Some Notes on Feminism without Borders

Feminism without Borders—Chandra T. Mohanty

Mohanty believes feminism can play significant role in economic and social justice and, therefore, feminists have an international commitment to enact a transnational feminist praxis which works to affect change across national borders and other lines of demarcation. Mohanty calls for the adoption of a feminist politics, in which feminists:
• Acknowledge that being a women has unfair political consequences, depending on social and economic marginality/privilege.
• Recognize that sexism, racism, heterosexism, colonialism, etc fuel the social and political institutions which often oppress women around the world.
• Become aware that ethnic nationalism and capitalist consumerism constiute each of our lives differently.
• Must have a vision of transformation and strategies for realizing this vision. (3).
The strategy Mohanty envisions is an “anti-racist framework, anchored in decolonization and committed to an anticapitalistic critique” (3)

Mohanty feels US-based feminism is problematic for several reasons:
• Capitalistic influences, which promotes financial equality for women and men and advancement of women up the corporate and nation-state ladder.
• Lack of focus on radical transformation of women’s daily lives and too much focus on using feminism as means to advance in the academy.
• Individual character
• Too narrow of focus on identity politics.

Mohanty defines solidarity “in terms of mutuality, accountability, and the recognition of common interests as the basis of relationships among diverse communities” and feels solidarity in combinations with anticapitalistic critique and decolonization can affect radical transformation in women’s daily lives (7).

Decolonization, which includes transformation of social structure of community, governance, and attitudes of self, is especially important because of the explicit connections between sexism, heterosexism, and racism and capitalist domination and exploitation (8).

Anti-capitalistic critique is important because it demands attention on global capitalism, which is at the time incompatible with social and economic justice for women, and works to demystify its effect on the everyday lives of women (9).

As she specifies further, “an anit-capitalistic critique fundamentally entails a critique of the operation, discourse, and values of capitalism and of their naturalization through neoliberal ideology and corporate culture. This means demystifying discourses of consumerism, ownership, profit, and the refashioning of social into consumer indentities within corporate culture” (9).

The following themes are weaved throughout her text:
• Politics of difference and the challenge of solidarity
• Demystification of the workings of power and strategies of resistence in scholarship, pedagogy, grassroot movements, and academic institutions
• Decolonizing and politicizing of knowledge by rethinking self and community through the practice of emancipatory education
• The building of an ethics of crossing cultural, sexual, national, class, and racial borders
• And finally, theorizing and practicing anticapitalist and democratic critique in education, and through collective struggle (10).

In “Under Western Eyes” (1986) Mohanty was trying to “make clear that cross-cultural feminist work must be attentive to the micropolitics of context, subjectivity, and struggle, as well as the macropolitics of global economic and political systems and processes” (223). She also called for a “materialist analysis that linked everyday life and local gendered contexts and ideologies to the larger, transnational political and economic structures and ideologies of capitalism” (225).

Mohanty asks us to consider the following useful terms rather than first world/third world:

North/south: affluent privileged nations and communities and transnational pathways typically found in Northern Hemisphere / economically and politically marginalized nations and communities typically in Southern Hemishpere but also in other geographical locations (227).

One-Third World/Two-Third Worlds: draws attention to have and have-nots within boundaries of nations and between nations and indigenous communities; draws attention to social majorities and miniorities. (227).

Mohanty claims our challenge is to be attentive to “local in/of the global and vice versa without falling into colonizing or cultural relativist platitudes about difference is crucial in this intellectual and political landscape” (229).

Part of this effort also requires reconfiguring our pedagogies so that students can understand the “complexities, singularities, and interconnections between communities of women such that power, privilege, agency, and dissent can be made visible and engaged with” (243-244).


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