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Feminism: Theory And Praxis

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Feminism: Theory and Praxis

Event Report
Asra Malik

Despite the sister events being previously held in 2023 and 2022, which provided an influential perspective on feminism, IMPRI, keeping up with the impetus of providing a never-ending discussion of knowledge, called back the subject of feminism on stage with the aim of providing more coverage to its context and angle with a revision in lieu of the contemporary-timescale. 

This led to an online international winter school program on “Feminism: Theory and Praxis” headed by The IMPRI Gender Impact Studies Centre  between the 23rd and 25th of January 2024. 

Reconciliation and sprucing up knowledge is the way to navigate to understanding any theory of importance, which is realized throughout the program’s aim to explore and explain feminist thought, feminist movements, intersectionality, the pivotal role of feminism in addressing global challenges, and strategies for gender-inclusive policy making.

Day 1

Exploring Feminist Epistemology: Deconstructing Mainstream Paradigms and Cultivating Inclusive Knowledge

An Introductory onset was delivered by Dr. Vibhut Patel covering the basic definitions of Feminism while taking up questions and answering in earnest. 

Continued by Dr. Leena Pujari, was a bone of contention on “Feminist Epistemology,” discussing conventional epistemology. Adjusting successfully to the talk, a proactive discussion of the feminist philosophers in the 1970s and 1980s was imminent whose critique on mainstream epistemology was breathed into the social sciences. Dr. Pujari drew upon the work of scholars like Patricia Hill Collins, Donna Haraway, Emily Martin, and Nancy Hartstock to challenge mainstream epistemology from a feminist perspective.

She provided examples of how the production of knowledge and theoretical frameworks often excludes women’s perspectives and is rife with stereotypes and masculinist assumptions. For instance, the depiction of sperm cells as active agents and egg cells as passive in the fertilization process, despite their equal roles.

The session highlighted that feminism shouldn’t be carved as a homogenous entity, as its essence lies in the multicultural nature of its sources. It laid the epistemic foundation for the subsequent sessions, underscoring the importance of diverse perspectives in knowledge production.

To read a more elaborate session report: click here

Understanding Intersectionality in Feminist Discourse on Gender-Based Violence

Dr. Linda Lane galvanized the talk with a rejection of the liberal feminist understanding that believes equality is achievable through equal opportunities, given the imminent peals of inequality are gliding everywhere in terms of class, caste, race, religion, or sexuality, leading to more slip-offs than the gliding of liberal values. 

This led Dr. Lane to prove a basis for a transition from a Marxist-feminist, who believed capitalism caused women’s oppression, to a radical feminist, who views patriarchy as the root cause of women’s subjugation and oppression globally through the threat of rape or physical violence.

An intersectional perspective was then discussed as a natural response to the micro-inequalities of everyday lives shaped by belonging to various social groups while conceptualizing how sexual violence can’t be deemed a purely gender-based issue, as it disregards how an individual’s caste, race, ability, and age factor into the violence. Intersectionality helps us see that sexual violence does not affect all women equally.

Dr. Lane insisted on understanding violence not only theoretically but in terms of action for social change. This attitude must carry into research, identifying under-theorized groups, acknowledging their varying levels of agency, and allowing them to reveal information they are comfortable with.

To read a more elaborate session report: click here

Decolonizing Feminist Discourse: Exploring Postcolonial Feminism

Dr Shewli Kumar’s question – “Who produces knowledge?” was the tip of the iceberg in destabilizing western feminism which differs by leaps and bounds in not only schools of thought but also between countries of the Global South and the Global North. The difference in discourse can be attributed to colonialism, which concocted a page in academic spaces where western countries have primarily dominated the discourse on feminism in terms of their understandings of violence, health, poverty, and other inequities. 

In the same vein, postcolonial feminism believes that theory must be born from the point of view of people who have been historically seen only as subjects to be civilized, taught, and victimized rather than as people who have knowledge and experiences about their own lived realities.

The session referred to Chandra Talpade Mohanty’s important book “Under Western Eyes” and the emergence of the category of the “Third World Woman” as a homogeneous subject, always seen as a victim in need of rescuing. There is a power difference between western feminists and feminists from the Global South that paints an image of third-world women as “oppressed, victims, traditional, passive, and unchanging” when compared to “liberated, modern, dynamic” women from the West.

Batting no eyelid, the lecture garnered a strong point on postcolonial feminism and its role in producing knowledge that situates itself in the history of the country it is coming from, separating itself from colonial stereotypes and caricatures while still accounting for the history and politics of the people being written about.

To read a more elaborate session report: click here 

Day 2 

Trends in Feminism 

The second day of the series was led by Dr. Vibhuti Patel who voiced the idea of feminist thought, providing a comprehensive overview of its vision, mission, goals, and fundamental definitions. 

With an expression challenging subordination, oppression, exploitation, subjugation, injustice, and discrimination against girls and women, she quenched the notion from discussing the works of Habba Khatun, Mirabai, and Mary Wollstonecraft to domesticating the suffrage movement of liberal feminist thought, to the Marxists, and to radical feminists for the listeners. 

