Dislocating Culture Summary

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A Reaction to Narayan’s Dislocating Cultures.
Uma Narayan’s article raises multiple questions about how third world issues are perceived by western bodies. In her article, Dislocating Cultures: Identities, Traditions, and Third World Feminism, she looks at the “‘effects’ that national contexts have on the construction of feminist issues and the ways in which understandings of issues are then affected by border crossings across national boundaries” and how culture is invoked in explaining the forms of violence that stem from these issues (p.213). She explains this phenomenon by focusing on dowry murder in India. Dowry murder has caused a large outcry and shock, even on the part of the author. But there is a certain shock that arises from western
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These assumptions are often problematic, and always create this need for western feminists and governments to swoop in and save third world people from their oppressive cultures. Hence the savior narrative, in which third world people do not know what is beneficial and right for them and need foreign individuals to inform them. To quote Elora Halim Chowdhury, the US has stationed itself as a “beacon of humanitarianism” (Chowdhury, p. 60), and this can be taken note of in Harry Truman’s inaugural speech, where he implores his fellow Americans to “relieve the suffering of these people” (Library of Congress, p. 242). Some points raised in the class were, since it was a cultural issue, it could not be changed, but, on the other hand, one can still find western feminists or humanitarian NGOs trying to to save ‘these people.’ Narayan also makes note of the fascination in which western feminists and individuals discuss these dowry murders as if they were out of the ordinary. She indeed states, native Indians are shocked by it too, because it happens to middle-class women, and it was not, on a national scale, a public matter. But US feminists see it as some exotic event or ritual for the reason that domestic violence fatalities in the US often involve the use of weapons like knives and guns. But what western feminists …show more content…
In Chowdhury’s article, she mentions Phyllis Chesler’s remarks on western feminists need to refocus their attention on “gender apartheid” in the Islamic world, where women are treated as “subhumans” (p. 55). But it is not only western women who cast blame on culture, but also the indigenous people as well. Narayan makes mention of Sushila Mehata who has taken a grievance against Hindu religion, saying spirituality grants men ownership of women (p. 222). And it begs the question, do third world individuals also contribute to these misconstrued understandings of their national issues, are they responsible for the ways in which this information cross borderlines? Taking it a step further, this blame on culture is not limited to, third world countries, but also people of color in western countries, and especially in the United States, where it is not concealed. People of color are often all accused of or are all called to answer to a crime that one individual or a group of individuals sharing their identity has committed. For instance, 9/11 was blamed on all Muslims, and ‘Muslim-looing individuals.’ Black culture is often invoked as an explanation for why a black individual committed a crime or was suspected of committing a crime. But such accusations never arise, when a white individual carries out the same crimes. This

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