Knowledge, Politics, Culture, and Gender: A Discourse Perspective

David G. Allen

Abstract


In this short analysis, I want to discuss (a) a view of cultures and bodies as created within discourses and (b) the potential relationship between that creation and oppression. My main point is that the categories of "culture" and "gender" and their instances (Hmong, woman) are not theory neutral "descriptors" but theory-laden constructs inseparable from systems of injustice. We need to be very careful how we use them. Space constraints mean I'll only be able to indicate, not provide, supportive arguments.
Neither "culture" nor "gender" is an "object": there is no such "thing" as a culture. Nor are they independent variables. There is no such thing as a gender that is not already cultured. One is never a "man" and then an "Irish" man; one is an Irishman. To be an African American woman is not to be one thing, nor is it to be the same thing as a Chinese American woman. It's not possible to subtract African Americanness and Chineseness and end up with a generic "woman." Nor are there any cultures which are not already gendered. This is particularly obvious in cultures which use gendered articles ("el," "la"). But feminist scholarship has increasingly demonstrated the "gendered" nature of cultural positions such as "person" or "citizen" (Pateman, 1989; Young, 1990).

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