Institute for Social Justice

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Decolonizing / Transnationalizing Feminism

What are the possibilities for an inclusive feminist politics in the 21st Century? How can feminists respond to continuing regimes of colonization, racialization, and imperialism, and resist the assumption that western culture is the model of gender justice?


Monday, May 16 2016

Lecture: Thinking from the South: Understanding gender and power in world perspective

Raewyn Connell


Raewyn Connell

This talk will trace the unfinished revolution in organized knowledge that feminism has launched. Feminist thought represents an epistemological shift and a contestation of power; but it has limits, connected with its location in a global economy of knowledge. The links between gender orders and colonial conquest and settlement are considered, and the pattern of coloniality in the neoliberal world economy of today. New global dynamics of gender struggle are considered: patterns of violence against women, gender contestation over land, and the politics of international state feminism. Finally the changing ground of gender theory is considered: diasporic postcolinial feminism; knowledge projects from periphery including indigenous knowledge, alternative universalisms  and southern theory; and the prospects for democratising gender knowledge on a world scale.


Panel: Women’s Activism, Patriarchy, and Colonization: Local and Transnational Perspectives


Indonesia’s Democracy, Women’s Movements and the Gender Struggle – Dina Afrianty

Indonesia’s gender equality is said to be progressing. Increasing access to education allows women to enter workforce, secure public office, and enter representative politics as democratic spaces DinaAfrianty-2340are widened. Yet, women face discrimination on a daily basis as a result of discriminatory social policies and practice both at local and national levels. The regulation to limit women’s freedom of movements are out in place, such as, regulating women’s clothing, and introduction of virginity test for female students to enter higher education. At the same time, the government is not doing enough to bring some cultural practices, such as, female genital cutting, child marriage, polygamy, and other forms of gender violence, to an end so that women can enjoy their equal constitutional rights. Indonesia’s democratisation provides the space for Muslim men to continue to enjoy public intellectual roles, dominating the doctrinal debates, and maintain their public positions in a number of Islamic organisations, and in political parties, reinforcing and defined women’s roles based on Islamist elements into state policies. My presentation will show that the experience of Indonesian women’s movements in the gender struggle capture a number of issues that women’s movements are facing despite the country’s democratisation.


Southern feminist theory and action: Moving beyond the rights versus culture divide – Kiran Grewal

In this paper I want to suggest that while the universal human rights discourse has been used productively by women in various parts of the world, it also contains some serious limitations. Not ISJleast, it has contributed to the maintenance of an apparent divide between women’s rights and (non-Western) culture. At a theoretical level this maintains a conception of feminism as originating from within the Enlightenment values of the West. At a political level it leads to both a masking of Western patriarchy and the legitimation of colonial civilizational order. Finally at a practical level it makes life very difficult for non-Western feminists seeking to simultaneously fight sexism and racism/neo-colonialism (as well as other vectors of discrimination). Drawing on current action research I am doing with feminist activists in Sri Lanka, I will propose a possible alternative strategy that both grounds feminist discourses within a cultural context and provides a means for recognizing and valorising southern feminist theory.



New wave of transnational feminism: Refugee women’s struggle for Inclusion – Saba Vasefi

WomSaba2en suffer injustice in Iran because their voices are not heard, and their ideas and arguments are not considered viable. As a campaigner against the death penalty in Iran, I noticed that the testimonies of women on death row are frequently misunderstood, rejected or used against them. These women are wronged in many ways, but one of the most damaging ways is in terms of their testimonies. This occurs not just in Iran, but in countries such as Australia, where they seek asylum. This complex chain of underrepresentation of asylum seeker and refugee women is the effect of subtle and covert forms of subjugation and oppression. My talk strives to unveil how marginalisation and subordination of women of colour are legitimised and normalized. Furthermore,
I will question the common misconception that these women are uneducated consumers of Western culture.


‘Sorry means you don’t do it again.’ –  Grandmothers Against Removals

The continuing forced removal of children from their families is one of the biggest crises facing Aboriginal communities today. More children are being removed than at any time in Australia’s history, with almost 16,000 Aboriginal children in ‘out of home care’ on any given night. More than half of these children have not been placed back with their Aboriginal families, despite the “Aboriginal placement principle” being mandated by law in every State and Territory. Grandmothers Against Removals (GMAR) is a national network that has been formed by families directly affected by forced removal to fight for change. Since forming two years ago, GMAR members have been at the forefront of challenging forced removals, with consistent work assisting families fighting to have their children returned, protests that have forced the issue into the national spotlight, and negotiations with welfare departments in an attempt to change practice. GMAR demands Aboriginal control of Aboriginal child welfare. We want to see resources and opportunities provided to struggling families, rather than the punishment and trauma of forced removal.


Monday, 23 May 2016

Lecture: Indigenous Feminism Resurgence and the Politics of a Radical Love – Dory Nason

This paper examines the articulation of love in the context of Indigenous resurgence and feminist discourse in Canada and the US. It will turn to key voices such as Leanne Simpson, Lee Maracle, Louise Erdrich and Linda Hogan foDory Nasonr narratives that make central the radical politics of Indigenous women’s decolonial love. This love is an ethic drawn from older Indigenous philosophies of reciprocity, kinship obligations and creative potential, NOT the accommodationist or assimilationist yearnings it is so often discredited to be. The paper turns on two key questions: how has Indigenous women’s love (romantic, familial or otherwise) been distorted in the colonial imagination to discredit Indigenous women’s politics and status and how have Indigenous feminists and activists resisted those distortions’ impacts. Ultimately, the paper recognizes that writers such as Simpson, Erdrich and others have always challenged the targeted erasure of their love’s radical potential to resist the dehumanizing death drive of settler colonial desire through upholding love not as an olive branch of friendship, but as the core of Indigenous feminism, and therefore, Indigenous resurgence.


Decolonizing Feminist Theory: Contributions from Latina Feminism – Linda Martin Alcoff

Linda-Martin-AlcoffFeminist political practice has been defined in increasingly general terms of critique and resistance to identity itself, or the negative or critical project of undoing gender, dismantling identities, and escaping cultural scripts. Yet in the guise of producing an orientation to feminism that will avoid exclusions, this generalized stance of resistance to identity has become a new universal without intersectional application. Returning to a focus on the intersectional nature of identities provides an alternative approach without universally imposed agendas. Given that gender is mediated by other categories, our political stance toward it needs flexibility, not uniformity. And varied forms of identity—such as ethnic, racial, national, and religious—work differently than gender identities or gender ideologies. This paper will develop these claims by drawing from the work of Latina feminist theologian Ada-Maria Isasi-Diaz.


Decolonizing Feminist Freedom: Listening to Indigenous Women’s Knowledge – Allison Weir

allison-weirIn this paper I respond to Aileen Moreton-Robinson’s argument for an Australian Indigenous women’s standpoint theory, from the perspective of a white secular settler feminist. I argue that Indigenous conceptions of being, knowing, and doing challenge western secular feminist conceptions of essentialism and constructivism, authenticity, secularism, critique, and freedom. The philosophy of relationality rooted in spirituality that Moreton-Robinson describes is a form of knowledge that serves as a powerful source of resistance to colonization. Engaging with this philosophy could transform western secular feminist understandings of freedom and resistance.


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