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EN2D2/EN3D2 Transnational Feminism: Literature, Theory & Practice

Mon 1:00 - 2:30 S1.69
Mon 3:00 - 4:30 FAB 4.78

Module Convenor and Tutor:

Dr. Rashmi Varma

Office hours 




Finalists: 2x3000 word essays and a Research/Creative Project of 1500 words
Second Years: 2x2,500 word essays and a Research/Creative Project of 1000 words

Essay deadlines will be in Week 1 of Terms 2 and 3; Research/Creative Project will be due in Week 3 of Term 3.

Course Description:

This module will explore the relationship between Anglo-American and European feminist literary theory and practices with those of feminisms of the global South. As such, it will examine the tensions, negotiations and new articulations (specifically as transnational feminism) that can be read through the lens of historical developments from the nineteenth century to the present. In particular, the history of Euro-American colonialism, anti-colonial movements, nationalism, decolonization, development and modernization projects post-World War II, crises of global capitalism, and new social and political movements will provide broad contextual frameworks for understanding transnational feminism.

The syllabus consists of 7 broad themes over the two terms, each consisting of a number of different threads. The first Modernism, Colonialism and Gender will consider the 19th century context of the “woman question” as integral to the colonial project. We will examine writings by Western women travellers, missionaries, and social reformers and by anti-colonialist writers and activists, as they developed and articulated ideologies of women’s emancipation. In the second unit, Woman/Nation, we will examine anti-colonialist and nationalist writings and consider the relationship between gender, state and nation. The third unit, Migrating Selves/Working Bodies, will explore how gendered identities are constituted in the context of a rapid globalization of capital and culture, with special emphasis on late capitalist commodity culture, development discourse and transformations in labour and migration processes.

We will also consider new theorisations of trans-national feminism. We will do this by looking at some themes in Term 2. The rubric of Subalterneity, Solidarity and Experience will consider those three keywords as they pertain to the theory and practice of transnational feminism. In Unveiling the Subject we will examine issues of subjectivity and identity. In The World, the Body, the Text we will look at cultural and political constructions of the gendered body. The last unit, Gender and the New Empire, will consider the relationship between new forms of global imperialism (the “war on terror” being one instance of it) and the ways in which those have influenced questions of transnational feminist solidarity and activism. Each unit will have a key literary text around which the different theoretical questions will circulate.



Gloria Anzaldua, Borderlands

Jamaica Kincaid, Lucy

Jean Rhys, Voyage in the Dark

Rabindranath Tagore, The Home and the World

Selections of essays (available on Talis Aspire and/or web page)



Selections of essays (available on Talis Aspire and/or web page)

Seminar Guidelines

Attendance: Attendance at each seminar is mandatory. If there is a medical reason or any other urgent situation, a written note should be submitted for record.

Seminar Participation: Seminars generally succeed or fail because of the quality of group participation. This means that you must keep on top of the required readings—reading thoroughly, carefully and in a timely manner.

Seminar Structure: We will begin each session with a short introductory lecture that will be followed by presentation/s. The seminar will then open up for general discussion, questions and responses. In order to prepare for this aspect of the seminar, you should formulate a question and a point for discussion for each reading. One useful way to do this is to focus on a specific part of a reading.

What is the salient argument that the reading/s are making? Is the argument consistent? If not, are there productive or useful gaps and contradictions for discussion? In the case of a fictional text, what are the key issues that might emerge as the framing ones for the text? Do the readings provide an important intervention in our thinking about feminism as a trans-national project? How can we evaluate the intervention? What assumptions are the readings making in terms of audience/subject matter/discipline, etc.? Is there scope for making useful comparisons with other texts that we are reading?

These pointers do not have to be followed in any particular order. They are mainly provided to assist you in formulating a response.

Class Presentation: Each seminar participant will be required to sign up for at least one class presentation on the week’s readings. Each seminar participant will be required to sign up for at least one class presentation on the week’s readings. The presenter/s will be required to formulate about 4 questions based on the readings and present them to the group. Make sure you type these up and make copies for everyone in class. Don’t forget to write your name and week on it.

The questions can be up to a paragraph long and should aim at provoking discussion. In other words, you are being asked to write questions to enable conversation; you are not being asked to write questions for exams. So make sure the questions are not ones that can be answered in an objective manner by anyone who has read the text.

Seminar Schedule:

Term I

Week 1: Introduction to Transnational Feminisms: key concepts and debates

Modernism, Colonialism and Gender

Week 2: Jean Rhys, Voyage in the Dark

Week 3: Sander L. Gilman, “Black Bodies, White Bodies: Toward an Iconography of Female Sexuality in Late Nineteenth-Century Art, Medicine, and Literature”, in Henry Louis Gates, Jr., ed. “Race”, Writing, and Difference (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986). Gilman

Anne McClintock, “’Massa’ and Maids: Power and Desire in the Imperial Metropolis”, in Imperial Leather: Race, Gender and Sexuality in the Colonial Contest (London: Routledge, 1995). (Talis Aspire)

Week 4: Antoinette Burton, “The White Woman’s Burden: British Feminists and ‘the Indian Woman’, 1865-1914”, in Nupur Chaudhuri and Margaret Strobel, eds. Western Women and Imperialism: Complicity and Resistance (Talis Aspire) (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992); pp. 137-157.

