficiently shows that Africa was not only invented by the West, it was also made into an object of epistemological inquiry, to be approached almost exclusively from the standpoint of Western-spawned discursive models.
Consequently, modern African Studies as an academic field straddling disciplines like literature, political science, philosophy, sociology, anthropology and history is essentially an invention of the West. In literature, apart from having to write in the master's language, pioneer African writers relied very heavily on Western models in terms of form and narrative structure. And the critics who emerged to elaborate a critical tradition for the emergent African literatures in the sixties were mostly Western critics using necessarily Eurocentric critical tools.
By the time the first African thinkers arrived from their formative bases in Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Yale and the Sorbonne to join what they condemned as the Western monologue on African discourse, they could only maneuver within already existing Western paradigms of African Studies. The politics and the subterranean ideological tensions that characterized the transfer of the editorial and discursive control of Black Orpheus from the Western guard Beier, Moore, Theroux to an African guard 22 Abiola Irele, J.
Clark in are good indications of how determined the emergent African literati were to wrest control of African discourse from Western participants. For instance, Clark published an essay, "The Legacy o f Caliban", in the very first issue o f Black Orpheus he co-edited with Irele, and he frowned at the idea o f Westerners setting the standards in African literature: For a variety of reasons the European sector has been more articulate and o f overwhelming influence upon African writers.
Jealously, it holds fast to its claim of being the original owner and therefore the natural custodian o f the European language the African is using in his works. These in turn belong to the tradition of literate literature which again goes back to Europe. The very machinery for publication and distribution of African works is to be found chiefly in the capital cities of Europe. Then, of course, there is the old economic supremacy Finally, there are the agents of this ubiquitous complex operating right in the midst of the African sector, and ironically the scouts and promoters of new talents are often to be found among their ranks.
Suffice it to say, however, that while dismissing their Western colleagues as meddlesome outsiders who inflicted their Western neuroses and biases on African discourse 3 0, African scholars and writers unwittingly erected their opposition on the same Western models they sought to deconstruct. These, then, are the conditions in which the much talked-about African theoretical dependence on the West emerged. So pervasive was this dependence that it came to be perceived as another kind of colonization; hence the urgency with which Chinweizu, Onwucheka Jemie and Chris Madubuike argued for a reversal of that trend in their 23 provocative book, Toward the Decolonization of African Literature Their heady rejection of every Western theoretical contribution to the understanding of African literatures was amplified by Udenta Udenta in his Revolutionary Aesthetics and the African Literary Process and Niyi Osundare in his powerful monograph, African Literature and the Crisis of Post-Structuralist Theorizing Nevertheless, part of the problem posed to African studies by the reality of theoretical dependence is what I will refer to as the crisis of authority in African production of knowledge.
The situation has been created in which every African essay or critical book must seek the blessing of certain stock Western authorities before being reckoned with. The situation is worse for the African thinker operating in the context of the Euro-American Academy. So intense is the pressure to draw on the authority of these thinkers that African critics sometimes unwittingly attribute the dialogic in African novels to Bakhtin: as i f Africa had waited for Bakhtin before evolving age-long communalist polities structured around the very principles of dialogue and social polyphony.
Dialogism's immense success sterns from the fact that it had the good fortune of being propounded in the context of Western individualistic monologism. It is really nothing new for the African. What has happened in the last couple of decades has been a progressive transatlantic alliance between Europe and North America to constitute the behemoth now loosely referred to, in Third World oppositional scholarship, as Euro-American high theory.
Michel Foucault, Didier Eribon's biography, provides insights into the workings of this theoretical alliance.
La destruction de la raison
In most instances, Europe produces the thinker whose ideas are later 24 adopted, canonized and "globalized" by the North American academy. Eribon rightly suggests that the likes of Foucault, Baudrillard, Lacan, Derrida and Deleuze became world intellectual figures only after making the transatlantic pilgrimage. When the ideas of Europe are received and canonized on the other side of the Atlantic, the Euro-American behemoth emerges.
