Transnational Feminism and/in American Studies

31.03.2017 to 01.04.2017 Add to calendar

Second Biennial EAAS Women’s Network Symposium
Transnational Feminism and/in American Studies

As Inderpal Grewal and Caren Kaplan convey in their seminal text An Introduction to Women’s Studies: Gender in a Transnational World (2001/2005), “transnational feminist studies is not a luxury that is added to the end of a syllabus or that can be relegated to one week out of the semester or quarter” (xvii). A mode of thinking in American Studies scholarship for over a decade, transnationalism should be integrated into all contemporary feminist discourse—whether through academic writing, in the classroom setting, or within the realm of activism—so that important questions are asked, and answered, about “ethnocentrism, racism, and nationalist viewpoints as foundation[s] to gender identity and issues of sexuality” (xvii). Unlike certain threads of global feminism, which espouse a “world-wide alliance of women,” invariably lapsing into the same tropes of condescension, paternalism, and cultural imperialism found in preceding feminist movements, transnational feminism represents a paradigm shift away from orientalist and colonial discourses that prioritize “the West” and that marginalize the social, cultural and historical contexts with which women struggle elsewhere in the world. Thus, transnational feminism signals a movement towards examining how “western” countries, such as the United States, are, for better or worse, implicated in global issues that impact women’s lives and how these issues can be broached.

“It may now be time,” as Susan Koshy cautions us in her 2008 response to Ali Behdad in American Literary History (vol. 20.1-2), “to think carefully about whether feminism travels well across borders, not because distances are as great as they were in the past, but precisely because they are alleged to have shrunk.” According to Koshy, “Transnational feminism, at the best of times a precarious project that negotiates neoliberal universalism, cultural relativism, asymmetrical knowledge flows, the demand for authenticity, and its own commodification, may be short-circuited by its mediatization. These shifts invite us to reflect on the possibility or impossibility of transnational feminism in our time” (302–303). Such a reconceptualization or rethinking has become all the more urgent as women’s rights, access to health care, and social and political spaces are being placed in jeopardy with rising global conservatism. Examining the women’s movement (past, present, and future) in a transnational way underscores the necessity and continued importance of feminism and feminist concerns.

Organised by: 
The European Association for American Studies Women’s Network
Université de Lausanne
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