Winning and Short-Listed Entries from the 2010 Feminist and Women's Studies Association: Annual Student Essay Competition

Article excerpt

In this special issue of the Journal of International Women's Studies, the Feminist and Women's Studies Association UK & Ireland (FWSA) is delighted to present the winner and the shortlisted entries of its annual student essay competition. Founded in 1987 as a network of scholars, the FWSA has since become a national association with over 300 members whose research interests range from the social and health sciences to the arts and the humanities. Next to our prestigious annual book prize and our annual international conferences and events, the quantity and quality of entries we receive every year for our small grants competition for collaborative postgraduate research activities and for our essay competition are testament not only to the continuing importance of feminist, women's and gender studies but also to the constant development and expansion of postgraduate research within these fields. In recognising and publishing a shortlist of entries to the student essay competition, we hope to draw attention to the ongoing research which is being carried out by postgraduates within the UK and Ireland as well as supporting the authors of these essays in - what are for some of them--their first steps in an increasingly challenging and difficult professional environment. This year's shortlist of essays is marked by its in-depth engagement with a range of current contexts in the realms of both theory and practice. From highlighting increasingly problematic representational politics on a national scale, exploring and establishing new directions in feminist theory, to carving out new spaces of resistance and empowerment, the articles collected in this issue demonstrate diverse and original ways in which feminism changes, persists and manifests itself within the current social and political climates.

Two of the essays of this special issue--including the winning essay by Dieuwertje Dyi Huijg--offer reconceptualisations of 'intersectionality' for feminist theory and politics. This is not only surprising given the analytic force of the concept but also considering its apparent overuse in a range of feminist-inspired studies today. Both Huijg and Fotopoulou extend received understandings of intersectionality via critical readings of 'race' and queer theory, thereby offering new modes of reading domination and the possibilities of destabilisation, resistance and agency therein. Huijg's project of rethinking intersectionality takes as its case study the subjectivities of young, white feminist activists with the explicit (and original) aim of seeing the workings of whiteness interseetionally. Reading the 'intersectional agency' of these women, Huijg finds that their feminist activism is marked by agency on the axis of gender and passivity, or 'inaction', as she puts it, on the axis of 'race'. Gender and race thus shape their subjectivities in contradictory ways, enabling at once action and inaction, and that, too, in ways that reinforce the hegemony of whiteness. There are multiple implications of Huijg's sophisticated and politically urgent project, not least of which pertains to the importance of exploring whiteness in feminist politics and activism. Intersectionality should not, she suggests, solely be understood 'as the junction of axes of social signification but also as the junction of positions in power relations'; and agency should not be associated with action alone but with both, action and inaction. …


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