This behemoth is the well-oiled validating and authorizing machine that produces the situation of "asymmetric ignorance"31 which Gyan Prakash decries. By "asymmetric ignorance", therefore, Prakash means that the Third World scholar cannot afford or is not allowed to be as ignorant of Western theories as his Western colleagues can afford or are allowed to be of Third World theories. Oyewumi sums up the situation thus: The point is that the West is at the center of African knowledge-production It is clear that the West is the norm against which Africans continue to be measured by others and often by themselves.
The questions that inform research are developed in the West, and the operative theories and concepts are derived from Western experiences Consequently, African studies continue to be "Westocentric. Even if, as Prakash opines, one's criticism must acknowledge the fact that "it inhabits the structures of Western domination that it seeks to undo" 3 3,1 will no less attempt to study the textual trajectory of the African female subject in the works of francophone African women writers, drawing theoretical authority 25 essentially from subaltern studies in India, and from Africa-influenced versions of feminism.
A n Afro-Asiatic theoretical cross-fertilization will be the logical outcome of my discursive strategies. To put it in the language of international political economy, what I hope will emerge is a South-South cultural and theoretical contact that will be open to insights from the West without necesssarily centralizing them.
I am therefore not proposing an insular theoretical framework similar to the Euro-American behemoth. In trying to understand the location of francophone African women writers within the inferiorizing. Etymologically, the term subaltern belongs to the military register, where the "subaltern" is a low rank subordinate to higher-grade officers. However, the initiative of transforming the term into a theoretical concept and investing it with latent ideological connotations belongs to the Italian Marxist thinker, Antonio Gramsci. In his "Notes on Italian History" 3 4, Gramsci variously uses the expressions "subaltern classes", "subaltern groups" and "subaltern social groups" to conceptualize the discursive spaces inhabited by subjects the peasantry and the people on the lowest rung of the socio-economic ladder.
The Gramscian subaltern is Marxism's hoi polloi, Fanon's "wretched of the earth" and Paulo Freire's "the oppressed" rolled into one. Gramsci's project is to map out "methodological criteria" for studying the history of the subaltern classes. In the process, concepts such as the State, hegemony, dominance and subordination emerge to characterize the relationship between the ruling and the 26 subaltern classes. The State is not only the mechanism through which the historical unity of the ruling classes is materialized, it is also largely responsible for the subordination of the subaltern classes who, in Gramsci's opinion, are "always subject to the activities of the ruling groups" The point should be stressed that Gramsci's Marxist orientation is largely responsible for his seeing the subaltern's subordination to the ruling elites as a consequence of the historical victory of capitalism.
This is where the fundamental difference between Gramsci's use of the term and its consequent reconceptualization by the Indian subalternists appears. In the work of the Subaltern Studies Collective - a group which boasts members such as Ranajit Guha, Gayatri Spivak, Partha Chatterjee, Dipesh Chakrarbaty and Gyan Prakash - the condition of subalternity is essentially a consequence of colonialism and what Edward Said calls "its derivatives and heirs in the present" As was the case in Africa and the Americas, colonialism engineered a massive social, political and economic subalternization of the dominated peoples.
And in the process of writing Indian historiography, British historians and their elitist Indian allies simply recorded the oppositional processes that culminated in Indian independence as the handiwork of Indian elites. After being inferiorized by colonialism, the Indian subaltern was in turn 27 erased from official narratives of Indian history. The need to offer a revisionist history of India that would account for the historical agency of the subaltern classes in the struggle against imperialism therefore constitutes the central theme of the Indian subaltern studies project.
M y study will start from the working definitions of the subaltern found in the writings of the Indian subalternists: minorities, disadvantaged and dispossessed groups, immigrants, women, or people "of colour". It will also validate, as the Indians have done, the Gramscian injunction that "every trace of independent initiative on the part of subaltern groups should therefore be of incalculable value for the integral historian" Like that of Gramsci, the subaltern whose historiography the Indian theorists sought to reconstruct is very obviously male.
Even i f the category of 'woman' is usually to be found in their definitions of the subaltern, their essays, with very few exceptions, almost always narrow down the argument to a reconstruction of the historiography of the male subaltern. Woman, as a discursive category, is usually dissolved into phallogocentric categories like 'people', 'rural gentry' or 'peasants'.
Consider, for instance, Guha's definition of the subaltern: 28 The terms 'people' and 'subaltern classes' have been used as synonymous throughout this note. The social groups and elements included in this category represent the demographic difference between the total Indian population and all those whom we have described as 'elite'. Some of these classes and groups such as the lesser rural gentry, impoverished landlords, rich peasants and upper-middle peasants who 'naturally' ranked among the 'people' and the 'subaltern', could under certain circumstances act for the 'elite', as explained above, and therefore be classified as such in some local or regional situations.
Fredric Jameson also provides an interesting definition of subalternity and by implication, the subaltern which makes no specific reference to women. According to Jameson, subalternity can be understood as "the feelings of mental inferiority and habits of subservience and obedience which necessarily and structurally develop in situations of domination - most dramatically in the experience of colonized peoples".
The subaltern female characters we shall come across in francophone African women's novels have been socialized into "feelings of mental inferiority and habits of subservience" by the combined forces of patriarchy, tradition, religion and colonialism: Against the backdrop of masculinized conceptions of subalternity by scholars like Guha and Jameson, Gayatri Spivak offers illuminating subalternist engagements with the position of woman.
Indeed, it is in Spivak's work that the masculinized categories of 'people', 'subaltern classes' or 'subaltern social groups' preferred by her male colleagues are refigured as the 'subaltern woman'. Spivak's 'subaltern woman' is at the centre of a theoretical supersyncreticism to borrow Benitez-Rojo's term straddling Marxism, postcolonialism, deconstruction, Third World feminism, and subalternist historiography. In what is rightfully considered as her most 29 polemical contribution to subalternist epistemology, Spivak offers a searing critique of the effacement of sexual difference in much of subaltern studies theorizing: Within the effaced itinerary of the subaltern subject, the track of sexual difference is doubly effaced.
The question is not of female participation in insurgency, or the ground rules of the sexual division of labor, for both of which there is "evidence. If, in the context of colonial production, the subaltern has no history and cannot speak, the subaltern as female is even more deeply in the shadow.
Spivak begins what one might call an analysis of the existential impasse of the subaltern woman read Third World woman with the following pertinent observations: Between patriarchy and imperialism, subject-constitution and object-formation, the figure of the woman disappears, not into a pristine nothingness, but into a violent shuttling which is the displaced figuration of the "third-world woman" caught between tradition and modernization. Although Spivak subsequently clarified her position by submitting that the subaltern sexed subject cannot speak, because her utterances are always neutralized beforehand by the forces we know too well, the point remains that her conclusion essentializes again I use this word reluctantly the condition of subalternity as a fatalistic ontology.
While acknowledging the fact that Spivak's question is open to multiple interpretations, Ashcroft nonetheless asks: Can 'colonized subjects' be effective and, indeed, 'meaningful' only i f they speak in the 'voice of their own experience', the language of their own culture? If they 'translate' that experience into the discourse of the dominant power in order to be heard, are they somehow reshaped or co-opted by that discourse, able to speak only in terms of the dominant culture?
History hardly allows for any other possibility. Every oppressed entity has been acted upon and reshaped by the culture and discourses of the oppressor and this reality need not be a weakness. Seizure of the oppressors' discourses, signs and symbols and their subsequent re-deployment as instruments of liberation are at the very centre of the postcolonial transformation Ashcroft speaks of. Salman Rushdie sums up this argument very neatly in Imaginary Homelands : I hope all of us share the view that we can't simply use the language in the way the British did; that it needs remaking for our own purposes.
Those of us who do use English do so in spite of our ambiguity towards it, or perhaps because of that, perhaps because we can find in that linguistic struggle a reflection of other struggles taking place in the real world, struggles between the cultures within ourselves and the influences at work upon our societies. To conquer English may be to complete the process of making ourselves free. The power of textual representation, wielded exclusively by men in the early phase of modern African literatures, played a significant part in the subalternization of women. One of the implications of the Spivakian position is that the subaltern woman has never spoken, cannot speak and may never speak.
