Framing Cultural Difference: Immigrant Women and Discourses of Tradition
Differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies, Vol. 22, No. 1: 90-110
21 Pages Posted: 10 Aug 2012
Date Written: November 1, 2011
This article shows how depictions of immigrant culture can limit the lives of immigrants to a problematic battle between “tradition and modernity.” As illustrated in the portrayal of a case in which immigrant parents murdered their teenaged daughter, Tina Isa, the discourse of tradition versus modernity renders certain important facts illegible, underemphasizing or ignoring the structures of power within which violence against women occurs. This simple story positions culture and feminism as opponents in a zero-sum game and presumes that women will be emancipated when they have overcome or abandoned their cultures. But immigrant women possess a complex subjectivity that is not reducible to cultural victimization. This is illustrated in this article through the work of Asian American domestic violence advocacy groups, navigating antiracist and antisexist practice, and by the expert testimony given in a case of attempted parent-child suicide by a Sikh immigrant. Rather than position the immigrant as the disorderly and strange bearer of archaic traditions, this article argues for greater recognition of the role of racism, state policies, and material concerns in shaping immigrants' experiences of culture.
Keywords: gender, culture, identity, honor crime, violence, racism, migration
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