The difference debate : the politics of feminist literary criticism in South Africa.
This dissertation traces the development of the ‘difference debate’ during the 1990s. Using the ground-breaking Natal conference on ‘Women and Gender in Southern Africa’ as the central point of reference, the study aims to investigate the impact and legacy of the ‘difference debate’ in feminist criticism in the 1990s, and ultimately, the ways in which feminist scholars responded to the challenges posed by the ‘problem of difference’. The dissertation outlines the heated debates and intense disagreements that occurred during the decade that exposed previously nascent fissures in a purportedly unified feminist ‘sisterhood’. In this way, this brief intellectual history traces the trajectory of feminist debates over difference, race and gender, and the politics of representation, as articulated at the Natal conference on Women and Gender and in subsequent feminist scholarship. What emerges from these discussions are new strategies in which feminists embrace coalition politics as a way to move beyond the divisions that the concept of difference exposed. These feminist formations are orientated towards recognising and dealing with the differences between and among women, in order to account for gender as a fragmented and unstable concept. This dissertation therefore illuminates the ways in which the difference debate has had an indelible impact on contemporary feminist thought and in turn, has influenced the principles and methodologies of feminist literary criticism.