Linda Alcoff, among others, has reminded us that there are serious problems involved in speaking for others49 and I will explore those problems later as they relate to my own location and politics within African feminist discourse. Suffice it to assert for now that in Africa the subaltern woman, despite her positional disadvantages, has always spoken. Whenever necessary, she has always "inflicted" her voice on the social space, as evidenced in the Senegalese concept of sani-baat or voice-throwing, a process through which women intrude into, interrupt, alter or disrupt discourse by literally "throwing in" their voices.
We sometimes substitute our voices for their own and we do not even know when we do this nor are we able to recognise the differences in the mixed or substituted voices. Women of European descent are most prone to these ventriloquisms, frequently calling on African women to play the role of ventriloquists' puppets, speaking to other people's agenda. Ogundipe-Leslie also introduces here one of the reasons responsible for the discursive insurgency of Third World women against feminist discourses authorized by women of European descent.
The centralization of the privileged White, Western, middle-class woman as the Subject of second-wave feminist discourses, and the inability of Western feminist paradigms to engage with imperialism and neo-colonialism as they affect non-Western women, have been recognized for some time now in third-wave feminisms that attempt to include race and class in relation to gender. The exclusion of non-Western and Western women of colour, the pretentious universalism of initial Western second-wave feminisms and the insufferable arrogance of some of the self-proclaimed spokespersons of Western feminisms in their articulation of that dubious universalism, are some of the familiar arguments in support of the emergence of alternative feminisms in all parts of the Third World.
Ifi Amadiume's experience with the arrogance of some mainstream Western feminists in the United States illustrates these attitudes: Once, in such a seminar, I asked a young White woman why she was studying social anthropology. She replied that she was hoping to go to Zimbabwe, and felt that she could help women there by advising them how to organize.
The Black women in the audience gasped in astonishment. Here was someone scarcely past girlhood, who had just started university and had never fought a war in her life. She was planning to go to Africa to teach female veterans of a liberation struggle how to organize! This is the kind of arrogant, i f not absurd attitude we encounter repeatedly. It also accounts for the emergence of African and Africa-influenced versions of feminist epistemology that can, in my view, be contrapuntally deployed with subaltern theory in the reading of francophone African women's writing.
A vast body of work now exists in which the scope, meaning and strategies of African feminist theories have been established. The latter, which serves as the introduction to Ngambika , a landmark collection of critical essays on African women's writing, articulates six major characteristics of what constitutes, in Boyce Davies' words, "a genuine African feminism. It is not antagonistic to African men but it challenges them to be aware of certain salient aspects of women's subjugation which differ from the generalized oppression of all African peoples.
As such, it acknowledges its affinities with international feminism, but delineates a specific African feminism with certain specific needs and goals arising out of the concrete realities of women's lives in African societies. E x c l u s i o n f r o m the social arena i n A f r i c a translates into conf inement to and subordination w i t h i n marginal sites o f powerlessness. S t i w a n i s m therefore proposes setting i n m o t i o n regenerative processes that w i l l result i n gender equal i ty w i t h i n the A f r i c a n soc ia l space.
T h e k e y w o r d here is " i n c l u s i o n " , w h i c h presupposes co l laborat ion between the two sexes to attain this gender equality and is also indicat ive o f A f r i c a n feminis ts ' reluctance to accept certain separatist or isolat ionist trends i n mainstream Western f e m i n i s m w h i c h encourage w o m e n to create a r o o m o f their o w n.
G i v e n the fact that tradition and the sexist modernity introduced by c o l o n i a l i s m are both responsible for the e x c l u s i o n o f w o m e n i n A f r i c a , soc ia l practices that subalternize w o m e n have become so deeply rooted that f ight ing to eradicate them i n a context as vo lat i le as A f r i c a , without appearing to pr iv i lege certain W e s t e r n concepts over A f r i c a n values, is a delicate task that demands the shrewdness and astuteness associated w i t h the process o f p o l i t i c a l 35 negotiation.
And this is where Nnaemeka's concept of negofeminism feminism of negotiation can be instrumental to achieving the aims of stiwanism. Cultural differences between Africa and the West obviously affect feminist politics on the continent. Katherine Frank, a prominent Western feminist critic of African literatures, has suggested that Feminism, by definition, is a profoundly individualistic philosophy: it values personal growth and individual fulfilment over any larger communal needs or good.
