Strategic essentialism, a major concept in postcolonial theory, was introduced in the 1980s by the Indian literary critic and theorist Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. It refers to a political tactic in which minority groups, nationalities, or ethnic groups mobilize on the basis of shared gendered, cultural, or political identity to represent themselves. While strong differences may exist between members of these groups, and amongst themselves they engage in continuous debates, it is sometimes advantageous for them to temporarily "essentialize" themselves and to bring forward their group identity in a simplified way to achieve certain goals, such as equal rights or antiglobalization.
Spivak's understanding of the term was first introduced in the context of cultural negotiations, never as an anthropological category. In her 2008 book Other Asias, Spivak disavowed the term, indicating her dissatisfaction with how the term has been deployed in nationalist enterprises to promote (non-strategic) essentialism.
- Identity politics
- Social constructionism
- Stuart Hall (cultural theorist)
- G. Ritze and J.M. Ryan, ed. (2010). The Concise Encyclopedia of Sociology. p. 193.
- B. Ashcroft; et al. (1998). Key Concepts in Post-colonial Studies. pp. 159–60.
- Susan Abraham (2009). "Strategic Essentialism in Nationalist Discourses: Sketching a Feminist Agenda in the Study of Religion". Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion. 25 (1): 156–161 – via Project Muse.
- Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (2008). Other Asias. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing. p. 260. ISBN 978-1405102070.
- G. Ritze and J.M. Ryan, ed. (2010). The Concise Encyclopedia of Sociology. p. 619.
- Paddy Ladd (2003). Understanding Deaf Culture: In Search of Deafhood. Multilingual Matters Ltd. p. 81. ISBN 1-85359-546-2.
- Virpi Lehtinen (2014). Luce Irigaray's phenomenology of feminine being. State University of New York Press. p. 39.
- A. Prasad, Postcolonial Theory and Organizational Analysis (2003)
- Abraham, Susan. “Strategic Essentialism in Nationalist Discourses: Sketching a Feminist Agenda in the Study of Religion.” Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, vol. 25, no. 1, 2009, pp. 156–161. JSTOR.
- Elizabeth Grosz, “Sexual Difference and the Problem of Essentialism,” The Essential Difference. Ed. Naomi Schor and Elizabeth Weed, pp. 82–97.
- Glossary of Key Terms in the Work of Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak by Michael Kinburn
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