Leila Ahmed

Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 1980


April 1980. The Barnard Conference, "The Scholar and the Feminist"—my first direct as opposed to page-mediated encounter with American feminism. And then it came home to me: how simple the one-dimensional experience of reading; how easy, ordered, and amenable to order it makes things seem—coherent and amenable to coherence. Sitting in that hall, listening to papers that often clearly drew on the rhetorical strategies of an oral tradition, quite different from those in scholarly writing, even in that feminist scholarship self-consciously dismantling the rigidities of tradition; being aware of the responses of a highly-and diversely-responsive audience; straining to catch verbal shortcuts; sometimes clearly missing nuances that relied on a depth of American experience: all this makes it impossible to respond to the conference as a coherent event-not because it was incoherent, obviously, but precisely because there was such a sense of vitality, ferment, such a richness and general manifoldness to it—and a sense too of the manifoldness of feminist stances in America.



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