THE INTERSECTION OF FEMINISM, POST-COLONIALISM. AND POSTMODERNISM
This intersection is an interesting one, as all three movements have in common the process of dismantling or subverting dominant hegemonic discourses. In the process all three seek to challenge traditional epistemologies and to reestablish marginal discourses. AH three areas have experienced an upsurge of theoretical development in the last two decades and, as Ashcroft et at. note, ‘it would be true to say that the intensification of theoretical interest in the postcolonial has coincided with the rise of postmodernism in Western society.. .(Ashcroft et al. 1995:117).
The contribution of feminism to post-colonialist and postmodernist debates has given both a more critical edge. As Hutcheon (1995:130) has noted, while post-colonialism emphasises the relationship between imperialism and subjectivity, and postmodernism stresses the relationship between liberal humanism and subjectivity, ‘feminists point to the patriarchal underpinning of both’. In addition,
Hutcheon claims that post-colonialism and feminism have ‘political agendas and often a theory of agency that allow them to go beyond the post-modern limits of deconstructing existing orthodoxies into the realms of social and political action’.
Spoonley (1995a:52, n. 2) shows that for some writers ‘post-modernity is held to offer little hope for the particularities which arise as a result of localised identity polities’. During (1995:125) maintains that ‘…the concept of postmodernity has been constructed in terms which more or less intentionally wipe out the possibility of post-colonial identity’. For During this presents a fundamental incompatibility in the objectives of post-colonialism and postmodernism, as post-colonialism as understood by During is fundamentally about the achievement of ‘an identity uncontaminated by universalist or Eurocentric concepts or images’ in post-colonial nations. During notes that the desire for a post-colonial identity is strongly allied to nationalism.
There are problems raised by During’s model of a post-colonial identity which have been highlighted by both postfeminist and poststructuralist debates around subjectivity and identity. Debates around national identity are increasingly focused on the issue of plural identities. As Bell and McLennan note,
Not only are there a great many given and inherited cultural identities to take account of in any analysis of political ‘subjecthood’, increasingly the interchange between these ‘local’ identities is producing a whole range of hybrid forms of consciousness, lifestyle and action.
(Bell and McLennan 1995:2)
Bell and McLennan also note that nationalism does pose problems for feminist politics, particularly in its more extreme forms. Yeatman (1995b) has highlighted some of the problems inherent in claims for ‘national sovereignty’. Bell and McLennan, while noting feminism’s challenge to crude ‘liberal and “class reductionist” approaches to personal subjecthood’, also claim: ‘Post-feminist strands of thought have gone further, taking strong issue with any counter-tendency toward “gender reductionism” too’ (1995:3).
The issue of a ‘unified’ subjectivity or identity is raised by Gunew and Yeatman (1993), who claim that such a model results in a projection of ‘the burden of authenticity onto the minority’. They note that ‘Even postmodernists who write easily concerning decentred subjectivity and metaphysics of presence in all forms of writing sometimes return to the unified subject when it comes to dealing with the minority or margins’ (1993:xviii).
Those whose model of post-colonial identity is characterised by this framework of ‘authenticity’ are generally critical of parallels between post-colonialism and postmodernism:
Trinh  points out that differences are caught up in the oppositional binary categories of oppressor and oppressed. Authenticity for the latter is thereby demarcated and controlled by the former, a trick which renders oppressed totally dependent on the oppressor. Oppression and repression become commodified into ‘codified forms of resistance’.
(Gunew and Yeatman 1993:xviii)
There are clearly major differences in the orientation and discourses of postcolonialism and postmodernism, which, as Hutcheon (1995:131) notes, ‘feminists help to place in the foreground and which must always be kept in mind’. Despite these differences she notes that there are overlaps. However, as Hutcheon observes, ‘This does not mean that the two can be conflated unproblematically as many commentators seem to suggest (…Slemon 1988a)’.