Gender, Race, and Class

In Imperial Leather, Anne McClintock argues that to understand colonialism and postcolonialism, one must first recognize that

race, gender and class are not distinct realms of experience, existing in splendid isolation from each other; nor can they be simply yoked together retrospectively like armatures of Lego. Rather, they come into existence in and through relation to each other -- if in contradictory and conflictual ways.

Others have argued before her that the Victorians connected race, class, and gender in ways that promoted imperialism abroad and classism at home -- see, for example, Anthony Wohl's decade-old materials on these subjects in the Victorian Web -- but McClintock argues that these connections prove crucial to the development of Western modernity. "Imperialism," she explains,

is not something that happened elsewhere -- a disagreeable fact of history external to Western identity. Rather, imperialism and the invention of race were fundamental aspects of Western, industrial modernity. The invention of race in the urban metropoles. . . became central not only to the self-definition of the middle class but also to the policing of the "dangerous classes": the working class, the Irish, Jews, prostitutes, feminists, gays and lesbians, criminals, the militant crowd and so on. At the same time, the cult of domesticity was not simply a trivial and fleeting irrelevance, belonging properly in the private, "natural" realm of the family. Rather, I argue that the cult of domesticity was a crucial, if concealed, dimension of male as well as female identities -- shifting and unstable as these were. [Imperial Leather: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in the Colonial Context, N. Y.: Routledge, 1995, 5.]

Postcolonial OV discourseov Gender Matters Bibliography

Last modified: 8 April, 2002