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Case For A Transnational Feminist Practice

Geetika Bapna

By Chandra Talpade Mohanty
Zubaan, Delhi, 2003, pp. 300, Rs. 595.00


While the title of the book Feminism Without Borders taken literally may be suggestive of a feminist project in the league of the global sisterhood arguments of the 1970s, Mohanty precisely critiques such universalist understandings of a global, eurocentric feminism, instead arguing rather persuasively for an anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist, historically contextualized feminist project. The advanced forms of global capitalism that mark our lives today in explicit, subtle and unconscious ways, deepening forms of socio-cultural, economic, and political inequalities forms the necessary backdrop of Mohanty’s writings. A collection of essays, old and new, the book in its totality makes a compelling argument for a transnational feminist practice that is acutely attentive to the different socio-cultural historical locations of women across class, race, ethnicity, sexulaity and nation states yet being able to wage collective, political opposition to forms of domination—pervasive and systemic—of global capital. As the writer herself eloquently puts it, I quote: Feminism without borders is not the same as “border-less feminism”. It acknowledges the fault lines, conflicts, differences, fears and containment that borders represent. It acknowledges that there is no one sense of a border, that the lines between and through nations, races, classes, sexualities, religions and disabilities, are real—and that feminism without borders must envision change and social justice work across these lines of demarcation and division. I want to speak of feminism without silences and exclusions in order to draw attention to the tensions between the simultaneous plurality and narrowness of borders and the emancipatory potential of crossing through, with, and over these borders in our everyday lives. (p. 2)   Making a systematic critique of eurocentric discourses of western feminism that construct Third World women (not a geographical category for the writer) as a monolithic, homogeneous category of analysis, Mohanty is equally critical of discourses of difference and multiculturalism that edge themselves at pure celebration of diversity, erasing histories of unequal power relations, domination and subordinations. The proliferation of such empty ideologies of pluralism in the context of the United States especially in the US academy where the author is based, far from contributing to a process of radical social transformation has led to domestication of difference—what she calls “management”of diversity—leaving centers of hegemonic constructions untouched. She argues instead for an understanding of difference that is embedded in the histories of colonialism, global capital and foregrounds the issue of knowledge, power relations and ...

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