Gloria Anzaldua from a Room of one’s Own to Borderlands / La Frontera

Profile of a Feminist

This issue of Samyukta gives a profile of Gloria Anzaldua in its regular series on major feminists

Nearly eight decades ago, Virginia Woolf published her feminist manifesto A Room of One’s Own which initiated the quest for an alternate space for women. Her central thesis that ‘a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction’(13) explored the materialistic basis of woman’s creativity and identified the disabilities of women as social and economic. It was stated that without money women are slavishly dependent on men and that without privacy constant interruptions hamper their creativity. The key to emancipation was to be found in the door of a room which a woman may call her own. According to Woolf, a lock on the door, ‘means the power to think for oneself’ (110). With history being too much about wars and biography too much about great men (112), literary history and tradition was also exclusively male centred. The metaphor of literary paternity denied a place for the woman writer in the literary psychohistory of literary fathers and sons and the Room was the attempt to establish a legitimate ‘place’ for women writers in a literary tradition that had historically excluded them.

Keywords: Anzaldua, feminism, women of colour, colour women’s writing, third world women, native American, radical women, identity politics, homogenising tendencies, global feminism, colonial discourse, western aesthetics, women’s oppression

Today Woolf’s 1929 publication is frequently criticised for its class and race bias. As Alice Walker points out in her In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens, the dream of creative freedom and financial independence espoused by Woolf was historically impossible for most women of colour who had to contend not only with ‘chains, guns, the lash and the ownership of one’s body by someone else and submission to an alien religion but also enforced labour and malnutrition’ (237). However, after drawing attention to Woolf’s ignorance of the issues of race and class, Walker builds upon the premises of Woolf’s text regarding women’s anonymity and creativity to include black women in a feminist literary and cultural history that had excluded them. She takes off from the point where Woolf asserted that `we think back through our mothers if we are women’ (82). Walker shows us that if the spatial metaphor of Woolf’s room offered a cognitive `space’ for the Anglo-American feminists in the 1970s and 1980s, the `mothers” gardens’ would also provide an organic ‘place’ from which to derive `the dynamics of empowerment’ through matrilineage (Gilbert and Gubar 236). Though the `room’ has effectively functioned as a strategic metaphor in the essentialist, representational identity politics of early feminist thinking, post structuralist and deconstructive feminist agenda came into conflict with the claustrophobia involved in this modernist spatial metaphor. The notion of a `global feminism’ moreover had encouraged homogenising tendencies which overlooked racial and national specificities. The geopolitical rhetoric of feminism later came to include the term `glocational’ – a term that combines global and local – a borrowing from the word current in global and transnational cultural studies to indicate the notion of how the global and the local are co-compliant, each implicated in the other. It was an attempt to focus on a transnational feminism that avoids the homogenising tendencies of global feminism and respects the material and cultural specificities of local feminist formations (De Koven 30).

Poststructural challenges to the identity politics of feminism brought about what Rosi Braidotti called the `terminal crisis of classical humanism’ (2) and a paradigm shift regarding the ‘subject’ of feminism. Jodey Castricano in her A Modern of One Own : The Subject of Cyber Feminism bases her study on spatial metaphors following Woolf and identifies the feminist subject as one derived through the multiple-determined figure of the cyborg in contrast to the one female inhabitant of Woolf’s room (1). This is fundamentally based on Donna Haraway’s view of the `cyborg’ as a creature in a post-gender world which marks a radical critique of the dualisms and polarities such as natural culture, public/ private, organic/technological which are constantly rearticulated as the fundamental organising structures of subjectivity in the West.

Questions of identity and position are consistently problematised in international feminism where essentialist identities are subjected to fragmentation. These form patently critical issues for black, post colonial and cultural feminists like Trinh T.Minh-ha who are concerned that the generic category of `woman’ not only `tends to efface difference within itself’ but frequently assures white privilege. Chandra Talpade Mohanty in ‘Under Western Eyes : Feminist Scholarship and Colonial Discourses’ (1991) has pointed out that feminist discourse does not hesitate to appropriate power when given an opportunity. Western feminism’s construction of the ‘third world difference’ frequently appropriates and colonises the ‘constitutive’ complexities which characterise the lives of women in these countries. The demand that feminism confront its own heterosexist and racist hegemonies and recognise that culturally and politically constituted identities are complex and multiple has long been a driving force of black and anticolonial feminist criticism. Racial and cultural articulations were to be mapped onto sexual difference. Emphasis was placed on the interarticulations’ of race, class and sexuality and multiple identities formed a common link between many Asian, African-American, Black British, Aboriginal Australian ‘women-of-colour’ and working class writers. June Jordan’s collection of essays Civil Wars (1981) had outlined the perils of appropriating and reconstructing the voices of those women who cannot speak for themselves. During the 1980s and 90s the visibility and the growing political identities of Latino, Native American and Asian American writers and critics led to assertions and explorations of the distinctiveness of these literatures, particularly as writings which encourage a blurring of boundaries and a mixing of genres. Some of the important works in this category are Asuncian Horno Delago’s Breaking Boundaries : Latina Writings and Critical Readings (1989), Paula Gunn Allen’s The Sacred Hoop Recovering the Feminine in American Indian Traditions (1986) and Shirley Geok-lun Lim and Amy Leng’s (eds)Reading the Literatures of Asian American (1992).

