Week Eight: Colonized Bodies

Week 8:  Begins March 20

This week’s readings will ask you to push the idea of the body as a site for the colonial project and consider the role of gender in colonization and the effects on “gender” in the post-colonial era.

I have had students sit in my office and say that Nawal El Saadawi’s  Woman At Point Zero is the most depressing book they have read.  In many ways I agree with them, but I also see a strain of resistance in the face of oppression that has me leave the book every time I read it with a sense of optimism, though sad optimism.  What does this novel say about the forms of resistance available to women when their existence is enough to make them targets of oppression–both psychic and physical?

I think this anxiety over women’s agency came to a head with the shooting of Malala Yousafzai, a 14-year old girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban because she advocated for the right for girls to go to school.  Girls are dangerous, right?  Think about it:  if the idea of female empowerment didn’t matter, didn’t work toward dismantling patriarchal hegemonies, no one would pay attention.  But hegemonic forces DO pay attention.  And they do walk onto buses and shoot 14-year old girls who dare to say girls should have access to an education.  The idea that a girl might want to think is the most terrifying idea to many power structures.  I am critical of this trope, though, being used for the purpose of just reifying western power, as you can read here in my discussion of the film Girl Rising.

So keep all of this in mind as you read this week’s theory, novel, and definitions.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts about the depiction of agency, power, and resistance especially on/by/against the “colonized body.”

Lest you think this kind of reading and inquiry are not one of the keys to helping us work toward a world where women can go to school (for one thing), here’s a great reminder from Elif Shafak about why reading matters.

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