African society, of course, even in its most westernized modern forms, places the values of the group over those of the individual with the result that the notion of an African feminist almost seems a contradiction in terms. The rational thinking, Cartesian individual is at the core of the construction of subjectivity in the West. Notwithstanding the onslaught of poststructuralism, postmodernism, and various models of Western feminism against his hegemonic status, this male subject remains the supreme subject of Western philosophies and discourses.
Tension was unavoidable wherever imperialism foisted masculinist Western individualistic ethos and discourses on communalistic spaces, as was the case in Africa and the Americas. Now, African feminists have struggled over the years to formulate their own discourses and differentiate themselves from Western feminists. The more historically minded of them have foraged in Africa's past to excavate traditional 'feminist' strategies of African women and to reconceptualize them for the present struggle. These efforts, however, cannot erase the fact that the spectre of Western individualism still looms largely over feminist practice and strategies in Africa.
This is made all the more pertinent by the fact that liberal and radical feminism, both presented as exclusionist and individualistic by Rosemarie Tong in her Feminist Thought , 36 are the versions of Western feminism that have been imposed on the African context. It must be borne in mind that those involved in African feminist practice - writers, critics, professionals and activists in the private sector - are mostly the privileged, Westernized actors that Ifi Amadiume refers to in her recently published book as the "daughters of imperialism" The African feminist is therefore constantly torn between the traditional pull of communalism and the modernist individualism of Western liberal and radical feminisms.
She must consequently deploy negofeminist strategies i f her struggle is to have any meaning in the African context. Indeed, my reading of the novels of Abibatou Traore, Fatou KeTta and Regina Yaou in Chapter Four wil l underscore the fact that the negofeminist strategies of the heroine in francophone African women's novels are governed to a large extent by the tensions between tradition and modernity. The valorization of African women's status as mother and the need to turn motherhood into a liberationist instrument, inform Rose Acholonu's concept of "motherism", which she describes as "the Afrocentric alternative to feminism".
In her 37 book, Motherism , Acholonu takes issue with the negative perception of motherhood as an impediment to women's emancipation in certain second-wave Western feminist discussions, and posits that wifehood and motherhood have historically represented different experiences for Western and African women. Admittedly, not all Western feminists agree with the deconstruction of biological motherhood by Oakley and Firestone. For instance, Adrienne Rich is critical of Firestone in her book Of Woman Born and makes a number of pro-biological motherhood submissions that are largely precursive of Acholonu's subsequent contentions in Motherism, as well as reminiscent of earlier first-wave debates over "maternal feminism".
Acholonu's originality lies in the peculiar African dimension she introduces into the pro-motherhood argument, based essentially on an Igbo world view. Contextual and cultural variations notwithstanding, the perception of motherhood in most African societies can be illustrated by the Igbo language of eastern Nigeria. In Igbo culture, 'Nneka' meaning "mother is supreme" is a very common name given to girls. That supremacy was eroded by imperialism, as African feminists are wont to argue. The task for some, therefore, is to develop an emancipatory agenda for African women, with a revitalization of her status as mother as the point of departure.
These three concepts -stiwanism, negofeminism and motherism - are workable within a subalternist paradigm, because they locate African women in the purview of the subalternist concepts of 38 subordination, domination and hegemony, while proposing liberationist strategies cognizant of the peculiarities of African history and cultures. From Subaltern Studies to African Feminisms: The Cross-Disciplinary Imperative Some qualifications must be made with regard to my own deployment of the major operative concepts of subaltern theory before proceeding further.
Because of the Marxist orientation of the thinkers in the Subaltern Studies Collective and the precursive influence of Gramsci's thought on their work, the subjects described as subalterns are invariably approached as a class, hence the recurrence of the expression 'subaltern classes'. If the Indian subalternists have encountered very few problems with their approach, it is because their objects of enquiry are overwhelmingly male.
Conceptualizing subalterns as a class is bound to be a counter-productive approach, however, when one focuses the argument on women.
