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Asunto:[CeHuNews] 70/03 - Sisterhood Feminism and Power
Fecha:Martes, 20 de Mayo, 2003  17:15:29 (-0300)
Autor:Humboldt <humboldt @............ar>

 
CeHuNews 70/03
Click to enlargepadSISTERHOOD FEMINISM & POWER: <BR>From Africa to the Diaspora


 

DESCRIPTION: This volume is made up of the papers of prominent scholars, feminists, and creative writers presented at the 1992 Women in Africa and the African Diaspora (WAAD) Conference which took place at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. The essays cover various contemporary topics germane to the study of feminism and womanhood. The on-going conference aims at mobilizing support for the Feminist cause and the engendering of feminism as a viable agent for positive social change in Africa and the African Diaspora.

EXCERPT:
North American Feminism/Global Feminism: Contradictory or Complementary? by Angela Miles - Introduction: - "Western"/"White"/"First World" Feminism is criticized by some these days as: (1) Narrowly focused on gender oppression without due attention to class, race, colonial, and other oppressions; (2) presuming white, middle-class women's reality is every woman's reality; and (3) accepting the patriarchal myth that industrialization and urbanization have meant increased quality and liberty for women and that "third world" women are, therefore more oppressed and their liberation will involve moving closer in condition to "first world" women.

There are, of course, feminists in North America who: (1) accept uncritically the simple, ethnocentric and industrial notion of "progress"; (2) see women's struggle more as a struggle to be admitted into existing structures than to perform them; and (3) on this erroneous basis, make invalid presumptions about the greater powerlessness and oppression of women elsewhere in the world. However, feminisms in North America, like feminisms everywhere, are enormously diverse.

In this paper I will examine forms of North American feminisms shaped by much broader transformative versions and principles which they share with feminisms around the world; and I will illustrate the ways these diverse feminisms are both built by and build women's global struggles across large colonial, class, and race differences, against all these forms of power as well as patriarchal power.

Assimilationists and Transformative Feminisms in North America - I have argued that, for all their diversity, North American feminisms can usually be understood to fall into two main tendencies which I have called "assimilationist" and "transformative." The assimilationist tendency bases the case for women's equality on women's sameness with men. In doing so, these feminists fail to posit any alternative female associated values to the dominant androcentric values. They are thus restricted to essentially limited pressure group politics. Their politics challenges women's exclusion from dominant structures and definitions of humanity without challenging the nature of these structures and definitions. The mainstream media and many critics of "Western"/"white"/"first world" feminisms generally presume (or at least speak as if) this tendency is the whole of feminism in North America. But this is to overlook forms of transformative feminism that also flourish.

Transformative feminisms go beyond simply claiming women's equality/sameness with men to affirm both women's equality with and differences from men. This allows them to use diverse women's specific work, life experiences, concerns, and values as resources to challenge dominant male presumptions and structures and definitions of humanity. As early as 1971, a Canadian feminist expressed the twin goals of access and transformation:

"Our goal must be to obtain full human status for women in every area of human activity. And this is not to accept the present "human activity" realm of the male. Values in the male realm, today, are firmly rooted in the evils of power, dominance and oppression. We must look for a broader and deeper definition of human life."

Transformative feminists' refusal to the apparent logical contradiction between women's equality and difference from their men is part of their general refusal of Western patriarchal industrial dualism. These feminists refuse the hierarchical and separatist logic which constructs the world as a series of oppositions, privileging the male-associated side over the female-associated side, and feeding such binaries as ends/means; reason/emotion; society/nature; individual/community; political/personal, self/other, public/private, mental/manual, mind/body, spirit/flesh.

In transformative feminisms, holistic visions of the world and integrative values are posed in opposition to dualistic logic and separatist values; women and women's work of human and social reproduction are made visible and moved from the margins to the center of visions of social organization and value; individualism and competition are challenged in the name of cooperation, care, nurture and community; sustaining life is emphasized over making profits; scientific dualism and Western science's claim to universal and superior knowledge is abandoned, thus allowing the valorization and integration of diverse and devalued knowledge (for instance, of women and tribal and indigenous peoples); and diversity is affirmed as a resource. In this process everything is redefined: production, progress, development, wealth, to name just a few concepts relevant to this topic.

