White feminist stories : locating race in the narratives of British feminism

Jonsson, Terese (2015) White feminist stories : locating race in the narratives of British feminism. Doctoral thesis, London Metropolitan University.


This thesis examines dominant feminist discourses emerging from liberal media, the academy, and activist networks in contemporary Britain. In particular, it traces stories and representations of feminism’s recent past (from the 1960s onwards) which are constructed and reproduced through these sites, analysing where and how issues related to race and racism are located within - and outside of - such narratives. It is based on empirical research analysing popular, academic, and activist books, newspaper articles in The Guardian and The Observer, as well as interviews with feminist activists and students of women’s and gender studies courses.

Given that there is an extensive history of women of colour-led organising in post-war Britain, including an autonomous black women’s movement in the 1970s and ’80s, and the growth at this time of black British feminism both within and outside of the academy, the thesis interrogates dominant narratives which continue to construct British feminism as a story belonging to white women. Drawing on black and postcolonial feminist theory, it analyses the articulations of feminist politics emerging from these sites through an anti-racist lens. It demonstrates that the way the historical narratives are constructed and gain currency has a significant influence on contemporary feminist theory and politics, with whiteness reproduced as the hegemonic lens through which British feminism is understood. The thesis argues that white feminist racism haunts the dominant narrative of British feminism – as something which is repeatedly erased or evaded each time it is brought to view – and it calls for white feminist academics and activists to reckon with the long history of racism and imperialism which has been integral to the British feminist project since its inception.

JonssonTerese_WhiteFeministStories.pdf - Accepted Version

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