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Feminism/Literature/This Bridge Called My Back

This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color is a feminist anthology edited by Cherríe Moraga and Gloria E. Anzaldúa. The anthology was first published in 1981 by Persephone Press, and the second edition was published in 1984 by Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press.[1] The book was out in its third edition, published by Third Woman Press, until 2008, when its contract with Third Woman Press expired and it went out of print. This Bridge centered the experiences of women of color, offering a serious challenge to white feminists who made claims to solidarity based on sisterhood.[2] Writings in the anthology, along with works by other prominent feminists of color, call for more a greater prominence within feminism for race-related subjectivities, and ultimately laid the foundation for third wave feminism. This Bridge has become "one of the most cited books in feminist theorizing" (emphasis in original).[3]

ImpactEdit

Though other published writings by women of color existed at the time of This Bridge’s printing, many scholars and contributors to This Bridge agree that the bringing together of writing by women of color from diverse backgrounds in one anthology is what made This Bridge so unique and influential. Barbara Smith, contributor, writes that Black, Native American, Asian American, and Latina women “were involved in autonomous organization at the same time that we [were] beginning to find each other. Certainly This Bridge Called My Back […] has been a document of and a catalyst for these coalitions.” [4]

In addition to providing the framework for new activist-based coalitions, This Bridge has had a considerable impact upon the world of academia for its linking of feminism, race, class, and sexuality. Though not appearing immediately, the concept of intersectionality is now widely explored in fields like sociology, and This Bridge offers evidence of its exploration from decades past. It also brought “an intellectual framework” of identities based on race and ethnicity to lesbian and gay studies.[5] In this bridge we call home, the anthology published in 2002 to examine the impacts of This Bridge twenty years later, Australian anthropologist Helen Johnson details This Bridge’s effects on institutional teaching environments. She describes how the anthology “has allowed her to offer global perspectives on issues of race, gender, ethnicity, and power against the now antiquated white feminists’ utopian ideal of universal sisterhood.” This Bridge has been hailed for providing an “easily accessible discourse, plain speaking, a return to Third World storytelling, voicing a difference in the flesh, not a disembodied subjectivity but a subject location, a political and personal positioning.”[6]

Though This Bridge is referenced in many essays and books regarding the development of Third World feminism, one of the most widely recognized explorations is Norma Alarcon’s essay entitled “The Theoretical Subject(s) of This Bridge Called My Back and Anglo-American Feminism.” In her essay, Alarcon discusses the importance of looking at relationships not just between gender groups but within gender groups, as highlighted in This Bridge. Through questioning the existence of objective “truth” as separate from human construction, and through an analysis of language that acknowledges deep contextual and historical meanings, she highlights the intentions of This Bridge to challenge the forces that put all feminists into one category, as well as the oppositional thinking that makes differences hierarchical instead of inter-related and interdependent.[7] Barbara Smith feels that these messages are made clear within the pages of This Bridge, asserting that “more than any other single work, This Bridge has made the vision of Third World feminism real.”[4]

However, even with these aforementioned impacts, many individuals contend that women of color feminisms still remain marginal within women’s studies in the U.S.[6] Chela Sandoval, in her essay on third world feminism, writes, “The publication of This Bridge Called My Back in 1981 made the presence of U.S. third world feminism impossible to ignore on the same terms as it had been throughout the 1970s. But soon the writings and theoretical challenges of U.S. third world feminists were marginalized into the category of what Allison Jaggar characterized in 1983 as mere ‘description.’”[8]

This Bridge "offered a rich and diverse account of the experience and analyses of women of color; with its collective ethos, its politics of rage and regeneration, and its mix of poetry, critique, fiction and testimony, it challenged the boundaries of feminist and academic discourse."[9]

Anthologists Moraga and Anzaldúa stated in the preface that they expected the book to act as a catalyst, "not as a definitive statement on Third World Feminism" in the United States.[10] They also expressed a desire to "express to all women, especially white, middle class women, the experiences which divide us as feminists ...we want to create a definition that expands what 'feminist' means."[11]