Professor Patel adeptly connected theoretical frameworks with real-world issues, providing a holistic understanding of the multifaceted challenges and movements within contemporary feminism and gaping gender equity and justice for the audience’s advancement of policing their works in a better format. 

To read a more elaborate session report: click here

Feminism in MENA Region 

Dr. Chitra Sinha talked about the intricacies of feminism in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region, specifically the UAE and Bahrain. 

Dr. Chitra Sinha outlined the economic diversity across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) nations, grouping them into three categories. First, there are the labor-rich, oil-rich nations like Algeria, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. Secondly, there are the resource-rich, labor-importing states; and lastly, there are the economically challenged countries, like Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon, that rely significantly on imports of gas and oil. Through the use of per capita income data, the presentation explored the economic issues these countries face, with a focus on those still recovering from conflict.

Understanding the historical context of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, including its geographic, ethnic, and economic characteristics, was a key component of Dr. Chitra Sinha’s speech. She warned against generalizations by pointing out the social-cultural flexibility within these locations in contrast to homogeneity. In order to fully appreciate and acknowledge the diversity of the MENA area, the talk emphasized the importance of taking a methodical approach to understanding its complex fabric.

To read a more elaborate session report: click here 

Feminism and Legal Activism 

Professor Dr. Saumya Uma provided a cross-explanation of the legal system and feminist ideology. Dr. Uma then diverted the audience to the necessity of understanding feminism in plurality and the diversity it holds in its various backgrounds and forms, especially the law. 

Professor Uma emphasized the need to understand and divulge efforts to create a more equitable legal landscape for women. Moreover, Professor Uma explored the diverse forms of women’s subordination, offering poignant examples that underscored the urgency of feminist legal activism, which also served as a reminder of the ongoing struggle for gender equality within legal frameworks.

The session then broke the fourth wall and invited the audience to participate in the discussion and rather turn it into a conversation on legislation, contemporary concepts of the societal understandings of activism, and addressing the agenda of an equitable performance and presentation of and by all alike. 

To read a more elaborate session report: click here 

Day 3 

Kannada Feminism: Literary Traditions & Research Discourses

Professor Indira Ramarao piqued the talk by underscoring the false imprisonment of feminism in a rather justified space, but its prevalence lies in its subjectivity itself, where she referenced Kannada literature to further her thoughts. She outlined the words of Akkamahadevi and other Kannada authors to dilute feminist thought in their readings, letting people take more than certain genders and their themes, social norms, and intricacies.  

She advocated for a critical outlook and the usage of the word “why?” more often than not to understand the depth of any matter, interluding the works of other cultures and societies to not only learn the local idiom but also to understand the synonyms and antonyms nature of existence in language and transdisciplinary disciplines.  

Prof. Ramarao remarked at the end of the presentation that feminism is a way of life, not just a theoretical idea. She encouraged scholars to adopt an open-minded and comprehensive approach to gender study in Kannada by encouraging them to read a variety of literary works that incorporate feminism. 

To read a more elaborate report: click here

Feminist Foreign Policy: Challenges and Pathways

Dr. Vahida Nainar provided an intricate overlap of feminist perspective with the global dynamics, mainly focusing on women, peace, and security, and trade and economic cooperation. The incorporation of feminist principles into foreign policy was then explored, focusing on intersectionality, commitment to peace, gender-sensitive economic development, and the “3″Rs”—rights, representation, and resources. 

She entitled the lecture to the influences jostling foreign policies and relations among and between nations and the factors formulating their foreign policies. Issues spanning peace and security, human rights, trade and economic cooperation, humanitarian emergencies, trans-border interactions, and health and climate concerns were discussed, along with a detailed analysis of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and National Action Plans and an in-depth exploration of the barriers hindering women’s economic participation, the gender gap in access to technology, unequal land ownership, and limited access to formal credit, offering a pragmatic view of the challenges faced by women in the region. 

The closing remarks of the session emphasized the critical role that advocacy, people’s movements, women’s rights activism, and civil society mobilization play in advancing little steps toward a more inclusive and gender-sensitive response to global crises.

To read a more elaborate session report: click here 

Eco-Feminism: Sustainable Agriculture & Social Justice

The last nail in the coffin was hit by Ms. Farida Akhtar, who provided a theoretical description of eco-feminism, which is sustained by an intermix of society and nature. With a strong reference to ecological agriculture, she took to impart a view on cultivating relationships with nature, challenging the patriarchal norms entrenched in corporate agriculture and industrial food production while discussing the negatives of tobacco production and in advocating for transforming the fossil fuel-based industrial civilization and countering corporate control of the global economy and eco-feminism in South Asia. 

In the latter half of her lecture, she talked about her work as an eco-feminist practitioner in Bangladesh, the struggle for sovereignty, the Nikrishi movement, a women-led initiative focused on sustainable agriculture, and Chaitra Sankranthi, a cultural practice ensuring renewable food sources for the future. Her lecture also included a representation of the impact of eco-feminism, including images of women harvesting olives in Palestine, and highlighting the intricate knowledge possessed by women about medicinal and nutritional plants. 

To read a more elaborate session report: click here

Acknowledgement: Posted by Reet Lath, Research Intern at IMPRI.

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