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Re-reading de Beauvoir after race: Woman-as-slave revisited

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This article reads Simone de Beauvoir's Ethics of Ambiguity (2000, [1948]) and The Second Sex (1989, [1949]) in light of recent decolonial critiques of (post) modernity. It situates de Beauvoir's employment of the woman-as-slave analogy within the heated controversies of her political moment. Marxists, Existentialists, Jewish intellectuals and Pan-Africanists, among others, engaged around issues of anti-fascist, anti-colonialist and anti-capitalist struggle. De Beauvoir's avant-gardist project to insert early feminist articulation into these controversies laid the foundation for international second-wave feminism. Radical as it was in terms of her formulation of (white) gender difference, however, her work was based on a rhetorical distancing of white women from slavery which separates black women from the conceptualization of gender altogether, and thus has erased the history and claims of black women from the critical purview of feminism.

Keywords: critical theory; de Beauvoir; decolonial; feminism; gender; slavery; whiteness

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Bremen.

Publication date: May 1, 2011

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  • The International Journal of Francophone Studies offers a critical preview for a new development in the understanding of 'France outside France', with a thorough insight into the network of disciplinary issues affiliated with this study. The journal complements the thriving area of scholarly interest in the French-speaking regions of the world, bringing a location of linguistic, cultural, historical and social dynamics within a single academic arena.
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