The Politics of Rights: Dilemmas for Feminist Praxis (ThirdWorlds)

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This special issue on feminist perspectives on politics of rights explores the strategies, tensions and challenges associated with a?? Articles on the Middle East, Africa, Latin America, East and South Asia explore the dilemmas that arise for feminist praxis in these diverse locations, and address the question of what rights can contribute to struggles for gender justice.

Exploring the intersection of formal rights a?? The contributors suggest that these sites of struggle can create new possibilities and meanings a?? Partly as a Comment [JP1]: Multiple citations should be in chronological order, then alpha within year. In contrast, white global feminism advocates transcending national boundaries.

White global feminism, however, was largely a global application of the aforementioned white feminist outlook. Although well intentioned, white global feminism incurred severe criticism from Third World feminists who championed the cause of subaltern Third World women. This is not difficult to do when close attention is paid to their activism on the ground, as Third World women have been engaging in various forms of local activism to enact positive changes in their particular locations.

Third World feminists must therefore recognize the agency of Third World women and respect their diverse viewpoints and activisms, even if these may not conform to their preconceived notions about feminist activism. Before I elaborate, however, let me clarify my usage of these terms. The latter primarily refers to a territorial-political unit, whether or not predicated on common culture Smith , — One of the main reasons for this is that male Third World nationalists have consistently subscribed to essentialist and masculinist conceptions of nation and nationalism, predicated on the subjugation of women see, for examples, Herr , section II.

This historical evidence gives Third World feminists good reason to be cautious in dealing with nation-states and nationalists. Despite their checkered record, the main driving force behind Third World nationalisms has been the aspiration to liberate subjugated peoples from imperial conquests and colonialism. Many such movements have contributed not only to national independence but also to feminist consciousness in the Third World Jayawardena ; Basu , 3; Basu , The liberatory spirit of Third World nationalisms is relevant even today, as the majority of Third World nationals suffer from the present-day neocolonial global hierarchy, one manifestation of which is neoliberal global capitalism.

If anti-imperialism is a core value of Third World feminist theorizing and activism Mohanty , , then Third World nationalist resistance against such a global order may have strategic significance to Third World feminists. However, a careful consideration of their particular historical situations and due respect for their voices would reveal that these women are full moral agents who advocate nationalism as a strategic tool to resist imperialism and colonialism. The result would then be outright dangerous for Third World women, as they would be sidelined or, worse, completely silenced.

Ascendancy of Transnational Feminism In recent decades, transnational feminism has been widely invoked not only among Third World feminists but also among white feminists, thanks in large part to impressive and fruitful activities of transnational feminist networks TFNs and NGOs, especially around the Beijing UN World Conference on Women Keck and Sikkink ; Basu , 70; Moghadam , chap.

Particularly notable is their activism against neoliberal economic globalization and religious fundamentalisms.

What explains such a shift? I will not discuss this work here, because it neither offers a theoretical basis for transnational feminism nor is it unambiguously opposed to nation-states and nationalism. Power is no longer centered in the metropole but scattered around the globe as capital is dispersed following the movement of a few hundred multinational corporations 10 that have more economic and even political clout than most nation-states.

Ultimately, transnational feminists ought to enable women in different communities, who are struggling to dismantle various forms of patriarchal social structures and practices, to create coalitions, affiliations, or transnational solidarities In forming such coalitions, the determining factor is their participation in resistant praxis and not their identity This is due to the expanding power of neoliberal global capitalism and the urgency for feminists to resist its deleterious effects on Third World women. Transnational feminists critically scrutinize the increasing integration of the world economy through deregulation in trade and finance, which is part of a neoliberal economic agenda pushed by economically, politically, and militarily powerful countries of the North and their multinational corporations MNCs , aided by international financial institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund IMF , the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization.

This is not to say that all transnational feminists uniformly reject nation-states and nationalism. Some self-identified transnational feminists have provided admirably subtle and nuanced feminist analyses of such topics see Abdulhadi, Naber, and Alsultany ; Jad ; Jamal ; Chowdhury a; b; Deeb ; Basarudin Such a divergence between transnational feminism and Third World feminism regarding nation-states and nationalisms is a notable contrast worth investigating, as the two branches share the constitutive ideas of Third World feminism. Their rejection of both pairs is noteworthy. Grewal and Kaplan, however, consider the two binaries equivalent and reject both as monolithic and essentialist constructs 11— I agree that the center—periphery pair should be rejected for its imperial overtones and anachronism.