Virginia Woolf’s search for an alternate linguistic and imaginative space from which women could speak had finally ended in her proposition of a room of one’s own. But it was perhaps her response to being barred entry to the library at Oxbridge ‘it is better to be locked out than to be locked in’ (33) that would have served as a pointer to the options open to those who were locked out of this room. Donna Hamway places before women of colour the option of a cyborg identity – it is seen as a potent subjectivity synthesised from fusions of outsider identities and is seen to approximate at key points to Gloria Anzaldua’s notion of in mestiza, an unbounded and flexible figuring of feminity which is at once `cultured’ and ‘cultureless’ for Anzaldua, a Chicana (Mexican-American woman) writer and teacher and self-identified ‘border woman’ the new mestiza’ (Chicana and Mexican women who have mixed native American and Spanish heritage) tolerates contradictions, ambiguities and learns to juggle cultures : she has a `plural personality’ and she operates in a pluralistic mode. The work of mestiza consciousness is to transcend dualities the answer to the problem between the white and the coloured races, between males and females lies in healing the split that originates in the very foundation of our lives, our culture, our languages, our thoughts (Borderlands 13). When Virginia Woolf declared her model of international sisterhood that was to highlight a feminism without borders, she was perhaps unaware of the hybrids on the margins. A powerful challenge and resistance to Virginia Woolf’s declaration, ‘As a woman I have no country, as a woman I want no country, as a woman my country is the whole world’, comes Anzaldua’s assertion, As a mestiza, I have no country… yet all countries are mine because I am every woman’s sister or potential lover’ (Borderlands 10).

Gloria Evangelina Anzaldua (1942-2004) described herself as `chicana dyke-feminist, tejana patlache poet, writer and theorist’. Anzaldua was born in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas to sharecropper/field-worker parents Urbana and Amalia Anzaldua on 26 September 1942. After relocating at age eleven to the city of Hargill Texas on the border of the United States and Mexico, she entered the fields to work. She confronted racism, sexism and other forms of oppression as she grew up as a sixth-generation Tejana and the death of her father when she was fourteen was a devastating blow to her. Fighting against several odds, Gloria succeeded in getting a university education. The premature death of her father made it necessary for her to continue working in the fields throughout her high school and university education while finding time for her reading; writing and drawing. In 1969, Anzaldua received her B.A. degree in English, Art and Secondary Education from Pan American University. She then worked for a few years as a school teacher before going to Austin to complete the course work for a degree in comparative literative at the University of Texas, Austin from where she also obtained her M.A. degree. In 1977, she moved to California where she supported herself through her writing, lectures and teaching assignments at San Francisco State University, the University of California, Santa Cruz and Florida Atlantic University. Her first teaching programmes were a bilingual press programme and a Special Education programme for the mentally and emotionally handicapped. Later her favourite areas were feminism, Chicano studies and creative writing which she handled with great distinction at the University of Texas at Austin, Vermont College, Norwich University and San Francisco State University. Anzaldua died on May 15, 2004 of complications arising from diabetes.

Gloria Anzaldua made women of colour visible through her famous work This Bridge Called My Back : Writing by Radical Women of Colour (1981) which she co-edited with Cherrie Moraga. This was followed by Borderlands/La Frontera : The New Mestiza (1987), Making Face, Making Soul/Haciendo Caras : Creative and Critical Perspectives by Women of Colour (1990) and This Bridge We Call Home : Radical Visions for Transformation (2002). Her books written for children include Prietita Has a Friend (1991), Friends from the Other Side (1993) and Prietita and the Ghost Woman (1996). These works won Anzaldua instant acclaim and several awards. This Bridge Called My Back won the Before Columbus Foundation American Book Award in 1986. Borderlands was recognised as one of the thirty – eight best books of 1987 by Library Journal and 100 Best Books of the century by both Hungry Mind Review and Utne Reader. In 1991 Anzaldua won a National Endowment for the Arts award for fiction and the 1991 Lesbian Rights Award. In 1992, she was awarded the Sappho Award of Distinction. She has also been awarded the Lamba Lesbian Small Book Press Award and the American Studies Association Lifetime Achievement Award.