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Apart from the familiar arguments regarding the issue of class analysis as problematic for feminist strategies, because women straddle different hierarchical classes and can therefore not be approached as a homogeneously oppressed class, class analysis is made all the more problematic by the rigid connotations the word 'class' has come to acquire owing to its Marxist antecedents.
From Marx to Lukacs, from Gramsci to Althusser, the notion of class has come to denote the location of subjects within the capitalist mode of production and also within the political apparatus of the state. This rigidity is most apparent in Engels' definition of historical materialism: 39 Historical materialism is that view of the course of history which seeks the ultimate cause and the great moving power of all historical events in the economic development of society, in changes of the modes of production and exchange, in the consequent division of society into distinct classes, and in the struggles of these classes against one another.
These terms are commonplace in the works of the Indian subalternists. The problem with this type of analysis lies in its unidirectional tone, when Homo sapiens is reduced to Homo economicus, which justifies Shulamith Firestone's critique of the Marxist reality as "a partial reality".
The limitations become clearer in the context of a feminist reading of works by African women writers. None of the female characters in the novels we shall study operate in the sites of economic production evoked by the Marxist, Indian subalternist sense of that expression. And since most of the female subjects are married women in polygamous or monogamous contexts, the question arises as to whether they constitute a class within the domestic site of subalternity.
Chidi Amuta provides a striking example of how not to theorize the domestic site in African novels. In his otherwise impressive book, The Theory of African Literature , Amuta offers a curious reading of Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart , using the capitalist mode of production approach and the bombastic diction of class analysis.
In a novel set in Umuofia, a fictional, precolonial, preindustrial, and hence precapitalist village in eastern Nigeria, Amuta curiously comes up with a Marxist class analysis. Okonkwo, the no-nonsense hero of the novel, falls into the comprador bourgeois 40 class. His wives "naturally" fall into the exploited and oppressed class! And the main preoccupation of that novel, which is to explore the socio-cultural dislocations and the political disempowerment suffered by the people of Umuofia upon contact with the White man, is brushed aside in Amuta's problematic reading.
I am by no means proposing a limited reading of African women's experience within the domestic context. I have zeroed in on the domestic site solely for the purpose of demonstrating some of the limitations of class analysis, and consequently to signal a major difference between my reading of subalternity and the uses to which the Indian scholars have put the concept. While the elite or the ruling classes have it, the subaltern classes do not.
The modalities through which the holders and wielders of State power secure the consent of those over whom they exercise power are referred to as 'hegemony'. Where State power is exercised without the consent of the subaltern, the condition of 'dominance' occurs. When they "rebel and rise up" 6 3 against that condition, 'insurgency' occurs.
These concepts underscore some of the interesting problems associated with interdisciplinary reflection. It is clear that the concepts mentioned above - 'hegemony', 41 'dominance', 'subordination', 'insurgency' - belong more appropriately to the disciplines of the Social Sciences, especially Political Science. Their pre-eminence in Subaltern Studies is no surprise, since most members of the Collective are from the Social Sciences.
Gayatri Spivak is the only notable member with a literary background. We are therefore confronted here with the question of how to readapt concepts traditionally associated with the hardware language of the Social Sciences to the software language of literature and cultural studies. Put differently, can patriarchal domination of women be read as hegemony? Can African women's struggle against patriarchal domination, as refracted in their fictional works, be read as insurgency? Of all the aforementioned concepts, 'subordination' and 'dominance' are the least problematic when deployed as critical tools.
For instance, it does not sound out of tune if one describes Okonkwo's wives as being subordinated to their husband in Things Fall Apart. The title of Meena Kelkar's book, Subordination of Woman , certainly does not strike one as odd. Similarly, expressions like 'patriarchal domination', and 'male dominance' have long been commonplace in feminist literary criticism. Power, as Alvin Toffler reminds us in Power shift , has become very pervasive and inheres in every aspect and every facet of our interactive lives.
Hegemony can therefore occur even when State power is not at play. The sort of power that extended family patriarchs wield over female characters in the novels of several African male and female authors is hegemonic, insofar as the most ardent defenders of that patriarchal power usually turn out to be women who ensure the consent of other women in the household. Where the generalized subalternization of female 42 subjects in the literary work is sustained by culture, and where there is evidence of consensual submission to that cultural order by female characters, we are equally in the presence of hegemony.
