Transforming Capitalism and Patriarchy: Gender and Development in Africa

Transforming Capitalism and Patriarchy: Gender and Development in Africa

Transforming Capitalism and Patriarchy: Gender and Development in Africa

Transforming Capitalism and Patriarchy: Gender and Development in Africa

Synopsis

Gordon analyzes the interplay between capitalism, development and the status of African women. Drawing on the work of both African and Western researchers, she shows that capitalist development projects have mainly benefited a small stratum of African elites and proposes concrete strategies for making it more equitable for women.

Excerpt

Lila Abu-Lughod (1993:36, 40) writes that it is important for scholars to recognize the "positionality" of their work.She criticizes the notion of the "objective" observer who supposedly stands outside the reality or objects being observed.In actuality, what we call the outside "is always a position within a larger political-historical context." in the course of conceptualizing, researching, and writing this book I became more aware of my own positionality both as a scholar and as a relatively privileged white Western woman who has benefited in many ways from the global capitalist economy.

As a social scientist, I work within developmentalist and feminist scholarly traditions that have significant influence as discourses about Third World people, development, and gender relationships.These discourses, conceived mainly by Western scholars, inevitably reflect Western experiences, perceptions, and biases.Admittedly, the development process I discuss in this book is part of the capitalist transformation of the world, a transformation that involves reshaping non-Western societies and cultures in ways that will make them more like the West.Western feminism also assumes conceptions of gender equality and inequality that reflect Western values, although many of these values resonate with many non‐ Western women as well.

My approach to studying capitalist development in Africa is critical. I include the ideas of many African as well as Western scholars to show how the development project in Africa has benefited mostly a small stratum of African elites, while most Africans—especially women—have seen few significant benefits.Nevertheless, I do not reject the idea of development per se. My focus is on the need to make capitalist development more beneficial to women. This does not mean that I valorize capitalism or development as unproblematic and nonsexist and view precapitalist African societies as backward and sexist.Western and Third World capitalist societies and "modernity" have their own distinctive problems—and forms of gender inequality.And there are many positive aspects of African cultures . . .

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