Seeing language as a weapon of colonial oppression, Anzaldua, in her writing uses a unique blend of light languages, two variations of English and Spanish. In many ways, writing in Spanglish’ has enabled Anzaldua to put before the bilingual reader the daunting challenge of deciphering the full meaning of the text. The feeling of frustration and irritation that the reader experiences, Anzaldua has experienced all her life as she has struggled to communicate in a country where the non-English are shunned and marginalised. Having lived a life of alienation and isolation as a prisoner in the Borderlands between cultures, Anzaldua has every reason to address language as one of the borders.

According to Anzaldua, the actual physical borderland she alludes to is the Texas-U.S., South West/Mexican border. The psychological Borderlands, the sexual Borderlands and spiritual Borderlands are not particular to the Southwest. In fact Anzaldua maintains’ that Borderlands are physically present wherever two or more cultures edge each other, where people of different races occupy the same territory, where under, lower, middle and upper class touch, where the space between two individuals shrink with intimacy’ (Borderlands 5). Anzaldua has made major contributions to the definition of feminism and has elaborated upon cultural theory/chicana theory and queer theory. She introduced to the academic audience in the United States the term mestizage, meaning state of being beyond binary (`either-or’) conception. In her theoretical discussions and academic debates Anzaldua calls for a ‘new mestiza’ which she describes as an individual aware of her conflicting and meshing identities and she uses `new angles of vision’ to challenge binary thinking in the western world. The new mestiza way of thinking has become part of post colonial feminism.

Chicana and Latina feminists have struggled against many odds to articulate a Chicana Feminism that acknowledges both similarities and differences with other critical frameworks of social inequality including issues of race, gender, class and sexuality. They have defined Chicana feminism powerfully in their own words. They maintain that while racist issues are being foregrounded, Sexist oppression is naturalised and overlooked. Mirta Vidal challenges the Chicano ideal of the unity of ‘La Raza.’ She asserts that while it is true that the unity of La Raza is the basic foundation of the Chicano movement, when Chicano men talk about maintaining La Familia and the cultural heritage of La Ram, they are in fact talking about maintaining the age-old concept of keeping the woman barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen. She points out that there can be no unity where women are subordinated and marginalised. ‘The only real unity between men and women’, according to Vidal, ‘is the unity forged in the course of the struggle against their oppression. And it is by supporting rather than opposing the struggles of women that Chicanos and Chicanas can unite’ (Vidal 31-32). Ana Nieto-Gomez addresses the issues of race and class in the case of Chicana women. She feels that the Chicana’s socio-economic class as a non-Anglo-Spanish speaking low-income Chicana woman determines her political position. The low-income Anglo woman does not have to confront racism nor is she punished on the basis of her language. She shares with the middle class Chicana woman only the fact that they are both women. But they are women of different socio-economic, cultural and class status and are hence differently positioned politically (Nieto-Gomez 39).

It is perhaps in Cherria Moraga that we have the most emotive definition of Chicana feminism as ‘theory in the flesh’. This is elaborated in This Bridge Called My Back : Writings by Radical Women of Colour (1981) which Moraga co-edited with Anzaldua :

A theory in the flesh means one where the physical realities of our live – our skin colour, the land we grew up on our sexual longing – all fuse to create a politic born out of necessity. Here we attempt to bridge the contradictions in our experience.

