Transnational Feminism in the United States: Knowledge, Ethics, and Power

Transnational Feminism in the United States: Knowledge, Ethics, and Power

Transnational Feminism in the United States: Knowledge, Ethics, and Power

Transnational Feminism in the United States: Knowledge, Ethics, and Power

Synopsis

The acceleration of economic globalization and the rapid global flows of people, cultural goods, and information have intensified the importance of developing transnational understandings of contemporary issues. Transnational feminist perspectives have provided a unique outlook on women's lives and have deepened our understanding of the gendered nature of global processes.a Transnational Feminism in the United Statesa examines how transnational perspectives shape the ways in which we produce, consume, and disseminate knowledge about the world within the United States, and how the paradigm of transnational feminism is affected in nuanced ways by national narratives and public discourses within the country itself. a An innovative theoretical project that is both deconstructive and constructive, this bookinterrogates the limits of feminist thought, primarily through case studies that illustrate its power to create entirely new fields of research out of traditionally interdisciplinary lines of inquiry. Leela Fernandes discusses ways to approach, analyze, and capture processes that exceed and unsettle the nation-state within the transnational feminist paradigm. Examining the links between power and knowledge that bind interdisciplinary theory and research, she shines new light on issues such as human rights and the United States war on terror as well as academic debates about transnational feminist perspectives on global issues. A commanding and thought-provoking analysis, a Transnational Feminism in the United States apowerfully contributes to central debates in the field of Women's Studies and related cross-disciplinary scholarship on feminist theory and gender from a global perspective. a Leela Fernandes ais Professor of Women's Studies and Political Science at the University of Michigan, and author ofa India's New Middle Class: Democratic Politics in an Era of Economic Reform;a Producing Workers: The Politics of Gender, Class a and Culture in the Calcutta Jute Mills; anda Transforming Feminist Practice.a

Excerpt

While sifting through the mass of e-mails that accumulate at the beginning of a new academic year, I was struck by the subject heading of one message. the message line exclaimed, “Saudi Women Drive! new at Ms. in the Classroom.” Upon opening the message, I found a generic informational advertisement recommending the use of a digital version of Ms. magazine for my courses. Buried at the bottom was a note that said, “P.S. the new Summer 2011 issue is available at Ms. in the Classroom, which includes Saudi Women Drive! Get the whole story on the fight for gender equality, including women’s right to vote, in Saudi Arabia.” I was immediately struck by some of the contradictory implications of this small piece of feminist advertising. the use of an internationally oriented marker for a generic teaching-oriented advertisement seems to imply a widespread public interest and a presumed marketability of a sign of the “global” fight for women’s rights. Yet this presumption is rooted in a mainstream national cultural symbol in the United States—the ability or right to drive. Driving and sociocultural identification with the car one drives are deeprooted cultural symbols in the United States that circulate widely in public discourses and popular culture. the deployment of the global or international in this instance was thus firmly cast through a national framing of the feminist imagination. This kind of vision is particularly striking given the fact that academic feminists (to whom the e-mail ad was clearly addressed) writing about global issues have placed significant emphasis on the dangers of casting global or international gender issues through the subtle historical legacies of colonial images of inferior others. the message thus also underlines the disjuncture between advances in feminist theorizing within the academy and the more public, mainstream rhetoric of U.S. feminists. in this case, the symbol of Saudi women driving is presented in a message devoid of any description, reference, or context of the campaign, the country, or even the region. Saudi Arabia is presented as a site that has been vacated of any empirical, historical, or contextual depth. the idea of . . .

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