Monday, 18 June 2012

Perspectives: Indigenous Scholarship and Feminist Writing

I have a marvellous book on my desk that I have only just started to read. Some time ago, I had blogged wanting to find out more on Indigenous critiques of white scholarship, especially of white scholarship on Indigenous issues. And indeed, there is a book on that very thing, by Aileen Moreton-Robinson, called “Talkin’ Up to the White Woman: Indigenous Women and Feminism”. Now perhaps I am blogging about this book prematurely as I have not finished reading it, and I plan a future blog when I have finished the book. But it is such an interesting and important book that I wanted to comment now—as I am only starting to read through it.

I myself am a late-comer to the academic debates on feminism. It was not until starting my PhD studies in a mid-career/mid-life switch that I came stumbling upon feminist writing. I wondered, at the same time that I was hungrily devouring the writings, why it was that I had never come across it before. Certainly feminist perspectives were not offered to me in my own previous (Juris Doctorate degree) legal education. I knew about feminism because I knew of women’s rights and women’s issues in the real world. But the wealth of feminist literature—and the criticisms of it—that was all new to me.

I was introduced to it in a most unorthodox way—through chatting with fellow mid-life career switchers trying to get a PhD people at the local dog park. It was here I was first introduced to Critical Race Theory, and Critical Race Feminism. It’s not as if I was hiding from feminist literature. It is just that if you are not made aware something exists, it’s awfully hard to go looking for it. Finally, I became aware. Why was this literature so hard to find—why did it take so long? Why is so much in law that varies from certain conservative perspectives hidden, driven underground, never acknowledged? Again— you have to know it is there to go looking. I think in years past this sort of exercise was called consciousness raising. And I think we need some more of this in mainstream law and legal studies—consciousness raising!

And as I read, I also became aware of the debates within feminist literature about women of colour and white women.
A passage from Moreton-Robinson (pg 151) explains:

“...critiques of white feminism by black and Indigenous women challenge the universality of the subject position middle-class white woman in different but interconnected ways. These critiques are grounded in different experiences from those of white feminists, and they expose the reproduction of power relations between the white community and the Indigenous community within feminism. The priorities of Indigenous women are often in opposition to and are different from those of the white feminist movement and the nation state.”

I have had only a skimming, preliminary read of Moreton-Robinson’s book. I am looking forward to reading it fully and in-depth as there is much to be learned from it.

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