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Woman, Native, Other: Writing Postcoloniality and Feminism

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... methodologically innovative... precise and perceptive and conscious... " --Text and Performance Quarterly

Woman, Native, Other is located at the juncture of a number of different fields and disciplines, and it genuinely succeeds in pushing the boundaries of these disciplines further. It is one of the very few theoretical attempts to grapple with the writings of women of color." --Chandra Talpade Mohanty

The idea of Trinh T. Minh-ha is as powerful as her films... formidable... " --Village Voice

... its very forms invite the reader to participate in the effort to understand how language structures lived possibilities." --Artpaper

Highly recommended for anyone struggling to understand voices and experiences of those 'we' label 'other'." --Religious Studies Review

173 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1989

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About the author

Trinh T. Minh-ha

30 books109 followers
Trinh T. Minh-ha (born 1952) is a filmmaker, writer, academic and composer. She is an independent filmmaker and feminist, post-colonial theorist. She teaches courses that focus on women's work as related to cultural politics, post-coloniality, contemporary critical theory and the arts. The seminars she offers focus on Third cinema, film theory and aesthetics, the voice in cinema, the autobiographical voice, critical theory and research, cultural politics and feminist theory.[1] She has been making films for over twenty years and may be best known for her first film Reassemblage, made in 1982. She has received several awards and grants, including the American Film Institute’s National Independent Filmmaker Maya Deren Award, and Fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts and the California Arts Council. Her films have been the subject of twenty retrospectives.

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5 stars
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249 (31%)
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101 (12%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 34 reviews
Profile Image for Jesse.
435 reviews420 followers
October 7, 2009
Had to read the first chapter for one of my classes: when it was time to discuss it in said class only one snide comment of "how am I supposed to get her point if I can't understand her writing" was needed to awaken a crowd of angry classmates with knives drawn, hungry for blood. I was taken completely aback—out of all possible critiques this is one I quite frankly hadn't expected, this is grad school, for heaven's sake!—and finally, admittedly feebly, offered up the remark that within the context Trinh is writing, her elliptical style makes perfect sense and is, in fact, perfectly clear (unfortunately, I doubt I was so clear when I actually made the remark—I think that may have been the first time I spoke in that class).

"But it is particularly difficult for a dualistic or dualistically trained mind to recognize that 'looking for the structure of narratives' already involves the separation of the structure from narratives, of the structure from which it is structured, of the narrative from the narrated, and so on."

It was a this point that I realized how deep my background in Second Wave feminist writing really is. The style of Native Woman Other immediately reminded me of the writings of Hélène Cixous, whose The Newly Born Woman is one of those revelational texts that kind of changed everything after; as I had remarked to a friend before that class, the section we read is basically a "who's-who" of feminist-minded writers and thinkers up to that time (including many personal favorites): not only the heavily-cited Cixous, but Woolf, Duras, de Beauvoir, Kristeva, Atwood, Plath, Nikki Giovanni, Alice Walker, Nin, and countless others (the ones I don't know I figure I need to now). The first chapter struck me as an attempt to encapsulate major Second Wave feminist thought, all the while adding in the issue of race with that of gender, making it a point of precedent for the Third Wave of feminism that would quickly follow.

One way or the other, I was definitely on board, and it was a fair bit of reactionary spite that galvanized my vague desire to finish the rest of the book. Now finished, I realize there wasn't much said that was particularly new to me—I've recently happened to do some reading that revolve around similar themes—but this is by far the most beautifully rendered and expressed of all of them. It's an eloquent attempt to carve into feminist and anthropological discourse the perspective of the other "Other," that is, the voices of women of color. Particularly illuminating is the final chapter that analyzes the essential role the woman-as-storyteller has played and continues to play in many cultures.

"Her words are like fire. They burn and destroy. It is, however, only by burning that they lighten. Destroying and saving, therefore, are here one single process. Not two processes posed in opposition or in conflict. They would like to order everything around hierarchical oppositions."
Profile Image for Ayanna Dozier.
104 reviews20 followers
December 9, 2015
Trinh T. Minh-ha's writing is an embodied practice that is to say Min-ha writes from her specific standpoint position in society. Minh-ha argues that feminism needs to make room for cultural, racial, national, and gender differences. She, like many "intersectional" feminists, believes that carrying the "sign" of woman should not be used as a universal "sameness." Minh-ha contends that differences amongst individuals who identify feminists must make room to speak out against hegemonic power relations that are mimicked under the guise of feminism. More simply put, Minh-ha is specifically arguing against white feminists whose aims are to gain the power to "be equal to men." Minh-ha asserts that this logic/aim only re-iterates white colonialist structures that seek to marginalize individuals over racial, sexual, and other gender differences. For Minh-ha, feminism is against oppression and should be a liberating force for all and not some. Additionally, Minh-ha argues that we should not be afraid to speak out against white feminists who re-appropriate the dialogue, performative tacts and speech acts of the colonizer in the name of feminism.
Profile Image for Sarah.
203 reviews1 follower
July 2, 2012
Beautifully written. It took me a little while to get the hang of her writing style, but once I did, I truly appreciated her creative and unique prose.
Profile Image for Nina.
335 reviews9 followers
October 16, 2016
Re-read this book after years since my first read in college and loved it more than ever. I purposefully took it slow, enjoying Minh-ha's every poetic word and circling around the critical concepts with a more mature mind. And while some of the ideas could use some updating, it's a theoretical text I could read again and again.
Profile Image for christina.
176 reviews21 followers
June 24, 2021
Published in 1989, Minh-ha's attempt to spotlight -- what would later be called intersectionality -- of women, Othering, and women writers faced with the normative Othering of being female and the narrative of what being female constitutes is bold for its time. In fact, Minh-ha focuses on some key issues related to Women and writing: the forms of writing are male-centred and any woman who wishes to be seen as a Writer must accommodate by erasing the feminitity of their writing (read: their own perspective with regards to their experiences in the world). The claims that male and female experiences differ, are not new, even at this time, but by highlighting that to compete means to adopt language that perpetuate a male vision, is precisely the challenge women writers face.

