Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

Claiming the Politics of Articulation through Agency and Wholeness in Two Afro-Hispanic Postcolonial Narratives

Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

Claiming the Politics of Articulation through Agency and Wholeness in Two Afro-Hispanic Postcolonial Narratives

Article excerpt

   It isn't privilege or pity    That I seek    It isn't reverence or safety    Quick happiness or purity    But    The power to be what I am/a woman    Charting my own futures/a woman    Holding my beads in my hand    --Grace Nichols, i is a long memoried woman 

Introduction

Afro-Hispanic and Caribbean women writers and activists are "cultural workers" because from their frontier-like standpoint they support and encourage cultural interaction. They bring forward a coherent body of knowledge which fosters self-determination and self-representation. The paper will follow a context-based approach (3) since it offers ways of reading texts and cultures rooted in the form of the story, and in the cultural expressions inherent to the tradition out of which the text grows, providing in many instances an oppositional reading, questioning conventions, and reworking European defining narratives. Both readers and literary/cultural critics need to chart a new path towards an epistemology of anti-colonial feminist struggle because women need concepts to question their reality and, as postpositvism reminds us, experiences count. Alexander and Talpade, both postcolonial and transnational feminist theorists aptly contend that critical tools are ways of reading our realities that produce liberatory knowledges which "enable collective and self-determination for colonized peoples" (1997, ix) because critical tools may have the potential to contest the already existing cultural paradigms in a dialogic fashion. The ethics of thinking should produce the kind of knowledge which aims at decolonization in the twenty-first century.

As critics, it is our intention to explore both the dialectic and the dialogic immersed in the relationships between the old and the new, the colonial and the postcolonial, in its humanist and political dimensions because we understand that these relationships and their dynamics will help us to theorize and better understand the nuances of hierarchical relations across time and cultures in the era of globalization. This paper will look at the gaps, the interstices as sites for creating alternative knowledge, theories that allow for the construction of critical, self-reflective selves. As Alexander and Mohanty suggest, an active view of decolonization coupled with a sense of being part of the collective feminist practice will enable readers to rethink and question patriarchal, heterosexual, colonial, racial and capitalist legacies in order to move forward in our lives as full agents of our struggles (1997, xxxiii), pushing further the concept of decolonization by actively and consciously taking part in it and fostering a definition and vision of agency which becomes central to the decolonizing process.

Experiences do not contain meaning in themselves; rather, it is the way that we interpret our experiences through the framework provided by the social narratives that govern our perceptions of how we live. The cognitive task of remembering means laying claim to a past and ultimately is developing the capacity of feeling with others. Remembering is dependent on an emotional achievement, on the labour of trusting oneself, one's judgements, and one's companions. This is why the realist theory of identity helps to explain how we can distinguish legitimate identities from false ones because it accounts for cultural decolonization, which involves an interrogation of the epistemic and affective consequences of our social location, of historically learned habits of thinking and feeling (Mohanty 2000, 63). Thus, there exists a need to theorize not only identity but also agency grasping agency, the "person's socially acknowledged right to interpret and speak for her/himself" (Brent 2000, 229-50) is pivotal to achieve any degree of identity.

Agency as "the conscious and ongoing reproduction of the terms of our existence while taking responsibility of this process" (Alex and Talpade 1997, xxviii) understood from the dialogic perspective of engaging the world from its vantage point of view, makes wholeness--the dialogic interaction between self and other, past and present, possible. …

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