Feminist Arachnopolitics: An Antiracist Feminist Critique of the Goddess Movement in Britain

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

Abstract

The contemporary Goddess movement ‘reclaims’ the Goddess as a global symbol of women’s empowerment in opposition to the dominant narratives of western patriarchal culture. In so doing, the Goddess movement tends to universalise and appropriate the language of marginalisation. Drawing on black feminist and poststructuralist theories, I develop the concept of ‘feminist arachnopolitics’, a critical rearticulation of the ‘thealogical’ (Goldenberg 1995, Raphael 1999) motif of spinning, weaving and spiders, to argue that the white Goddess movement consumes and erases the specificity of women of colour who are the modern, heterogeneous subjects of gendered racism and colonisation. This process of appropriation and consumption is facilitated by the discursive conflation of race and gender in colonial modernity through which ‘Woman’ is identified with racialised and primitive alterity (Doane 1991, McClintock 1995, Khanna 2003), a narrative entanglement that elides structural differences between white and black women.

Based on fieldwork among the UK Goddess community, I argue that feminist arachnopolitics has constituted the Goddess movement from the 1970s, the earliest phase of its emergence in Britain, through to the present. Therefore, I question the movement’s feminist characteristics due to its exclusion of intersectional frameworks, and in particular its erasure of racial difference. The most visible and influential site of the present-day UK Goddess movement is the Goddess Temple and priestess community of Glastonbury, Somerset, which has institutionalised the reclaiming of an ‘indigenous’ prehistoric British Goddess culture, imagined as the counterpart to colonised, Indigenous cultures in the non-western world. The purported (re)construction of an indigenous British Goddess culture relies, however, on the consumption of racial and (post)colonial difference, exemplified by the veneration of Britannia, the gendered figure of imperialism, as tutelary goddess of the land. The Goddess movement’s arachnopolitical dynamic enables its celebrants to ignore their complicity with racism and imperialism, further marginalising the political struggles of women of colour against the entanglements of racialised and gendered inequality.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationPh.D.
Awarding Institution
  • SOAS, University of London
Award date31 Oct 2019
Publication statusUnpublished - 2019

Keywords

  • feminism
  • spirituality
  • critical theory
  • postcoloniality
  • race
  • intersectionality
  • Sociology of religion
  • gender studies
  • Black Feminist Theory
  • Antiracism
  • Poststructuralism
  • ethnography
  • discourse analysis
  • Religion and Politics

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