We are the coloured in a white feminist movement, we are the feminists among the people of our culture, we are often the lesbians among the straight we do this, bridging by naming ourselves and by telling our stories in our own words. (Bridge 10)

Moraga in her later work Loving in the War Years (1983) interrogated the danger of ranking the oppressions – being a lesbian, being coloured, being a woman, being just plain poor. She says that the inherent danger lies in failing to acknowledge the specificity of the oppression and dealing with oppression from a purely theoretical base. According to Moraga, ‘without an emotional heartfelt grappling with the source of our own oppression, without naming the enemy within ourselves and outside of us, no authentic, non-hierarchical connection among oppressed groups can take place. (52-53)

Chela Sandoval puts forward a theory of

Oppositional consciousnesses against not only gender domination but against race, class and cultural hierarchies. It is a mapping of consciousness in opposition to the dominant social order which charts the white and hegemonic feminist histories of consciousness…while also making visible the different ground from which a specific U.S. third world feminism rises. The oppositional consciousness replaces and reconceptualises the hegemonic structures and charts out the realities that occupy a specific kind of cultural region. The individuals or groups seeking to transform oppressive powers constitute themselves as resistance and oppositional subjects. (Sandoval 10-11)

Ana Castillo another Chicana feminist defines herself and her people uniquely:

The people from whom I descend as a Chicana are mestizo/as. Our history is inextricably tied to the United States history because of the Mexican-American War whereby half of Mexico’s territory was appropriated by the United States over one hundred fifty years ago. (Castillo 10)

Castillo portrays the disenchantment faced by Latina/Chicana feminists who were marginalised by the male dominated Chicano/Latino politics. This led the women of colour to formulate their own theories of oppression. Spanish speaking women activists could not identify themselves with feminism which they inevitably linked with white upper class or middle class women. Hence they used the term ‘conscientizacion’. Along the same lines many women of Mexican descent in the nineties rejected the term Chicana as one belonging to the radicalism of the nineteen seventies. Castillo chose the ethnic and racial definition of `Mexic Amerindian’ to assert indigenous blood and the source of their spirituality. Castillo introduces the new term Xicanisma to refer to Chicana feminism. She protests that the issue of Chicana feminism has been appropriated by the academic community where it has fallen prey to theoretical abstractions. Castillo’s agenda is one of liberation from academic mystification. ‘Eventually I hope that we can rescue Xicanisma from the suffocating atmosphere of conference rooms, the acrobatics of academic terms and concepts and carry it to our work place, social gatherings, kitchens, bedrooms, and society in general’ (Castillo 10-11).

Castillo is perhaps the closest to Anzaldua in her interrogation of theory. Anzaldua recognises theory as a ‘set of knowledges’ and feels that her people have been kept out of professions and the academia. Theory is a forbidden territory for the Chicanas, they are disqualified and excluded from theoretical deliberations. She feels that it is vital for the coloured women to occupy a theorising space and to bring their own approaches and methodologies to transform the theorising space. Anzaldua tries to find out what a thinking subject or an intellectual means to women of colour. She answers her question brilliantly:

It means not fulfilling our parents’ expectations, it means often going against their expectations by exceeding them. It means being concerned about the ways knowledges are invented. It means continually challenging institutionalised discourses. It means being suspicious of the dominant culture’s interpretation of ‘our’ experience, of the way they read us. It means… being internal exiles. (Hacienda Teorias 11)

Anzaldua makes it clear that what counts as theory in the dominant academic community is not necessarily what theory is to women-of-colour. Theory, according to Anzaldua, should change people and the ways they perceive the world. She insists that theory should rewrite history using race, class, gender and ethnicity as categories of analysis, theories that cross borders and blur boundaries and employ new methodologies are the need of the hour. As Anzaldua puts it, ‘we need to de-academise theory and to connect the community to the academy. “High theory” does not translate well when one’s intention is to communicate to masses of people made up of different audiences. We need to give up the notion that there is a ‘correct way to write theory’ (13). Anzaldua inspires theorists-of-colour to formulate ‘marginal’ theories that are partially outside and partially inside the western frame of reference, theories that overlap many worlds. These theorists were to articulate new positions in these ‘in-between’ spaces. In their literature, social issues such as race, class and sexual difference are intertwined with the narrative and poetic elements of a text, elements in which theory is embedded. Anzaldua is very specific on the issue of creating new theorising spaces:

In our mestizage theories we create new categories for those of us left out or pushed out of the existing ones. We recover and examine non-western aesthetics while critiquing western aesthetics: recover and examine indigenous languages while critiquing the ‘languages’ of the dominant culture, recover and examine non-rational modes and `blanked-out’ realities while critiquing rations, consensual reality. And we simultaneously combat the tokenisation and appropriation of our literatures and our writers/artists. (25) Anzaldua maintained that too much focus has been assigned to white woman’s exclusionary practices to examine the quality of what has been included and the nature of this inclusion. She is certain about the possibility of potential liberation from academic exclusion by creating new theorising spaces `If we have been gagged and disempowered by theories, we can also be loosened and empowered by theories’ (26).