What's challenging about Minh-ha's Woman, Native, Other is not the ideas she presents but in the way she presents it. Always a section will begin with several assertions that sound logical but then Minh-ha, instead of grounding her theories with evidence or logical arguments, descends into rhetoric to buttress her claims; i.e. rhetorical questions, circumlocution, chiasmus, hyperbole, hypophora, metonymy, etc., etc. What's even more worrisome is, in an attempt to express the myriad Others (women in all her multifaceted amalgamations), Minh-ha imbues her narrative as speaking for and on behalf of them! Free and indirect speech is great in literature; offensive in non-fiction, no matter what the gender of the speaker. Her strategy appears to be contend through insistence, to argue through persuasive writing through persuasion of language, which is ironic because the very forms she's using are the forms men use to negate and silence women and Others.

Ultimately, Women, Native, Other is bold but it languishes in its own self-absorption and self-importance without much more than a fairly well-turned phrase to incite engagement.
Profile Image for isaiah hines.
2 reviews2 followers
May 31, 2019
Wow. This book was absolutely incredible and I know it will prove to be formative in my future writing and academic work :) Minh-ha's distinctly antidisciplinary approach to writing is beautiful and delightfuLly challenging to read. Her careful practice of weaving in and out of poetry and theory to prose and images established a elegant fluidity within her work. I loved that I would often find myself rereading certain passages or pages and finding an entirely new meaning that I hadn't gained the first time around. Her style of veiling and unveiling left me continually working to read between the lines and look for meaning and truth "between all regimes of truth." I reallllly loved it <3
Profile Image for Navreet Dhaliwal.
6 reviews3 followers
August 12, 2014
I loved this book. Minh-ha has a wonderfully engaging writing style that both makes the reader feel as though they're part of a discussion and challenges them to answer questions she brings forth. This book is particularly helpful for anyone who has a strong interest in post-colonialism and would like an entry point into writing within that framework. Minh-ha presents a well researched narrative that is illuminating in how contemporary it is, but also humbling and appreciative of her predecessors' work(s).
Profile Image for Susie.
73 reviews
November 30, 2016
What. A. Book. Necessary reading for all, especially those looking to understand intersectionality to a greater extent.

Although the style of writing is a bit difficult to get used to (quotes and I/i etc are frequent), perseverance leads to experiencing a really wonderful and interesting book.
Profile Image for Maria.
4 reviews
May 4, 2021
I’ll start by saying that this was the first time for me engaging with a literary theory book. I had to read it twice to get a grasp of the content, but I feel that I am still missing much of the content as there isn’t a unitary narrative but each chapter can be considered a mini-essay made of other mini-essays.
Overall, I really appreciated the alternation between theory, the author’s words, pieces of poetry and images. It helped me understand how theory is intrinsic in everyday life and that it can’t be separated from other disciples. The book was written a long time ago but I think many points raised are still valid and sadly not much as changed-there still is much more activism to be done.
Profile Image for Karen Ocana.
164 reviews6 followers
July 15, 2021
An erudite and down-to-earth, multidisciplinary, creative and disciplined, joyful and searching, theoretic and exemplary exploration of storytelling as "one of the oldest forms of building historical consciousness and as the continuing setting into motion of a feminist problematic in the context of a female living tradition."

Woman, Native, Other: Writing Postcoloniality and Feminism. A terrific title for a book I'm often dipping into and which I used intensively when I was writing my master's thesis on Angela Carter, British storyteller, journalist, feminist, mythmaker, novelist, tale-collector and re-user, re-writer of stories in service to women, natives, others.

