Kitchens and Domesticity

Comparative project on domesticity and kitchens by Raina DeFonza

Kitchens and Postcolonial Studies

Postcolonial studies address the issues of oppression and isolation, as well as the empowerment, of postcolonial populations. Postcolonial women are especially vulnerable to marginalization and subjugation because they often struggled for liberation from patriarchal institutions even before the colonial powers entered.

The kitchen is a unique space that represents the postcolonial woman’s place in society. It is a gendered space and women have been its primary inhabitants. Domestic duties have been traditionally linked to women; women are seen as the caretakers, nourishers and nurturers in families and communities. Because of this deep connection to the domestic space, it has been difficult for women to relieve themselves of these domestic duties despite any opportunities or responsibility they take on outside of the home. For centuries, women have been relegated to the domestic sphere and have often been isolated in the kitchenspace. This has defined the kitchen as a place of isolation for women globally.

However, this same space can also serve as a place of empowerment for these women. Because it is a gendered space, it is a place for women to claim as their own. In this space, they have control over what is produced and how. This control of cooking, foodways and meals gives the women authority and power that they do not possess in other areas of their lives. Empowerment comes from not only knowledge and control over foodstuffs, but also from the economic opportunities such knowledge affords them.

Project Summary

Through my research, I found that many of these same principles regarding the postcolonial kitchen applied to the American kitchen in terms of feminism and female empowerment. I investigated the similarities and differences presented within the discourses surrounding both the American and the postcolonial kitchen. The kitchen, I have found, is a feminist space on a global scale. In this research project, I have explored how both postcolonial and American women have experienced isolation and oppression, as well as empowerment, liberation and control, all in the same place: the kitchenspace.

“Domesticity and Kitchens” Table of Contents

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