Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Free Space and Inner Space: A Place for Reconstructing Self and Other

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Free Space and Inner Space: A Place for Reconstructing Self and Other

Article excerpt


This paper seeks to answer the question: Who defines the space in which notions of self and other are constructed and reconstructed for women of African descent in the African Diaspora and globally? (1) Audrey Lorde's statement that "the master's tools will never dismantle the master's house" (Lorde, 1984, p. 110), suggests that in the quest to challenge oppression and contest notions of freedom, Africana women must begin by assessing not only the tools but also the space in which they were created, by whom and in whose interest. The master's tools routinely deconstruct and reconstruct the master's house but almost always in the interest of the master, suggesting that it is not the tools that determine the outcome but the consciousness of the builders and the vested interests of those who contract them. For instance, the critique of Eurocentrism has relied almost exclusively on European languages for articulation, disarticulation and re-articulation while simultaneously constructing an independent paradigm and epistemology of Africana resistance, transcendence and triumph. Postmodern feminists have suggested that the use of language as a tool of oppression should be deconstructed as a means to free oppressed minority women from white supremacist male dominance (De Beauvoir, 1974; Tong, 1998; hooks, 1984).

Deconstruction as a method of confronting oppression is an African system of thought that Derrida claimed that he borrowed from African culture for the purpose of challenging Eurocentrism (Derrida, 2008). This paper argues that the dismantling of the white supremacist masculine view of reality must begin with a deconstruction of the space in which the language, the rituals, the religion, the institutions and other tools of the master are created and contested. For as Eric Williams (1997) emphatically stated, Massa Day Done! The day of the master is over and done with, thank God almighty; We are free at last! At least, we are freer than our enslaved ancestors, and we shall be freer still despite the vicious attempts to re-enthrone massa through subtle and overt means in personal, group, communal, national and international spaces, a few examples of which include evening news reports on the realities of reverse racism, Blackface incidents at institutions of higher education from Mississippi and Kansas City to Montreal, and reoccurring images of police brutality against Blacks.

The aim of this paper is to explore and discuss a type of "free space" that encompasses multidimensional aspects of existence. The concept of "free space" rather than being limited to two or three dimensional understandings of physical context, location, and environment, includes the notion of an intentionally created inner space from which new rituals and communities emerge. This concept of free space and the related rituals and communities would not necessarily be bound by physical proximity, but would exist and function to shape and transform constructions of self and other that are increasingly free from the oppressive masculinist worldview. Free space is conceptualized as an ongoing project of resistance to all forms of imperialist domination.

The paper argues that the shared and blended history of patriarchy, capitalism, and racism has functioned to define the space in which various understandings of African Diasporic womanhood have emerged while simultaneously igniting sparks of resistance through which Africana womanism has always exercised autonomy (Hudson-Weems, 2008). (2) This exploration of "free spaces" is conducted in recognition of the fact that western imperialism has never succeeded in completely eliding or erasing in entirety, the resilient Africana originality in social structuration.

The concept of "free spaces" and their potential for mobilizing individual and collective action for change will be explored and applied to the ability of African Diasporic women and women in the mother continent to re-define and address inherited or imposed gender ideologies that perpetuate social problems such as domestic violence, sex trafficking and the increasing criminalization of Black women mainly due to the war on drugs or seek to repress alternative democratic practices of personhood and community not defined by gender imperialism. …

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