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Essence of Culture and a Sense of History: A Feminist Critique of Cultural Essentialism

Uma Narayan
Hypatia
Vol. 13, No. 2, Border Crossings: Multicultural and Postcolonial Feminist Challenges to Philosophy (Part 1) (Spring, 1998), pp. 86-106
Published by: Wiley on behalf of Hypatia, Inc.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3810639
Page Count: 21
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Essence of Culture and a Sense of History: A Feminist Critique of Cultural Essentialism
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Abstract

Drawing parallels between gender essentialism and cultural essentialism, I point to some common features of essentialist pictures of culture. I argue that cultural essentialism is detrimental to feminist agendas and suggest strategies for its avoidance. Contending that some forms of cultural relativism buy into essentialist notions of culture, I argue that postcolonial feminists need to be cautious about essentialist contrasts between "Western" and "Third World" cultures.

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