Academic journal article K@ta

Juxtaposition of Women, Culture, and Nature in Alice Walker's Possessing the Secret of Joy

Academic journal article K@ta

Juxtaposition of Women, Culture, and Nature in Alice Walker's Possessing the Secret of Joy

Article excerpt


Alice Walker's Possessing the Secret of Joy that Cogeanu (2011) introduces as "the most African of [Walker's] novels...with a painful and revolting subject matter...a text that comes closest to political activism" is an intricated narration in which women and land are depicted as passive sources subordinated to men for materialistic goals. However, it is also a revolutionary attack on the oppressive customs of White colonizers whose domination is fought back, through the novel, by Olinkan men who are themselves depriving women of their natural right over their body and forcing them to undergo genital mutilation. Ironically, although the novel is a colonial piece of writing not talking about land explicitly, the omnipresence of land is implied by the cultural imperialism and White missionaries' desire to replace the native culture with that of their own. It can be categorized as one of Walker's novels, however, that regardless of their geographical or socio-cultural context try to analyze "societies that suffer from cultural shifts and decline" (Lalbakhsh & Torkamaneh, 2015). It can also be considered a novel that demonstrates how a specific kind of "historical invasion" can end in "identity dilemma" that leaves "people with instable identity" (Mahmoodi, 2012).

The novel has been approached by many critics and scholars who have read and analyzed it from different points of views perhaps because, as Wankhade's (2015) observes, it is a novel that is concerned with "the quest and consciousness for Black identity, their individual relation with society on various dimensions of spiritual, social, physical, cultural, and the problems of forgiveness and reconciliation as well as racism and sexism". Teard (2011) introduces the novel as one of Walker's works that "demonstrates [that]...wholelness is achieved through reconciliation but also through creation". Dent (1992) calls it a novel "that at once appropriates and recontexualizes the restrictive neocolonial adage that gives Walker her title. Kuhne (1999) believes that by focusing on a "brutal ritual that was once largely unknown in the West" Walker has made the issue a "controversial issue" to be attended to by American culture and political system. Another critic, Moore (2000), has highlighted Jung's archetypal patterns of ego, the shadow, the anima/animus, and the Self in Walker's novel. Brum (2005) has tried to foreground the extent Tashi comes to be a tool in the hands of Walker for showing her anger and loathe toward the different forms of oppression that females suffer from. Gaard (2000), on the other hand, defines the novel as an exploration of "the meaning and relevance of traditional practices which harm women and yet are seen as cornerstone of cultural preservation", and Gourdine (2002) maintains that the novel "critiques the myths of culture that sanction and sustain "mutilation' and attempts to create for its women subjects a tradition that is liberating and conducive to build strong gendered selves".

However, taking an ecofeminist approach in this paper, we are concentrating on the concurrent relationship of women, culture, and nature to foreground both types of oppression-one over Olinka and another over Olinkan women-side by side, and to argue that Walker's depicted world in her novel is a world in which females and land are both considered victims to the oppression which is imosed on them by Olinkan men and White colonizers. Emerging in 1970s and 1980s as a body of feminist and environmental concerns, ecofeminism's innovation was critical thinking in relating the capitalist and patriarchal institutions' domination of nature to that of women.


It can be argued that ecofeminism, in general, links environmental activities with those of feminism and the the idea of oppression that in any case is performed by men. What exasperates ecofeminists is the devaluation of both women and nature by men to extarct their hidden energy in their own favor and for more power and dominance. …

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