What is essentialism? What is anti-essentialism? "The Essential Difference" attempts to answer questions at the heart of current feminist theory and cultural study. The book deals with origins and contexts of the debate; relationships between essentialism, anti-essentialism, and the power of language; reasons for the demonization of essentialism within the academy; and the relationship between essentialism and Third World studies. The essays also speculate about whether there can be an anti-essentialist feminism, whether there can in fact be a feminist politics that dispenses with the notion of Woman. This long-awaited volume questions the bases of feminism itself. The contributors are Teresa de Lauretis, Diana Fuss, Elizabeth Grosz, Luce Irigaray, Leslie Wahl Rabine, Ellen Rooney, Robert Scholes, Naomi Schor, and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak.