Gender Revolutions: Women Making Lives and Solidarities in Post-Colonial Worlds

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 11:00
Oral Presentation
Raewyn CONNELL, Faculty of Education and Social Work, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia
To understand the situation of women and the formation of gender in post-colonial societies, theories of gender role, discourse, habitus and identity derived from the experience of the global North are of limited relevance. In what terms can we theorise gender on a world scale? As Amina Mama and others emphasise, the postcolonial world was created by centuries of violence in which no gender order remained stable. Populations were devastated, land occupied, economies re-made, authority shattered, states built, race created as a principle of division. Southern feminist classics, including the work of Teresita de Barbieri, Heleieth Saffioti and Bina Agarwal, emphasise the relational dynamics of gender in post-colonial spaces. Women confront new forms of masculinized power - domestic, local (e.g. in developmental states), transnational, and distributed (e.g. in new media). Anticolonial struggle, and complex local traditions, permit more democratic gender relations – but don’t guarantee them. Growing up female, a particular concern of Cynthia Joseph’s research, is a project with contradictions at both personal and collective levels. Pressure on young women to define themselves by marriage and fertility comes from patriarchal attempts to preserve gender orders that are not in fact stable. Economic and cultural demands challenge these definitions where they depend on women as workers and consumers, but may produce other forms of subordination. The patterns of agency and solidarity emerging from these processes are crucial for the future of gender relations, and should be at the heart of sociological research on gender.