African feminism as decolonising force: a philosophical exploration of the work of Oyeronke Oyewumi

Coetzee, Azille Alta (2017-12)

Thesis (D.Phil)--Stellenbosch University, 2017.

Thesis

ENGLISH SUMMARY: In this dissertation I present the work of Nigerian feminist sociologist, Oyèrónké Oyĕwùmí, as a decolonising force having the power to disrupt sub-Saharan African philosophy, Western feminist thought and discourses on African decolonisation in highly significant and surprising ways. Sub-Saharan African feminist voices have been largely absent from philosophical discourse in the Western and African worlds, but also from global western feminist debates and the discourses on the decolonisation of Africa. This has been explained in African scholarship to be due to the fact that the two struggles that Africa feminism has pledged allegiance to, namely on the one hand, the liberation of African people from colonialism, neocolonialism and racism and, on the other hand, the empowerment of African women, are often construed as two logical opposites on account of the fact that feminism is regarded as a recolonising force that is alien to Africa. In this sense African feminism’s fight for the rights of African women is commonly made out to be ‘unAfrican.’ African feminist voices are therefore excluded from, and understood in opposition to, African intellectual discourses that centre indigenous and decolonising knowledges. At the same time, on the other hand, on account of the fact that Western feminism still often unthinkingly applies Western conceptual frameworks to African contexts and thereby erases African knowledges and realities, African feminists most often formulate their feminist theories outside of or independent of Western feminist theory. Their allegiance to the struggle of the decolonisation of Africa therefore keeps African feminists outside of global feminist debates, while, at the same time, their commitment to bettering the plight of women, leads to their exclusion from many systems of African knowledge production that centre indigenous or decolonising knowledges. Moreover, African philosophy is still mostly a masculinist venture and does not engage with issues of gender and accordingly African feminists mostly choose other disciplines within which to express themselves. African feminism and African philosophy are therefore to a large extent regarded to be two mutually exclusive domains of knowledge. In this dissertation I show how Oyĕwùmí, as African feminist, who is rendered inaudible and invisible in the dominant processes and sites of sub-Saharan knowledge production and Western feminism, occupies a unique epistemological position that is rich in resources to subvert, rupture and enrich these dominant systems of knowledge. I make this argument by placing Oyĕwùmí in dialogue with sub-Saharan African philosophy and with Belgian feminist scholar, Luce Irigaray.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/102695
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