Monash University

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Moving beyond otherness: (re)vealing, (re)centring and (re)inscribing the polyvocal subjectivities of African Caribbean women across the United Kingdom

posted on 2017-02-08, 06:06 authored by Henry-Waring, Millsom Selina
This study explores the racialised, gendered and national subjectivities of one group of Black women in Britain. My central hypothesis is that despite the negative legacy of Anglo/Eurocentric meta-discourses, we have developed a positive sense of Self; and consequently our positioning in academic and other discourses can no longer be ignored or marginalized as part of simplistic binary formulations of Otherness. Instead, a critical and innovative framework is required to facilitate a full understanding of the polyvocal and ever-changing nature of African Caribbean women's subjectivities in Britain (and elsewhere). In this regard, this study draws upon the relatively recent space of Black British feminism to advance what I have called a 'critical Black British feminism'. This critical form represents a highly penetrative and politically charged form of Black British feminism, which aims fundamentally to disrupt the meta-discourses of Otherness through which Black British women are firmly configured as the negative Other. Specifically, I assert that due to a complex array of factors, African Caribbean women in Britain both strategically and otherwise negotiate a set of highly racialised, gendered and nationalistic subjectivities and, that these subjectivities lie within, outside, and between the historically loaded and pre-coded meta-discourses of Otherness. Indeed, the very fact that we have found spaces where we can maintain a largely positive sense of Self as Black, British, women, in spite of the pervading legacy of Otherness (spaces that are often ignored or silenced by conventional discourses), emphasises the need for more sophisticated forms of analyses. Using an eclectic range of research methods to elicit an original set of data, this study (re)veals, (re)centres and (re)inscribes the multifaceted and often paradoxical nature of African Caribbean women's racialised, gendered and nationalistic subjectivities in Britain. Moreover, I assert that our subjectivities must be read as part of a wider multi-layered continuum of difference. By shifting from the incongruent and polemic meta-discourses of Otherness, which seek to negate the experiences of Black British women, towards the reality of polyvocality and its ever-changing and contradictory positions, this study is able to begin exploring and understanding how and why African Caribbean women across Britain can and do have a strong sense of Self and belonging, in a country that simultaneously exploits, marginalises and disparages our very presence, both explicitly and implicitly. Tills study therefore represents a unique part of an overall attempt to carve out and employ a distinctive, non-essentialised, critical Black British feminist epistemology. In this regard, this study makes a significant contribution to the growing body of work of Black British and other feminists and scholars to fully document the range of our experiences. This study also aims to advance new politically engaged theoretical perspectives, which seek to explain, and not obscure or misinterpret the dynamic, contradictory and often contemporaneous nature of Black British women's diasporic subjectivities. By focusing directly on the experiences of African Caribbean women across Britain then, this study represents part of a vital process of recovery, validation and repositioning of Black women beyond meta-discourses of Otherness. Consequently, the results of this study are also far-reaching. By moving beyond notions of Otherness, this study will have direct implications for the manner in which the subjectivities of other women and men are currently addressed and adds weight to calls for change.


Principal supervisor

Denise Cuthbert

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Department, School or Centre

Faculty of Arts. Centre for Women's Studies and Gender Research


Doctor of Philosophy

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Faculty of Arts

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