Processual and Reflexive Universalism from a Transnational Social Movement and Gender Perspective

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 18:00
Oral Presentation
Ilse LENZ, Ruhr University, Germany
Presently, approaches of processual and reflexive universalism are emerging in social movements. First I will draw on critiques of eurocentric and androcentric ‘thin universalism’ by gender and social movement perspectives. Then I will analyse the understanding of universalism and difference in two feminist core debates: care work and developmental feminism from the South.

From a social movement and gender perspective, the decline of universalism has been linked to the critiques of eurocentric and androcentric ideologies. Some of them conceived universal subjects as (implicitly male) homogenuous persons like 'the citizen/political subject' in the welfare state oder 'the worker/breadwinner' in capitalism without envisioning differences. Women, Black or colonised persons were relegated outside and framed as ‘others’. This ‘thin universalism’ was seen as legitimating deep inequalities by setting a hegemonic homogenous standard and excluding the ‘otherised’ as different.

Therefore, feminism and antiracist movements insisted on social difference by gender and ‘race’ decentering the homogenous subject. Some currents maximised difference and joined postmodernism with its general distancing from universalism. While insisting on gender and racialised differences, other currents attacked inequalities resulting from these hierarchies and thus in effect referred to inclusion and participation of all persons as universal standard. I will analyse two transnational feminist debates for their explicit and implicit understandings of universalism and differences: 1) the care work movement 2) the Development Awareness of women Network (DAWN) from the south.

From these debates, approaches of reflexive ‘thick universalism’ which include differences based on symmetric relations and inclusion can be developed. They negotiate universalism/ difference in processes of deliberation around social movement issues, aims and subjectivities. For example the importance of diverse men for changing care work has been negotiated in diverse ways. These approaches of reflexive and processual universalism can provide new concepts for universal social policies.