Anzaldua stated that if she were to revise her writing, she would distinguish a little more between the kind of historical, rational language of high theory and another kind of language which is the poetic language of myths and collective self expression which is more natural to her writings. She also felt that perhaps she would unravel the spirituality in her work. Anzaldua was in fact a very spiritual person and her grandmother was a curandera (traditional healer). In many of her works she refers to her devotion to la Virgen de Guadalupe, (Our Lady of Guadalupe), Nahuat/Toltec divinities and to the Yoruba Orishas Yemaya and Oshun. In her later writings she developed concepts of spiritual activism and nepantleras to describe the ways contemporary social actors can combine spirituality with politics to enact revolutionary change.

Anzaldua wanted to change the world through her writing. Her first work This Bridge, she felt, would be a drop in the ocean that set off ripples. She felt excited about the metaphor of the Borderlands that was received very well by the readers of different countries and cultures. In her interview with Ann Reuman, Anzaldua said, ‘What I am thrilled about is that people have seen themselves =fleeted in my work enough so that they can get in dialogue with themselves. And I think that’s one of the highest compliments a writer can be paid’ (Reuman 10). She remarked that one of the riskier things she did ‘was to open up the concept of mestizage, of the new mestiza and hybridity, to be non exclusive, to be inclusive of white people and people from other communities’ (11). She feels that the Chicanos and the Chicanas have been her greatest critics since they are extremely territorial and quite possessive about Chicanitas and Mexicanitas. Not knowing quite how to deal with a Chicana dyke/feminist dyke like her they have often marginalised Anzaldua by putting her in a footnote. Whatever is ahistorical and transcultural often unsettles people. Being used to high theory many readers were uncomfortable with the spiritual/mystical/poetic aspects of Anzaldua’s writings. As Anzaldua puts it, ‘What makes them uncomfortable is that I’m practising what I’m preaching and they have all their lives been taught to read and write in a certain way and here I come with my text, with collage, code-switching and genre-switching and I’m actually practising what I preach; and they are not used to that’ (16). All that she wants her readers to comprehend is the simple truth that what they consider to be consensual reality is only one reality and that there are many other perspectives as well as many other ways of perceiving these realities and writing about them. As a writer, Anzaldua claims always to be in dialogue with another aspect of herself or with friends or with members of different communities. She is also in dialogue with the natural forces – the ocean, the trees and the animals.

Anzaldua found her audience expanding though she primarily addressed women – feminists, lesbians, and Chicanas. She left eleven poems in Spanish untranslated in the Borderlands for the Mexican and Chicano Spanish speakers and white people who can read Spanish. While she addressed the academic community in the universities on aspects of theory, she spoke to women on women’s issues like rape, battering and all kinds of sexual and domestic violence. The people that she most wanted to affect was her home ethnic community, her family. Yet those were the people most reluctant to accept her writing. She relates many a painful incident in her creative life. When This Bridge came out and Anzaldua talked about being queer, her sister tore up the book and threw it in the trash can. When Borderlands came out, it contained a poem called `Immaculate Inviolate’ which was about the sexuality of the women of her grandmother’s generation. Her brother was appalled by it and he threatened to get other relatives to sue her. Anzaldua remarks with a great deal of humour that when her children’s book came out, everyone in the family thought it was great because there was no sexuality nor lesbianism in it and it was safer ground. She mentions that it is only in terms of money Making and academic honours that her family would appreciate her writing. She remembers that it was only her father who wanted her to go beyond high school and her two grandmothers who told her stories about the days of the ranch settlements who really encouraged her.

Anzaldua, in her search for an alternate space beyond either/or isms and the binary oppositions inherent in western thinking goes back to the myths, legends and folklores of her native culture. She has always tried to struggle against the colonial legacy of the language that was imposed on her and Chicanos and marginalised groups. In Borderlands she says she is male and female, two in one body and identifies herself with Coatlicue as one who balances dualities, a symbol of the fusion of opposites. She constantly struggles with language to create words which challenge constrictive totalisations. She says that in one particular tribe of Indians that is in her blood stream which is the Aztec, they did have a figure that was both male and female. The Chicano movement that was all about preserving the culture, heritage and language of Chicanos did not take kindly to Anzaldua’s crossing of borders – mingling of the Chicano and the white or the Chicano and the European. As she explains, What 1 am trying to acticulate now is a kind of a mestizaje, a nos/otras, the nos is us/we/me/the subject ; the otras is them/they/ the object, and in nos/otras we are them and they are us and we are contaminated by each other’ (14). She says that she has to practise a tight-rope walk between the Eurocentric part of herself and the nationalistic in order to strike a balance. She is aware of the fact that she is not a Chicana exclusively for she is also a dyke, a writer, a scholar and she calls this the new tribalism’ (14). In her poem The Coatlicue State she speaks of a protean being and throughout the Borderlands about the shape shifting capacity of a writer. She maintains that ‘identity’ is relational and that it exists in relation to some other. And so it’s always in this in-between zone, the nepantla or the Borderlands. While gender was thought to be a fixed category, the transsexuals and the drag queens occupy the in-between space and assert that identity is enacted, it is performed. Anzaldua proclaims her specialised version of shape shifting:

