Analytical Note 5 – Gloria Anzaldua

Analytical note 5 is in response to: Anzaldua, G. (1987). Bordelands/La frontera. San Francisco: Aunt Lute.

Gloria Anzaldua was a writer and scholar who contributed works in cultural theory, feminist theory and queer theory. She was born to a sharecropper in the Rio Grande Valley, which gave her the experiences that she would write about in Borderlands/La Frontera. This book gives insight into the women of the Chicano and Latino culture, Chicanos in white American culture, and lesbians living in straight society. She combines history and personal stories in this writing and combining them with poetry develops a book that gives a view of the life she lived in the borderlands, literally in south Texas, and figuratively between all of the different cultures she belonged to.

Edward Said was born in Jerusalem to Palestinian parents who were Egyptian. He was an American citizen who helped to establish the academic field of postcolonialism. He earned a doctorate from Harvard and was a part of the faculty at Columbia University. Said’s book, Orientalism, gives a foundation for determining how Orientalism would be defined. He believes that this view of the Other is linked to imperialism, which does gives a very negative of view of those who are different.

Gayatri Spivak was born in India and is a professor at Columbia University. Her philosophy would fall under the postcolonial umbrella and her most well known writing is her essay “Can the Subaltern Speak?” She focuses on the texts of those who are pushed to the margins by Western culture and her writings are critical of colonialism and the legacy that is has created.

Anzaldua writes about issues from a very personal perspective. Her symbolism of the borders, the systems that distinguish us from them, the Others. She is an Other in so many different ways, her ethnicity, her skin color, she is a female, her sexuality (which makes her a deviant in her culture), her views on the spiritual world – all mark her as different. She was forced into several different places that she did not want to be because of these characteristics. Anzaldua had similar experiences as the women who were analyzed in Mir’s book, she had to fit into so many different roles that it was challenging. She did not fit into a checklist of the typical Mexican American female, she would not be essentialized.   When someone is essentialized, they are automatically assumed to have certain characteristics and traits, a checklist that you can go through to place someone into a category.

Biopolitics strongly influenced Anzaldua and her culture. Biopolitics involves looking into the areas where people are managed and how people navigate through the different systems. These systems could be anything from schools, to welfare, to the church. These different systems of developed positions of power and use this to push the people where the system thinks the people should be. Anzaldua addresses several of these systems including the church and the welfare state that Mexico has become as it has depended more and more on the United States for everything. She says “It, [the Catholic Church] and other institutionalized religions impoverished all life, beauty, and pleasure” (p. 37). She clearly believes that the church has overstepped its bounds in determining what the people should be to do or not do. This puts the church in a position of looking at those who are supported by it as Others..

Western culture has a specific view of the Orient, a view that has been sculpted over the past 200 years and portrays the Oriental as a backwards, uneducated, with a culture that is not very advanced. It is a view that takes those that are from the Orient as “Others.” It started with the colonialism of Eastern Asia during the late 1700’s, when Western European powers were expanding and creating colonies. When Napoleon invaded Egypt, he did so with an army and with scholars, both were necessary in Napoleon’s opinion. He wanted the scholars to be sure and document everything that was done. These scholars did that and as they portrayed the Egyptian culture as backward and not as capable as the French. This brought Africa under the umbrella of Orientalism, they were now a culture that needed to be educated, and cultivated, to learn to acquire those things that made Western Europe so advanced.

The Arab also has a history of being portrayed through Orientalism, it is a history that has consistently been given by others, Arabs have had very little say. This view that we have of the Arabs is through a lense of Orientalism, that they are “evil, blood thirsty, oversexed, camel driving, treacherous and low (p 286-7).” Said discuses several different “experts” on the Middle East, people who are important in developing policy, but they frequently present false information about Islam and the Middle East.

This view, originally from the late 1800’s, was written about the Orient, the culture East Asia. This view of Orientalism has continued to flourish and now encompasses several different peoples and cultures. As previously stated previously in this analysis, those people who are Arab are viewed this way. There are other cultures viewed this way as well, usually cultures that have been conquered in some fashion; for example the Native Americans of North America, and people from Africa. Closely associated with the Arab is the religion of Islam, which is also viewed with latent Orientalism.

Said develops the idea of Latent Orientalism and Manifest Orientalism. Latent Orientalism is the view that the Oriental is “backward and unequal with the West” (p. 206). Manifest Orientalism are the stated “views about Oriental society, languages, literature, history, and sociology” (p. 206). Manifest Orientalism would include any changes that occur in the knowledge of the Orient.



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