Kitchens and Postcolonial Feminism

by Raina DeFonza

For the women in postcolonial nations, kitchens have often served as spaces of isolation and oppression, and with little access to modern technology, the domestic tasks prove tedious and time consuming. The women have been relegated to the home (the private sphere), and in some cases have very little interaction with the outside world.

Still, postcolonial women have found a sense of empowerment through domestic tasks, primarily those involving cooking and food knowledge. They have control over the foodstuffs in their families and take pride in the knowledge they have of cooking and producing food. They also find empowerment through the financial gains they may achieve through cooking and making food.  In many regions, women have taken jobs outside the home or started businesses that involve cooking and food production, granting them a level of financial independence and community prominence based on their domestic competencies.

The kitchen as a space is no longer necessarily synonymous with isolation; through communal kitchens and cooperation, women have extracted the social and communal benefits of the kitchen space. As technology spreads to third world nations, the women’s domestic chores are made easier through modern kitchen devices and tools, allowing them to more easily and efficiently complete tasks.

Postcolonial women’s kitchens are filled with tradition and nostalgia, the women often following recipes and using tricks passed down from their mothers and grandmothers and other female relatives. In the kitchen, postcolonial women have control and power in countries where women often have little prominence anywhere else. Their knowledge of foodways is what brings them power in their homes and their communities; “women control relationships and consumption from kitchenspace” (Christie, 654).

Yet there is certain necessity that drives the postcolonial kitchen. The women cannot leave the kitchen. They must stay and provide nourishment for their families, husbands and children. Domesticity is not about leisure or indulgence but rather survival. Knowledge of foodways and control of foodstuffs give the postcolonial women power in their communities and families and make them valuable as providers and cooks.  It is in her necessity that she finds empowerment and strength.

This page is part of a larger project entitled “Domesticity and Kitchens” by student researcher Raina DeFonza. Please go back to the Table of Contents to further explore this project.

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