….being in between, overlapping spaces is very much my metaphor for the shape shifter shaman, which I’m now using instead of using the word ‘protean’ I am using the word inahual’ which is shaman… the Native American Shaman or Siberian Russian Shaman or Japanese Korean Shaman, but it is basically that ability to travel through worlds, to jump from one locale to the other or one particular identity to the other. (15)

Anzaldua had used in Borderlands the image of herself as a turtle that carried its home an its back – there is a way in which you are a part of both worlds, or of many worlds but also feel apart from them.

Anzaldua never gave up her exploration of terms and labels of identity. When she left home and became part of the women of colour community and came out as a lesbian, she took a dislike to the term ‘lesbian’. She started feeling that what the white lesbian community was imposing on her was a Eurocentric view, a label that derived from Greece, Sappho and was very white’ (30). She wanted to articulate her queerness which was different from their queerness and so she needed a different kind of language. She would use ‘dyke’ or ‘queer’ and with Chicanas she started using the word patlache. ‘Patlache is a Nahul word that means ‘dyke’ or ‘lesbian’. Yet she refused to limit her identity to a dyke of colour which was hardly a community and developed a rapport with white dykes. Still she refused to be confined by the dictates of lesbian/dyke writing agenda.

Asked about her impact on white middle-class feminist thinking, Anzaldua points out that women of colour threw light on the intersection of race and gender. She says, ‘sexism is not the only kind of oppression that women suffer. Race has to do with it. Class has to do with it. Sexual orientation has to do with it. Age has to do with it’(32). Anzaldua says white feminism had positively affected her world view and given her the vocabulary to articulate her experience. From there she took off developing her own vocabulary, using her own cultural words and symbols and images. Anzaldua finds a parallel in the gender oppression suffered by Native-American, Chinese-American, Asian and African-American women. Among the African-American women who had a great deal of influence on her, Anzaldua mentions Toni Morrison, Andre Lorde, Barbara Smith and Gloria Naylor.

Finally, Anzaldua reiterates that it is impossible to work in a vacuum. The bridge metaphor permeates all of Anzaldua’s creative thinking – it is centred round the bridge from her world to the white world to the world of women of colour and in her internal life the metaphor relates to Shamanistic image of travelling, flying to other worlds… She says that the idea of travelling to other worlds is related to her last name Anzaldua which is Basque. As she puts it:

`An’ means over or heaven, the upper world, the sky world, the world of the head and the intellect `Zal’ is the underworld, the world of the unconscious, the world of instincts, the feelings. And ‘duct’ is the joining of the two and that is the earth part, the middle ground so my name really means this traveller from the upper world to the under world to the middle world to the nahual, the shape shifter, the person who can in her imagination travel to these other places, access dreams. (40)

Anzaldua offers no easy solutions to the hierarchical binaries that have become embedded in most cultures. She redefines feminism in that she sees feminist issues as part of human issues where gender is only one of the categories of oppression. As she puts it, ‘I think that we need to expand the term feminism and feminist. And there are other genders – the bi and the straight, this kind of third gender that needs to be taken into account’ (45). Anzaldua’s greatest contribution was her life-long struggle to push the borders of feminism further and to encourage those on the margins (borders) to appropriate for themselves a space to create, a space to think and a space to articulate their visions.


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Reuman, Ann E. ‘Coming into play : An Interview with Gloria Anzaldua’. Melus.25.2 (Summer 2000): 1-52.

Sandoval, Chela. ‘U.S. Third World Feminism The Theory and Method of Oppositional Consciousness in the Postmodern World’. Genders 10 Spring 1991.

Vidal, Mirta. `Chicanas Speak out. Women, New Voices of La Raza’. Feminism and Socialism. New York : Pathfinder, 1972.

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Walker, Alice. In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens : Womanist Prose. New York : Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1983,



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