ABSTRACT

This “Methods and Texts” essay examines the theoretical and pedagogical challenges of teaching culture in contemporary women’s studies university courses in the United States. In striving to reject essentialist understandings of culture, instead framing culture as historical and variously interpreted, with cultural identities and practices being marked by both continuity and change in our globalizing present, classrooms run up against centuries-old colonial histories of domination over the “Third World,” even within feminist discourses. These challenges may then be exacerbated by reductive understandings of globalization, the limitations of our own teaching, and complex classroom dynamics. Drawing from feminist pedagogy’s emphasis on intersectionality, experiential learning, student voices, and participation, and deploying a postcolonial feminist framework that posits neither a hierarchy of cultures nor an unproductive cultural relativism, the article offers various textual resources, curricular tools, and pedagogical strategies to combat reductive understandings of culture in the classroom. Ultimately, it deploys culture and cultural identity as productive categories whose nuanced framing can help promote postcolonial, antiracist transnational feminist theory and praxis.

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