Feminists of color and lesbian feminists, both white and women of color have played a central role in the development and strengthening of transformative feminist politics in North America. However it is not restricted to these groups. All the generally recognized strands of feminist radicalism in North America have both assimilative and transformative tendencies. Socialist, black, lesbian, and radical feminisms, for instance, all come in both forms. And Western transformative feminisms, in all these varieties and more, are important potential allies for "third world" feminists and activists who are resisting the same dualistic and exploitative relationships.

Transformative Feminisms in the "First World" and the "Two Thirds World" Transformative feminists from all parts of the world challenge the dominations of class, race, and colonialism as well as gender; they present feminist perspectives on the whole of society and not just selected "women's issues" and they reject the assumptions and value judgements underlying the "modernization" project which is being imposed by the West to the detriment of the whole of nature and most of the world's people in all regions.

Transformative feminists everywhere share the view that the existing world system is in crisis on all levels in all parts of both "third" and "first" worlds and that this is reflected in ecological, economic, social, cultural, and ethical breakdown. This system is neither sustainable nor desirable. The unequal, competitive, profit-based, individualistic market relations at its core are exploitative and destructive. "Development" is essentially a violent process of establishing and protecting these relationships (in both "first" and "third" worlds). The economic "growth" that is the acknowledged aim of this "development" is actually the expansion of the market and production-for-exchange at the expense of production-for-use. It (1) removes the means of subsistence from individuals and communities; (2) institutionalizes men's dependence on wages and women's dependence on men; (3) fuels the concentration of wealth and power in fewer and fewer hands, ultimately those of a few non-accountable transnational corporations. It has historically depended on military conquest and control of nature, women, and traditional cultures and communities, and continues to do so.




Table Of Contents :


Acknowledgements

Introduction: Reading the Rainbow by Obioma Nnaemeka I.

FRAMING THE ISSUES

* The African Woman Today by Ama Ata Aidoo

* Feminism and African Womanhood by 'Zulu Sofola

* African Women at the Grass Roots: The Silent Partners of the Women's Movement by Olabisi Aina

* Women and Creative Writing in Africa by Flora Nwapa

* Female Power: Water Priestess of the Oru-Igbo by Sabine Jell-Bahlsen

* An Appraisal of Feminism in the Socio-Political Development of Nigeria by Glo Chukure

 * African Womanism by Clenora Hudson-Weems

* North American Feminism/Global Feminism: Contradictory or Complementary? by Angela Miles

* The Gap between Gender Research and Activism in Uganda by Doborah Kasente

* Challenges for the Inclusion of Gender Issues in Social science Research and Planning by P.L. Maholtra

* Singing in Prison: Women Writers and the Discourse of Resistance by Pamela Ryan II. WOMEN ORGANIZING FOR CHANGE

* Closing the Gap - Activism and Academia in South Africa: Towards a Women's Movement by Gertrude Fester

* The Arab Women's Solidarity Association: The Contexts of Controversy and the Politics of Voice by Peter Hitchcock

* Maternal Politics in Organizing Black South African Women: The Historical Lesson by Julia Wells

* Building a Power Organization: A Network Team Approach to Grass Roots Organizing by De Bryant

* White Women in Umkhonto We Sizwe, the ANC Army of Liberation: Traitors to Race, Class and Gender by Betty Welz III.

 

 WEAVING OUR LIVES: THE PERSONAL IS POLITICAL

* Carrying the Baton: Personal Perspectives on the Modern Women's Movement in Nigeria by Ifeanyiwa Iweriebor

* Adjustment and Assimilation in Tanzania: A Personal Experience by Jamiila Cushnie-Mnyanga

* The Development of a Sisterhood in Memphis, Tennessee by Femi Ajanaku and Nkechi Ajanaku IV.

