Under-theorized and under-taught: Re-examining Harriet Tubman's place in women's studies

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Interpretive approaches to Black women's insurgency can stifle as much as they reveal. Harriet Tubman is deservedly remembered for her sustained resistance to multiple forms of oppression. Yet, she is often made visible in ways that distort, rendering her invisible. Scholars often warp Tubman's contributions by presenting her as an exceptional but lone figure, by animating stereotypes of Black women's unparalleled strength, or by fragmenting her activism via single-issue lenses. Critics also draw on maternal or salvific frames to soften Tubman's militancy or enfold her into the nation's triumphal narrative (misrepresenting Tubman and erasing how systems of oppression she challenged continue today). Unfortunately, such forms of "checking"Tubman go relatively "unchecked"in feminist scholarship, where Tubman's work is often not viewed as relevant to core feminist theories, concepts, methods, or curricula. However, Tubman's contributions should be understood as pertinent to women's studies, particularly from within women of color theoretical traditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)463-483
Number of pages21
StatePublished - 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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