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Minh-ha, Trinh

Page history last edited by Melanie 15 years, 6 months ago

Trinh T. Minh-Ha is a composer, theorist, writer, and filmmaker who currently is a Professor of Women's Studies and Rhetoric (Film) at UC Berkeley. Mihn-Ha was born in Vietnam and her work focuses on film, art, feminism, and cultural politics. She also is an editor of Out There with West, Cornel.

 

Woman, Native, Other: Writing Postcoloniality and Feminism (1989) is one of her best known publications. In this book she discusses issues of female and third world identity.

 

In a section of her book called  "Infinite Layers: I am not you i can be you and me" Trinh T. Minh-ha discusses the complexity of the self and deconstructs the idea of the unified self. Her deconstruction is rooted in looking at the very language we use to differentiate ourselves from others and create particular groupings of subjects.

As she examines pronouns and the reified categories of "true selves" that they represent, she argues that these categories are not fixed or clearly divided. To illustrate the complex and infinite nature of the "self" she plays with different representations for pronouns and signifiers. Often she writes I(i) to break down the totality of the "I" and its assumption that it represents one singular entity. To Trinh Minh-Ha, the pronouns that we construct to differentiate ourselves from one another are codes of representation that do not accurately represent our lived or performed experiences of selfhood.

 

In another section of her book called Female Identity Enclosure section she critiques those who define feminism in the context of the "male model". When feminism is seen as a response to dominant streams of patriarchal thought it often reifies the category of "woman" through defining women as "not men". Thus, as Minh-Ha argues, the dominant category (maleness) gets privileged as the structure of comparison. 

Trinh Minh-Ha argues that it is ridiculous to define "women" in contrast to "men" because women are so many more things than simply "not men".

 

     Women can never be defined. Bat, dog, chick, mutton, tart. Queen, madam, lady of pleasure. MISTRESS. Belle-de-nuit, woman of the streets, fruitwoman, fallen women.  Cow, vixen, bitch. Call girl, joy      girl, working girl...(Minh-ha 1989: 528)

 

Minh-Ha describes multiple labels and identities that women have to illustrate that women are not "not men". 

She also extends the concept of using the dominant or hegemonic category to define the other to the way in which "people of color" get categorized.

 

Whiteness, just like maleness, becomes the category of reference in defining race. A person is "white" or "non-white" rather than "black" or "non-black", Western or non-Western, European or non-European. Someone is never referred to as non-African, non-Asian, non-Eastern etc. The frame of reference in defining racial and gender identities is always mediated by hegemonic categories and the power relationships they represent. Trinh Minh-Ha wishes to demystify these categories and uses her writing to call for a new form of representation that is not based on domination or arbitrary categories.

 

Diversity, Minh-Ha says, is our strength and our misery.  Similar to how Lorde, Audre urges us to aknowledge our differences, and to realize that our differences can help us create new systems of thought, so too Minh-Ha realizes that while our differences can help create positive changes, it so often is used negatively and keeps people apart. She speaks about white women who claim ownership to "women" and feel threatened when they are challenged.

 

"Another revealing example of this separatist majority mentality is the story Walker relates of an exhibit of women painters at the Brooklyn Museum: when asked "Are there no black women painters represented here?" (none of them is, apparently), a white woman feminist simply replies "It's a women's exhibit!" Different historical contexts, different semantic contents..." (531)

 

 

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