Strategic essentialism  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Strategic essentialism, a major concept in postcolonial theory, was introduced in the 1980s by the Indian literary critic and theorist Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. It refers to a political tactic that minority groups, nationalities, ethnic groups mobilize on the basis of shared gendered, cultural, or political identity to represent themselves. While strong differences may exist between members of these groups, and amongst themselves they engage in continuous debates, it is sometimes advantageous for them to temporarily "essentialize" themselves and to bring forward their group identity in a simplified way to achieve certain goals often for equal rights, or to oppose the levelling impact of global culture.

Spivak understanding of the term was first introduced in the context of cultural negotiations, never as an anthropological category. Since, in her 2008 book Other Asias, Spivak has disavowed the term, dissatisfied with the problematic ways in which the term has been deployed in nationalist enterprises that promotes essentialism itself.

The concept also comes up regularly in queer theory, feminist theory, deaf studies, and specifically in the work of Luce Irigaray, who refers to it as mimesis.

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Strategic essentialism" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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