Women's Identities and Bodies in Colonial and Postcolonial History and Literature

By Oxendale, Stephanie M. | The Historian, Fall 2013 | Go to article overview

Women's Identities and Bodies in Colonial and Postcolonial History and Literature


Oxendale, Stephanie M., The Historian


Women's Identities and Bodies in Colonial and Postcolonial History and Literature. Edited by Maria Isabel Romero Ruiz. (Newcastle upon Tyne, England: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2012. Pp. vii, 160. $52.99.)

The size of this small volume of eight essays belies its ambitiously large scope, both in geographical space as well as historical period. It is also notable for the fact that none of its contributors are based in North American or Anglophone institutions. Bringing such academic work to a wider audience is commendable and should act as a bridge between scholars in a field of study often dominated by the UK/US nexus. Its unifying feature is that women's experience via the body informs the rereading of the past. The present is always implicated in the colonial past, and the colonial past serves as a point of reference for the analysis of contemporary issues (xii).

All of the essays draw upon postcolonial and postmodern theories and techniques familiar to cultural studies, in particular Foucauldian ideas of the body as a site of the production of knowledge and/or control. This enables the exploration of ideas of sexuality, healing, race/ethnicity, hybridity and gender performance, regulation, and exploitation. Although a key element of this collection is this theoretic application, the essays vary in their quality of execution. Short essays lose their fresh insights or subjects through the rehashing of their theoretical provenance, leaving the reader wanting to know more about the topic itself. At times it feels as if the author is just getting into her stride on a subject only to find that she has been edited down.

There is certainly something here for both literary scholars and historians interested in the dynamic interaction between the colonial and postcolonial worlds. …

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