Inderpal Grewal, “The Culture of Travel and the Gendering of Colonial Modernity in Nineteenth-Century India”, Home and Harem: Nation, Gender, Empire, and the Cultures of Travel (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1996). Grewal


Week 5: Rabindranath Tagore, The Home and the World


Week 7: Partha Chatterjee, “The Nation and its Women” and “Women and the Nation”, in The Nation and its Fragments (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993) Chatterjee reading

Kamala Visweswaran, “Betrayal: An Analysis in Three Acts”, in Fictions of Feminist Ethnography (Minneapolis: the University of Minnesota Press, 1994) Visweswaran reading

Rebecca Gould, “Engendering Critique: Postnational Feminism in Postcolonial Syria” WSQ: Women's Studies Quarterly 42:3&4 (Fall/Winter 2014): 209-229 gould.pdf

Migrating Selves

Week 8: Jamaica Kincaid, Lucy

Week 9: Chandra Mohanty, “Women Workers and Capitalist Scripts: Ideologies of Domination, Common Interests, and the Politics of Solidarity”, in Alexander and Mohanty, eds. Feminist Genealogies, Colonial Legacies (1997): 3-29. Mohanty, "Women Workers"

Maria Mies, “Colonization and Housewifization”, from Mies, Patriarchy and Accumulation on a World Scale  Mies, "Colonization or Housewifization"

Ngai PunNgai Pun, “Becoming Dagongmei (Working Girls): the Politics of Identity and Difference in Reform China", The China Journal, No. 42 (Jul., 1999), pp. 1-18. Pun Ngai, "Becoming Dagongmei" 

Week 10: Gloria Anzaldua, Borderlands

Term II:

Subalterneity, Solidarity and Experience

Week 1: Mahasweta Devi, “The Hunt”, “Draupadi” and “Douloti the Bountiful” Douloti The Hunt Draupadi

Week 2: Spivak, “Can the Subaltern Speak?” in Chrisman and Williams, eds. Colonial Discourse and Post-colonial Theory Can the Subaltern Speak?

Joan Scott, “Experience” in Butler and Scott, eds. Feminists Theorise the Political (New York: Routledge, 1992): 22-40. Joan Scott 

Unveiling the Subject

Week 3: Film: The Battle of Algiers

Frantz Fanon, “Unveiling Algeria”, from Studies in a Dying Colonialism Fanon 

Week 4: Assia Djebar, Fantasia

Sadia Abbas, "The Echo Chamber of Freedom: The Muslim Woman and the Pretext of Agency" boundary 2 40:1 (2013)


Week 5: Kamila Shamsie, Homefire



The World, the Body, the Text

Week 7: Tsitsi Dangarembga, Nervous Conditions

Week 8: Donna Haraway, “A Manifesto for Cyborgs” Haraway, "Cyborg"

Caren Kaplan, "The Body's Shop" The Body Shop

New World Order?

Week 9: Monica Ali, Brick Lane

Week 10: Jacqui Alexander, “Whose New World Order? Teaching for Justice”, Pedagogies of Crossing (2005)


M. Jacqui Alexander and Chandra Talpade Mohanty (eds). Feminist Genealogies, Colonial Legacies, Democratic Futures (1997)

Amos, Valerie and Pratibha Parmar. "Challenging Imperial Feminism," Feminist Review 17 (July 1984), 3-19

Alison Blunt and Gillian Rose, eds. Writing Women and Space: Colonial and Postcolonial Geographies (1994)

Sandra Bartky, Femininity and Domination: Studies in the Phenomenology of Oppression (1990)

Bordo, S. (1993) Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture, and the Body, Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.

Butler, J. (1993) Bodies That Matter: On The Discursive Limits of Sex, London and New York: Routledge.

Butler, J. (1990) Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, London and New York: Routledge.

Butler, J and Joan Scott (eds), Feminists theorize the political (1992).

Nupur Chaudhuri and Margaret Strobel (eds.), Western Women and Imperialism: Complicity and Resistance (Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1992).

Davies, Carole Boyce. Black Women, Writing and Identity: Migrations of the Subject (Routledge, 1994).

Donaldson, Laura E. Decolonising Feminisms: Race, Gender, and Empire-Building (Routledge, 1992).

Ehrenreich, B. (2002) ‘Maid to Order’ in B. Ehrenreich and A. R. Hochschild, eds. Global Woman: Nannies, Maids and Sex Workers in the New Economy, New York: Henry Holt and Company, 85-103.

Grewal, Inderpal. Scattered Hegemonies: Postmodernity and Transnational Feminist Practices (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1994).

Halberstam, J (2005) In a Queer Time and Place: Transgender Bodies, Subcultural Lives.

Hill Collins, P. (2000) Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment, 2nd ed. New York and London: Routledge.

Jayawardena, Kumari. Feminism and Nationalism in the Third World (Zed, 1986).

--- Embodied Violence: Communalising Female Sexuality in South Asia (1996).