Minor Transnationalism

By Eide, Marian | Women's Studies Quarterly, Spring 2006 | Go to article overview

Minor Transnationalism


Eide, Marian, Women's Studies Quarterly


MINOR TRANSNATIONALISM, EDITED BY FRANÇOISE LIONNET AND SHU-MEI SHIH, DURHAM, NC: DUKE UNIVERSITY PRESS, 2005

Working against the grain of the previous decade's mainstream postcolonial theory, the collection of essays Minor Transnationalism shifts the focus from the relations between centers and margins of power in the colonial realm to the crosspollination of minor voices and rhizomatic relations in an era of globalization. As my own terminology suggests, editors Françoise Lionnet and Shu-mei Shih take as their point of departure the "minor" category proposed by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari in Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature, in which they describe the minor as "that which a minority constructs within a major language (Deleuze and Guattari 1986,16). Their collection follows Deleuze and Guattari's lead in considering the minor as "affected with a high coefficient of deterritorialization" (16), understanding events in political terms, and recognizing the "collective value" (17) of enunciation.

Minor Transnationalism emerges from a collaborative research endeavor, the Multicampus Research Group on Transnational and Transcolonial Studies, in the University of California system. The fact that these essays resulted from a working group is evident in their cohesion, overlapping concerns, and shared vocabulary. One of the most interesting aspects of the book, then, is this model for cooperative research; it is a collaborative form one might hope to see followed more regularly in similar, interdisciplinary collections in the humanities.

While there are a number of excellent essays in the volume, I'd like to direct readers of IVSQ most particularly to the scholarship engaged with women's studies and the allied questions of gender, sexuality, and feminist theory.

Shu-mei Shih's essay "Towards an Ethics of Transnational Encounters, or, 'When' Does a 'Chinese' Woman Become a 'Feminist'" takes on questions of internationalism presented to feminist theory from the 1960s to the present and reinvigorated in recent years: Is feminism global? Is there a way to understand women's movements transnationally? Can Western feminism relieve itself of the weight of its own assumptions of primacy in the face of perceived non-Western belatedness? The author examines the particular case of Chinese women's movements in relation to Western feminism, providing with this case study a framework through which to pose questions about the international relevance of women's studies.

Susan Koshy's essay, "Postmodern Subaltern," makes a significant contribution to feminist discussions of sex work, abolitionism, prostitutes' rights, and women's human rights. Although she frames her discussion of global prostitution as a critique of Hard t and Negri's Empire-arguing that their focus is excessively European and American-her analysis of the sex slave trade might also be read as an excellent extension of their investigation. …

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