Are We There Yet? Contemporary Struggles for Gender Justice and the Legacy of Caribbean Feminisms

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 10:45
Oral Presentation
Sue Ann BARRATT, The University of the West Indies, Trinidad and Tobago
In this presentation I draw on two projects in which I examine the development of feminism in the Anglophone Caribbean, to contemplate feminist consciousness and its mediation of contemporary struggles for gender justice within the region. From activism to academia, Caribbean feminisms have long been built on movements of women propelled by challenges to gender justice emerging in multiple political, social and economic sectors, such as politics, labour, religion, social development and health. These issues are structural and systemic, affecting all women though the effects may be felt differently depending on the intersection of social identities such as race/ethnicity, class and religion.

From the first project, I am informed by observations of my feminist theory students who, on the one hand, express a theoretical awareness of the legacy of Caribbean feminisms and an understanding of self as postcolonial subjects, connected locally, regionally and globally to systems of political, social and economic subordination. However, at the same time they express, through their in-class discussions and independent work, a presumption of self as inheriting a secure agency and a preoccupation with issues that threaten, above all else, individual body sovereignty and personal freedom. This preoccupation, I suggest, diminishes if not erases the relevance of persistent social, political, economic and cultural challenges to gender justice in the region.

From the second project, I add to my consideration of their perspective, their experience of self in a creole (understood as mixed/hybrid) society, where, as part of an intersectional identity, many negotiate mixedness as part of their gendered identity. I reflect on this mixedness through the experience of douglas, one mixed race group well recognized in Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and Suriname, considering how this group may see themselves positioned within feminism, a positioning that may influence their feminist consciousness.