Profile Image for Mahmoud.
2 reviews
January 27, 2023
A really important book, Trinh T. Minh-ha brings together theory especially feminist theory, post colonialism, story-telling and literature by Women of Colour from writers such as Audre Lorde, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Mitsuye Yamada and Leslie Mormon Silko exploring identity and the experiences of women and their resistance to patriarchal rules. Minh-ha challenges grand narratives of western sciences like Anthropology and how it portrayed the other. As a filmmaker, Minh-ha includes stills accompanied with quotes from her films. I should also add that her writing flows beautifully throughout the book!
Profile Image for Sakenya.
3 reviews
July 4, 2019
Breaks literary boundaries and expectations. Delight, whimsy, philosophy for those who don't care what others think. Womanist narrative par excellence.
Profile Image for Dean Jorgensen.
33 reviews1 follower
April 30, 2017
Another reviewer posted the following as a negative review: "no words". I feel the same, but change it to a non-negative; this text is in the realm of my own not understanding, but there is strength in the words that I am not sure I understand. Is this poetry, a novel, literary criticism...maybe it is all of that, as a story, an important one.
Profile Image for Erdem Tasdelen.
71 reviews21 followers
October 9, 2008
This is quite a scattered text, and although it revolves around the same ideas it is structurally disjointed. Its wit and at times attacking qualities make it a solid performative work, but its content is lacking in a way that I can not pinpoint.
One is face to face with a constructed binarism (thinking Sedgwick here) where the "other" is made into an "another" by "difference". Minh-ha criticises the "white male anthropologist", in that he wants to gain knowledge about "the other" which he makes into an "other" for the practical aim of finding a hidden truth for his own being, his "roots". "The Nature of the non-Western World", "The Savage Mind", "How Natives Think"... He has a mastery of his "subjects" and claims to maintain scientific objectivity, but he is acting out with the deeply rooted "burden" of being a "white man".
The third world subject is now encouraged to assert his/her difference and customs as long as (s)he stays within his/her assigned limits. They want to find the "true native", the "real" and "unspoiled" subject. "A Japanese actually looks more Japanese in American than in Japan, but the 'real' type of Japanism ought to be in Japan" (84).
Other things discussed in this book:
- a third world woman writer, criticisms either ignore the facts or overemphasize her racial and sexual attributes; she's forced to think of herself in terms of differentiation (Spivak: "You can't not speak from a place.")
- writing for the third world writer becomes a means for educating the less fortunate; trying to overcome the "guilt" of being privileged. art for the masses, art by the masses, art from the masses.
- sexism in language
- truth/fact vs. story telling/oral history

A question that comes to mind while reading this book:
If the writerly qualities are perceived as male and a good female writer was complimented on how she "wrote like a man", then how is it that discourse around creativity centralises it as a feminine quality (the stereotyping of queer identity as creative)?
Profile Image for Stacey Rice.
Author 1 book7 followers
March 25, 2017
This book is very dense but once you get to the third chapter of the book you get a better sense of what it is she is trying to convey.
Profile Image for Isabelle Ouyang.
7 reviews1 follower
June 7, 2015
Minh-Ha's writing style can at first take some getting used to. At first, her writing felt a little like waxing poetic, but the book reveals itself to be very substantive in no time at all.
I haven't read that much theory, so I didn't know what to expect when I first started it. The post-colonial angle caught my eye, especially as an Asian American girl.
I wasn't disappointed-- a very insightful read that covered a broader range of topics than I thought it would.
The book is divided into four sections that jump from the WOC's creative process, to criticisms of western anthropology, to gender/sex politics for WOC, to storytelling.
Minh-Ha's overarching message was pretty clear, but the transitions to each respective topic were abrupt.
Gonna be real here, the second chapter on anthropology bored me immensely, and felt like a weird interruption between the first and third chapters. Maybe it would be more enlightening to someone who disagrees with or hasn't considered the criticisms of white/western anthropology.
Overall, it was really cool and exciting to read about the experiences of other women of color, specifically Asian women, and be able to relate (a disappointingly rare topic to come across)
I learned a little bit, thought a lot, and even though it didn't change me as a person, I'm glad I picked this book up. B-)
Profile Image for Olivia.
268 reviews27 followers
September 28, 2015
Difficult to read if you are expecting a classic second wave feminist text, but that is precisely the point. Cyclically written, with a loopy (literally) logic to it, a great step into the brave new world of Post-Colonial Feminism for the uninitiated. Also a perfectly lovely read for those of us who are already there.
Profile Image for Minh-Ha.
16 reviews12 followers
June 13, 2007
See especially "Commitment from the Mirror-Writing Box" and "Grandma's Story".
Profile Image for rachel.
9 reviews3 followers
July 9, 2008
"difference" always makes me feel like i am swimming.
Profile Image for sara.
59 reviews12 followers
October 3, 2010
read for feminist theory class...a great balance to all the other european/french theory u have to read
Profile Image for Charles.
Author 19 books35 followers
January 9, 2014
Review published in Studies in Twentieth-Century Literature 17.1 (1993): 157-160.
Profile Image for Sara Salem.
178 reviews249 followers
April 22, 2016
Very powerful book. The best critique of anthropology I have read so far.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 34 reviews

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