Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

Which 'Mountain' Must Feminism Climb?: Challenges for Feminist Alliances between Migrant and Autochthonous Women's Groups in the Basque Country

Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

Which 'Mountain' Must Feminism Climb?: Challenges for Feminist Alliances between Migrant and Autochthonous Women's Groups in the Basque Country

Article excerpt


"An otherness barely touched upon and that already moves away" (Julia Kristeva, 1991:3).

Debates on the definition of the subject of feminism and the development of a common political agenda that, at the same time, recognize difference and multiplicity, have populated feminist theory and practice in the last two decades (Scott, 1988; Fuss, 1989). On the one hand, western feminism can no longer escape the importance of the intersectional experience of difference outside of white, heterosexual and bourgeois women (Davis, 1981; Lorde, 1981; hooks, 1984; Bhavnani & Coulson, 1986; Anthias, 1998; Brah, 1996; Mohanty & Alexander 1997, Crenshaw, 1989). This deconstruction of the essentialist readings of the category "woman" has recognized the heterogeneity and multiplicity of the feminist subject, favoring a positional understanding where being a woman is a contingent locality within a changing historical context susceptible of being politically transformed (Alcoff, 1988, Anthias, 2002, Nash 2008). Moreover, this openness of the category "woman" advocates resistance to an addition and subtraction configuration of identity and experience giving way to the relevance of "politics of location" (Boyce Davies, 2004:153; Kaplan, 1994), the "matrix of domination" of Hill Collins (2000:228) and the theory of intersectionality in relation to "mutually exclusive categories of experience and analysis" (Crenshaw:1989:133).

On the other hand, the multiplicity of subject positions and the questioning of a 'common oppression of all women' lead to the development of divergent and potentially conflicting political agendas within the feminist movement. For some feminists, the lack of a unified political subject and the consequent difficulty in defining a common political agenda can fragment and weaken the feminist movement (Genz, 2006).

The feminization of migration (Anthias, 2000, Yinger, 2006, Labadi-Jackson, 2008) is one of the areas that makes this debate even more pertinent and urgent. Migrant and local women have quite different social, cultural and economic contexts. While a common political agenda may be difficult, issues affecting migrant women (3) should be taken into consideration if we want to achieve any significant transformation in precarious life conditions (Yuval-Davis, 1997; Anthias & Lazaridis, 2000; Kofman, 2004; Nash, 2005; Montenegro, Montenegro, Yufra & Galaz, 2009). In this context, the challenge of forming feminist political alliances that create 'patterns for relating across our human differences as equals' (Lorde 1980:115) is nowadays one the most important feminist request.

This paper takes the notions of the activism of black feminist theory (Nayak, 2014) and "post"-colonial feminisms (hooks, 2000; Mendoza, 2002; Mohanty and Alexander, 2003; Anzaldua, 2007), as the fabric where difference and commonality could be sewed together to transcend notions of a 'global sisterhood' (Morgan, 1984). Instead of ignoring differences between women, romanticizing feminist global relationships or assuming oppressive 'essential' distinctions between so called 'First' and 'Third' World women, Black feminist and "post"-colonial feminisms 'develop tools for using human difference as a springboard for creative change' (Lorde, 1980:115). Chandra T. Mohanty (2003) suggests that the dialectic of "common differences" can constitute the ground of a deep solidarity to confront unequal power relations within feminist positions. She argues that "the focus is not just on the intersections of race, class, gender, nation, and sexuality in different communities of women but on mutuality and co-implication, which suggests attentiveness to the interweaving of the histories of these communities." (Mohanty, 2003: 522). In the same way, the activism of Black feminist theory (Lorde 1984, hooks, 2000; Hill Collins, 2000) insists on the power of collective action founded on 'the interdependence of mutual (nondominant) differences' (Lorde, 1979:111). …

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