Teresa de Lauretis noted that This Bridge and All the Women Are White, All the Blacks Are Men, But Some of Us Are Brave: Black Women's Studies (1982) created a "shift in feminist consciousness" by making "available to all feminists the feelings, the analyses, and the political positions of feminists of color, and their critiques of white or mainstream feminism."[12]

Cherríe Moraga, Ana Castillo, and Norma Alarcon adapted this anthology into the Spanish-language Esta puente, mi espalda: Voces de mujeres tercermundistas en los Estados Unidos. In 2002, AnaLouise Keating and Gloria Anzaldúa edited an anthology (this bridge we call home: radical visions for transformation) that examined the impact of This Bridge twenty years later while trying to continue the discussion started by Anzaldúa and Moraga in 1981.

Related ReadingsEdit

  • All the Women Are White, All the Blacks are Men, But Some of Us Are Brave: Black Women’s Studies edited by Gloria T. Hull, Patricia Bell Scott, and Barbara Smith (1982)
  • Telling to Live: Latina Feminist Testimonios by the Latina Feminist Group (1993)
  • Companeras: Latina Lesbians (An Anthology) edited by Juanita Ramos (1994)
  • Making Face, Making Soul/Haciendo Caras: Creative and Critical Perspectives by Women of Color edited by Glora Anzaldua (1990)


ReferencesEdit

  1. Short, Kayann. "Coming to the Table: The Differential Politics of This Bridge called my Back, Genders 19, 1994, pp4-8
  2. Nisha Agarwal (January 11, 2010). "This Bridge Called My Back: A Retro Look at Women of Color and Power". The Huffington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nisha-agarwal/this-bridge-called-my-bac_b_418196.html. Retrieved 2010-01-13. 
  3. Aenerud, Rebecca "Thinking Again: This Bridge Called My Back and the Challenge to Whiteness" in AnaLouise Keating; Gloria E. Anzaldúa (2002). This Bridge We Call Home: Radical Visions for Transformation. p. 71. 
  4. a b Smith, Barbara. Home Girls: a Black Feminist Anthology. New Jersey: Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, 1983. Pg. xliv.
  5. Escoffier, Jeffrey. American Homo: Community and Perversity. California: University of California Press, 1998. Pg. 134.
  6. a b Calderon, Hector. “A New Connection, a New Set of Recognitions”: From This Bridge Called My Back to this bridge we call home. From Discourse, 25.1&2. Wayne State University Press, 2003. Pg. 296-301.
  7. Alarcon, Norma. “The Theoretical Subject(s) of This Bridge Called My back and Anglo-American Feminism.” From Criticism in the Borderlands. Studies in Chicanpo Literature, Culture and Ideology. Edited by Hector Calderon and Jose Davod Saldivar. Durham and London: Duke U.P., 1991.
  8. Sandoval, Chela. “U.S. third world feminism: the theory and method of oppositional consciousness in the postmodern world.” From Geographic Thought, edited by George Henderson and Marvin Waterstone. New York: Routledge, 2009. Pg. 339
  9. Heather Love (January 2003). "The second time around". The Women's Review of Books: A feminist guide to good reading. Archived from the original on 2003-03-22. http://web.archive.org/web/20030322221029/http://www.wellesley.edu/womensreview/archive/2003/01/highlt.html. Retrieved 2008-04-01. [dead link] A review of This Bridge We Call Home: Radical Visions for Transformation edited by Gloria E. Anzaldúa and AnaLouise Keating. New York: Routledge, 2002.
  10. Anzaldúa & Moraga, This Bridge Called My Back, Persephone Press, Author Preface p xxvi
  11. Anzaldúa & Moraga, This Bridge Called My Back, Persephone Press, Author Preface p xxiii
  12. de Lauretis, Teresa "The Technology of Gender" in Rakow, Lana; Wackwitz, Laura (1987). Feminist Communication Theory: Selections in Context. p. 221.