However, it would be too hasty to jettison the global—local pair. As they point out, the global and the local constantly influence and transform each other through transnational movements of capital, technologies, culture, and people. If this is reality, however, then it ought to be possible to conceptualize the local, and a fortiori nation-states, in more fluid and malleable ways. When thus de-essentialized, the concept of nation-state can incorporate internal discourses among members regarding their differences in gender or class or access to power. Although Grewal and Kaplan do not say so explicitly, their claims about the radical permeability and connectedness of world societies seem to logically imply that everyone is now at the same time both and neither of the First World and the Third World—in other words, they are radically hybrid.

Disasporic authors of postcolonial and postmodern literature may feel that they are radically hybrid and that the global—local binary is inapplicable to the world they inhabit. For the majority, the global—local binary is still relevant, as they would usually experience the global and the local as distinct realms.

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Although many may experience the local as oppressive in various ways, the global may also be experienced as a negative force threatening their traditional way of life. People at the local level disadvantaged by such global processes would organize to resist them.

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This leads to my third concern about the rejection of the global—local pair: Maintaining the concept of the local is important as long as people continue to form their identities in relation to their particular social locations. As Paula Moya incisively remarks, postmodernists hastily jump from the justifiable claim that our social location does not determine our identity to the conclusion that therefore there is no causal relation between the two.

Although no identity is fixed and immutable, social location is causally relevant to our experiences and will influence the formation of our identity Moya , , — When people feel oppressed in their association with a social location that partly constitutes their identity, they tend to resist the oppression by rallying around the misrecognized aspect of their identity. For example, the deplorable working conditions pervasive in multinational factories have often been approved, whether tacitly or explicitly, by their nation- states in the process of Free Trade Agreement ratification.

In other words, transnational feminists must engage with nation-states to be consistent with one of their core precepts. However, it requires further justification as a general claim. The crucial question, however, is this: Is any conceptualization of nation-state necessarily essentialist?

As I argued above, the answer is negative.

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  • As Cynthia Cockburn, who rightly criticizes nationalism for essentialist tendencies, recognizes, it depends on how one conceptualizes nation-state Cockburn , 39— Consequently, it may unwarrantedly constrict feminist theorizations about Third World women. In other words, by rejecting nation-states and nationalism predicated on essentialist conceptualizations, Grewal and Kaplan are depriving feminists of a potentially useful tool to advance Third World feminist goals.

    Concepts of nation- state and nationalism, when properly de-essentialized, can not only be strategically useful but also intrinsically valuable for feminist goals. As mentioned, Third World nation-states are parties to bilateral or multilateral Free Trade agreements that condone deplorable working conditions in multinational factories on their soil. Such unfair trade agreements, however, are signed under the current global political conditions of neocolonialism or neo-imperialism.

    Once the nation-state is reconceived as a more egalitarian and inclusive community, then nationalism can also serve feminist purposes, as it is reconceptualized as a political movement to attain and maintain national self-government and independence in order to protect and promote an egalitarian and inclusive national culture under conditions of neo-imperialism. Although such a radical conceptual transformation may not be attained easily in the short term, I believe that it is 8 For an example of how nationalism may be relevant to feminist opposition against global economy, see Herr This in turn is likely to replicate the errors of white global feminism that neglected feminist issues pertinent to Third World women in their own communities.

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    Indeed, some of those who have assumed the mantle of transnational feminism have moved dangerously close to the aforementioned universalist position of white global feminists. Transnational feminism, the objection goes, is a loose category that encompasses plural feminist perspectives about overcoming systemic oppression of Third World women at the transnational level. I agree that transnational feminism allows plurality within its framework. However, transnational feminisms ought to share some unifying regulative ideas in order to promote feminist causes of Third World women at the transnational level.

    But what does this involve? Although I have discussed why such an assumption is misguided, let me briefly repeat: Such universalization is empty, as it has scanty connection to reality on the ground, contradicting the experiences of people, especially those disenfranchised and oppressed, at the local level.

    More seriously, this perspective can obscure the resistance of those disadvantaged by global forces. This is not to say that these issues are not relevant to Third World women. They are. If you would like to replace it with a different purchasing option please remove the current eBook option from your cart. Paperback : Hardback : Add to Wish List. Description Contents Series Subjects. Description Since the late s, development institutions have increasingly used the language of rights in their policy and practice. Offline Computer — Download Bookshelf software to your desktop so you can view your eBooks with or without Internet access. View Cart.

    The Politics of Rights: Dilemmas for Feminist Praxis (ThirdWorlds) The Politics of Rights: Dilemmas for Feminist Praxis (ThirdWorlds)
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    The Politics of Rights: Dilemmas for Feminist Praxis (ThirdWorlds) The Politics of Rights: Dilemmas for Feminist Praxis (ThirdWorlds)
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    The Politics of Rights: Dilemmas for Feminist Praxis (ThirdWorlds) The Politics of Rights: Dilemmas for Feminist Praxis (ThirdWorlds)
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