Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Womanism revisited

In an earlier entry I criticized Alice Walker's airheaded New Age ideology. I won't pass judgment on her fiction, but her opinion pieces get more and more ludicrous as time goes on.

More generally, in a commodity society every issue becomes an identity and every empirical concern is turned into metaphysics, with a proliferation of idealistically conceived isms. We need not doubt that there is a race issue, and a gender issue. I am also convinced that the whole is more than the sum of its components in this instance, as I know quite well the special characteristics of black women's situation in American society. But aren't there enough problems as it is without adding obscurantism to the mix?

Black feminism is a commonly accepted concept, but why "womanism"? Why must a specific nexus of human experience be converted into a metaphysical concept? First, let's take a look at the definition:

Womanism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

If the notion were not pretentious enough, note that by the time we get to the third paragraph, we are in the realm of womanist theology. What could be more priceless?

The fun is only beginning. Now look at this:

Womanist Theology, Epistemology, and a New Anthropological Paradigm by Linda E. Thomas.

If the black liberation theology of James Cone et al were not bad enough, here we have a new wrinkle on the theme. Furthermore, the goal is to link the existential situation of black American women with "women of color" all over the world. Added to this is the slumming mentality of anthropologists and one gets a particularly self-indulgent provincial ideology. Both expand and limit your social identity in a metaphysically defined fashion and glorify folk experience to concoct a fictional essence to be categorically distinguished from the essence of other groups, and you get the obscurantism of a race and sex based epistemology that is somehow insulated from the rules of evidence, inference, verifiability and rational accountability that apply to everyone. And if black women did not already have religion up the wazoo, they need a new theology to keep them just where they are.

Here is another blog entry on the subject:

Womanism/ Black Feminism

Here there is more nonsense about womanist theology. Walker is quoted as claiming that "womanism" is not exclusive and sounds more inclusive than "black feminism".

One can of course play with terminology however one likes. Furthermore, a new ideological concept also presents a new opportunity to consolidate a power base. However, no power base nor any constituency nor any identity can be shielded from critical scrutiny. A politically organized movement to achieve rationally accountable goals is one thing; ideological mystification is something else.

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