Strategic essentialism

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Strategic essentialism, a major concept in postcolonial theory, was introduced in the 1980s by the Indian literary critic and theorist Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak.[1] It refers to a strategy that nationalities, ethnic groups or minority groups can use to present 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, or to oppose the levelling impact of global culture.[2]

Spivak has said since first introducing the term that she is unhappy with the ways it has been taken up and used to promote essentialism itself.[3] In interviews, she has disavowed the term, although she has not completely deserted the concept itself.

The idea also comes up regularly in queer theory, feminist theory, deaf studies,[4] and specifically in the work of Luce Irigaray, who refers to it as mimesis.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ G. Ritze/J. M. Ryan eds., the Concise Encyclopedia of Sociology (2010) p. 193
  2. ^ B. Ashcroft et al, Key Concepts in Post-colonial Studies (1998) p. 159-60
  3. ^ G. Ritze/J. M. Ryan eds., the Concise Encyclopedia of Sociology (2010) p. 619
  4. ^ ladd, paddy (2003). understanding deaf culture: In search of deafhood. Great Britain: Multilingual matters. p. 81. ISBN 1-85359-546-2. 

Further reading[edit]

  • A. Prasad, Postcolonial Theory and Organizational Analysis (2003)

External links[edit]