Postmodernism, Feminism & Cultural Politics: Redrawing Educational Boundaries // Review

Article excerpt

For some time the mass media have been proclaiming that we are living in the pos tfeminist era. More recently, they have been glibly dismissing "political correctness" and so t rying to discredit the widening view that education and culture, like all social institutions, are sites where ideological struggles are played out. But feminism is alive and well, thank you , and as necessary a force for social justice as ever. And the growing impact of postmod ern thought has shaken educational and cultural practices out of their liberal torpor by disclos ing the multiplicity of modernism's hegemonies.

Henry Giroux's current contribution to that disclosure, published as part o f the SUNY Press series on Teacher Empowerment and School Reform, is a collection of eight essays , five of which have appeared elsewhere, as has Giroux's rather lengthy introduction. Alt hough the introduction attempts to demystify the context of postmodernism and discuss its relation to modernism, the essays are not equally accessible. Those that take up theoretica l concerns of postmodernisms/feminisms seem to me to require some prior knowledge of those dis courses.

The introduction is certainly thorough and, when taken with Giroux's conclu ding essay, establishes both a theoretical basis and a compelling pedagogical program of tra nsformative education. Yet Giroux's work is not without problems. Nowhere, for example, do es he interrogate democracy, radical or otherwise. And despite his insistence on inco rporating Others' discourses in the classroom, the refusal of which, he argues, enables their colo nization (pp. 39, 251), the architectonics of the book disclose the book nicely balances theoretic al and experiential essays, Giroux's own two pieces occupy over a third of the book's space and, wit h the essay by Peter McLaren, Giroux's co - editor of the SUNY series, only half the book is av ailable for Others' voices.

Both McLaren's often - difficult essay, "Schooling the Postmodern Body: Cri tical Pedagogy and the Politics of Enfleshment," and the other theoretical essay in the collect ion, Sharon Welch's "An Ethic of Solidarity and Difference," contain reservations about post modernism. But while McLaren reinscribes some of the failures of modernism in the name of resis tance to cultural hegemony, Welch consistently situates herself in a postmodernist femini nist discourse and urges us to seek solidarity among diverse cultures as a communicative ethic that grounds transformative politics and that will not subtend (political) differences with l iberalism. One of the essay's major strengths lies in the ease with which the theory's applicabili ty in a classroom situation reveals itself.

The essays, which explore lived experience from within postmodernist/femini st perspectives, are, in general, stronger. Grounded in analyzed experiences from which the auth ors theorize, they enact much postmodern and feminist thinking. For example, Marianne Whately 's study of male sexuality, "Raging Hormones and Powerful Cars," begins with Whately positio ning herself as a woman using a feminist critique of sex education texts and practices. …