Feminism, cultural difference and the cultural
politics of the academy


Feminism and postmodernism are recognised as two leading intellectual critiques of ‘epistemological foundationalism’ emerging from the liberal humanism of the Western Enlightenment which has framed academic culture’s modernist discourse. However, it is apparent that there is an overwhelming monopolisation of these debates by male theorists and critics, and a marginalisation of feminist writers and issues within these debates. Despite the limitations of second wave feminist interventions, the challenges posed to dominant academic discourses through the emergence of Women’s Studies opened up a number of ‘sites of resistance’ for feminist discourses. The positioning of Women’s Studies within the academy established ‘a voice’, facilitated ‘a space’ and encouraged an intellectually dynamic forum for the articulation of contested theoretical debates emerging from within feminist theorising. The unsettling of the intellectual discipline of feminism by theoretical challenges from its ‘margins’, from subaltern discourses, both within and outside feminism has forced feminist debates within the academy to be increasingly responsive to these ‘politico-ethical challenges’ (Yeatman 1994). Significant for this area of debate has been the intersection of feminism and post­colonialism (see Chapter 5), which has enhanced postfeminist discourses in terms of both resistance and contestation within the intellectual enterprise. This chapter highlights the impact of feminism’s intersection with modernist, postmodernist and post-colonialist discourses for the articulation of postfeminist discourses within the academy.