Subaltern Voices Series

Speaking & Theorizing from the Disciplinary Margins


Dr. Rita Dhamoon (Grant Notley Postdoctoral Fellow, Political Science, University of Alberta)

Topic: “Theorizing Accountability: Racialized Women in Contemporary Political Theory.”

Date: Tuesday, 21 November 2006


Co-sponsored by the Office of Human Rights, University of Alberta.

Abstract:In contemporary political theory, the terrain of identity/difference politics has been increasingly claimed by liberal theorists who promote versions of liberal multiculturalism (e.g. Will Kymlicka and Charles Taylor). This approach is preoccupied with both state management of those marked as Other and questions of culture. This preoccupation, I contend, overlooks central aspects of identity/difference politics, namely the similarities and differences between and among those marked as women of colour and Indigenous women and the processes that relationally produce significations of gendered racialization. Rather than asking how the state should respond to Others as liberal multiculturalists have, I ask: what other principle(s) can guide the relationships between and among those marked as Other from a perspective that takes seriously the problem of power differentials? Drawing from anti-colonial and anti-racist feminist theories (e.g. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Himani Bannerji, Sherene Razack, and Patricia Hill Collins) the principle that I develop in this paper is accountability as an alternative to liberal multicultural values of recognition or diversity or individual choice. Accountability for meaning-making, which produces significations of gendered racialization, is critical for two overlapping reasons. First, it opens up ways to contextually examine the interrelations between processes that constitute racialized women through contexts of white hegemony. Second, in naming and rupturing processes that produce racialized significations it becomes possible to turn towards the political possibilities of a) detecting potential alliances as well points of disjuncture among women racialized as Other and b) identifying points of intervention in the production of significations so as to offer alternate ways of signifying. To illuminate the processes that (re)create representations of racialized women I briefly consider the ways in which Muslim women are constructed in the context now known as 9/11 and the notion of a ‘model minority’ in relation of those signified as Asian, Black, and Indigenous women. To conclude, I highlight the implications of theorizing accountability for contemporary political theory.

Bio: Dr. Dhamoon currently is a Grant Notley Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Political Science at the University of Alberta. She completed her Ph.D. in Political Science at the University of British Columbia, in Vancouver, Canada. She holds an M.A. from the University of Essex in Colchester, and a B.A. from the University of Loughborough in Leicestershire, both in the UK. Dr. Dhamoon’s primary subfield is Political Theory, with a specialization in western political thought, contemporary political ideas, and gender and politics. She is co-editor of Sexual Justice/Cultural Justice: Critical Perspectives in Theory and Practice (Routledge, 2006), in which she has a chapter titled ‘The Politics of Cultural Contestation’. She is also author of “Shifting from Culture to the Cultural: Critical Theorizing of Identity/Difference Politics”, which is to appear in Constellations: An International Journal of Critical and Democratic Theory (September 2006). Dr. Dhamoon has worked with and for a number of anti-racist and feminist organizations and networks in Canada and the UK.