 

POSTSCRIPT

* This Women's Studies Business: Beyond Politics and History (Thoughts on the first WAAD Conference) by Obioma Nnaemeka

 

V. FORUM

* Bridges Across Activism and the Academy: One Psychologist's Perspective by Martha Banks

* Thinking Igbo, Thinking African by Chimalum Nwankwo

* Funding African Participants by Maureen Malowany

* "So Why Theorize about the Brontes" African Women Writers and English Literature in Finland by Maria Olaussen

* Reflections on Nsukka '92 by De Bryant

* The Nigerian Conference Revisited by Lumka Funani

* Black and White; We are One, Sustained by Sisterly Love by Julie Okpala and Elsie Ogbanna-Ohuche

* Building or Burning Bridges? A Report from the 1992 Women in Africa and the African Diaspora Conference by Donna Flynn

* In Search of Common Ground by Gloria Braxton

* Bridges and Ridges by Chioma Okpara

* The 1992 WAAD Conference: Some Thoughts by Liz Dimock

* Reflections on the 1992 WAAD Conference by Marie Umeh

* WAAD Conference at ASA by Sabine Jell-Bahlsen

* Cross-Atlantic Womanism(s): An African American Woman's Reflections on the Women in Africa and the Diaspora Conference, 1992 by Jane Splawn

* Self-Naming and Self-definition: An Agenda for Survival by Clenora Hudson-Weems

* Africa Culture and Womanhood: The Issue of Single Parenthood by Protus Kemdirim

* Thoughts on the 1992 WAAD Conference by Kathleen Geathers

* The WAAD Conference and Beyond: A look at Africana womanism by Daphne Ntiri

* The First International Conference on Women in Africa and the Diaspora: A View from the U.S.A. by Deborah Plant

 

VI. APPENDIX

* Communiqué

* Association of Women Scholars (AAWS)

* Statement from the South African Delegation Regarding the Request by Some Participants that Whites be Excluded from Presenting Papers at the WAAD Conference

* List of Acronyms

* Selected Bibliography

* Notes on Contributors

* Index

BACKCOVER: This volume, which gathers prominent scholars, feminists, womanists, and creative writers from Africa and the African Diaspora, engages with candor and vigor issues and conflicts in feminism and black women studies - feminism and womanism debates, sisterhood and power struggles, research and documentation questions, elite and grass roots women relationship, urban and rural dichotomy, African and the African Diaspora relationship. Focusing on the pluralisms of feminisms, these essays address the conflict between indigenous African feminisms and the radicalism of variants of Western feminism with their emphasis on sexuality and seeming oppositions to motherhood. They collectively argue that the African environment specifically should provide the context for any meaningful analysis of feminisms on the continent.

The volume weaves theoretical questions, personal and collective engagements into a complex tapestry that spans Africa and the African Diaspora - from women organizing for change in South Africa and women's insurgency against colonialism in Nigeria to the problems of doing research on women in Uganda and building of a sisterhood in Memphis Tennessee. Above all, Sisterhood, Feminism and Power makes a convincing case of dialogue across geographic and ethnic lines, across genders and within gender. In aggregate, the book is an important step towards that critical dialogue

"Edited with skill and commitment, Sisterhood, feminism and Power underscores the fact that feminisms in Africa are inseparable from politics, economics and religions. One cannot stress enough the relevance and import of this volume that adroitly links the local to the global and the individual to the collective. This important and long overdue work merits the serious attention of women and men all over the world." - Nawal El Saadawi

AUTHORBIO: bioma Nnaemeka is associate professor of French, Women's Studies, and African American Studies at Indiana University, Indianapolis. She is the president of the Association of African Women Scholars (AAWS). Her numerous publications have appeared in edited volumes and scholarly journals including Signs, Feminist Issues, Law and Policy, The Western Journal of Black Studies, Research in African Literatures, and Dialectical Anthropology.


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