It is also useful to move beyond the orthodox perception of insurgency as mass or popular uprisings against State power, a narrower version of it being armed insurgency against the State by disgruntled guerrilla movements. Insurgency, therefore, need not always be against the State. It can be against patriarchal, cultural, socio-economic, and, even epistemic domination.
This broad definition accounts for why those of us involved in oppositional scholarship against contemporary manifestations of Euro-American imperialisms are sometimes wont to describe our work as insurgent textualities, and for Benita Parry what we do is nothing less than "dissident criticism" 6 4. When broadened in this manner, the concepts of Subaltern Studies become applicable to a reading of African women's writing.
The legitimate question may now be asked concerning the point at which I wish to intervene in the process of knowledge generation on African women's writing. In , Katherine Frank raised a few questions which, in her opinion, ought to determine the nature, scope and strategies of a feminist approach to the criticism of the African novel. Those questions are worth revisiting: 43 Why are there so few women writers in Africa? What educational, marital, and familial circumstances foster and thwart writing by African women?
Who do African women writers read and seek to emulate as literary models? Why have so many of them ceased to publish after writing only a novel or two? Can we trace a women's African literary history in the two brief decades that have elapsed since Nwapa How can we rescue and re-evaluate people like Nwapa and Aidoo and Ogot from the parentheses and footnotes of male-oriented, male-authored African literary history?
Consequently, much of the strategic thinking of the s through to the mids was concerned in varying degrees with answering Frank's questions. This was largely a conceptual phase, in which critics worked to establish appropriate critical concepts for apprehending the experiences of African women. The sheer mass of critical works books, essays, special issues of journals, monographs on the concepts of African feminist discourses in the last two decades now underscores the need to move the argument beyond conceptual foundationalism.
This submission places me in the company of Homi Bhabha, who contends that discourse has now arrived at a "postfoundationalist" phase. In essence, rather than embark on foundationalist definitions of the subaltern woman in francophone African women's novels, an issue that has been addressed by critics in the last two decades, I will be more concerned with what the subaltern woman does and how she does it in texts by francophone African women. While I do not seek to reverse the axiom that ontology precedes agency, I will nonetheless insist on the validity of shifting the argument from considerations of who the subaltern African woman is ontology to analyses of what she does agency.
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By embarking on this course of political and pragmatic engagement, I am aligning myself with the tradition which makes African scholars eschew any critical approach that is socio-politically irrelevant. Bhabha raises the crucial issue of what is done in the name of the minority. This point deserves attention. In essence, the intellectual cannot not represent. However, the function of representation becomes more delicate when the intellectual in this case, myself is a male anglophone African critic reflecting for and in the name of the subaltern woman in francophone African women's novels.
One of the paradoxes of the African feminist project is that while African feminists mark their boundary from Western feminists by proposing a non-antagonistic attitude towards African men, the same feminists become very confrontational whenever a male critic approaches a female text. It is no longer news to anyone in African literary circles that one critic, Femi Ojo-Ade, has been at the receiving end of disparaging attacks from African feminists since he published two famous essays in the s , "Female Writers, Male Critics" and "Still a Victim?
Like Ojo-Ade and Mazrui before me, I have had my own share of acerbic recrimination since I began to make public interventions in African feminist discourse in the mids. Interestingly, attacks on me in the literary pages of newspapers came from both male and female writers. Desktop version Mobile version. Results per book Results per chapter. La destruction de la raison. Search inside the book.
Table of contents. Cite Share. Cited by. Index Text Notes Author. Full text. Notes 1 G. Author Jacques Bouveresse. Read Open Access. Freemium Recommend to your library for acquisition. La reconstruction de la raison Dialogues avec Jacques Bouveresse. ISBN: DOI: Bouveresse, J. In Tiercelin, C. Bouveresse, Jacques.
Tiercelin, Claudine. La reconstruction de la raison: Dialogues avec Jacques Bouveresse. New edition [online]. Tiercelin, C.