Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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On Shifting Ground: Self-narrative, Feminist Theory and Writing Practice

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posted on 2021-11-03, 19:54 authored by Else, Anne

This thesis centres on a problem that stands at the heart of feminist theory: how women may come to understand themselves as speaking subjects located within historically specific, discursive social structures, to question those structures aloud, and to seek to change them. It combines self-narrative, feminist theory and writing practice to make sense of a body of published work which I produced between 1984 and 1999, with a consistent focus on some form of gendered discourse, by setting it in its personal, historical, and theoretical contexts. Although the thesis is built around published work, it is not primarily about results or outcomes, but rather about a set of active historical processes. Taking the form of a spirally structured critical autobiography spanning five and a half decades, it traces how one voice of what I have termed feminist oppositional imagining has emerged and taken its own worded shape. First, it constructs a double story of coming to writing and coming to feminism, in order to explore the formation of a writing subject and show the critical importance of the connections between subjectivity and oppositional imagining, and to highlight the need to find ways of producing knowledge which do not rely on the notion of the detached observer. Secondly, in a deliberate shift of form and focus, it steps back to canvass the historical context for the work I produced in response to the discursive shift that has become known as the New Right. It argues that by usefully enforcing a focus on the necessity of a commitment to social justice and human interdependence, this shift spurred the development of a feminist discourse, centred on unpaid work, which is capable of understanding and countering New Right perspectives on what it means to be a human being and to live in human society.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Gender and Women's Studies

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Education Studies


Matthews, Kay Morris; Neale, Jenny