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Gender, Development, Resistance (7-8 June 2015)

Datum: 2015-06-07 - 2015-06-08
Plats: Rovaniemi
Typ: Conference

Gender, Development, Resistance (7-8 June 2015)


Gender, Development, Resistance

An international workshop organized by “Governance, Resistance and Neoliberal Development: Struggles against Development-Induced Displacement and Forced Evictions in South Asia” project, funded by the Academy of Finland

7-8 June 2015
Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Lapland Rovaniemi, Finland


Questions related to political subjectivity and intersections of gender, class, and race lie at the heart of a broad spectrum of contemporary struggles in the global South where women have become increasingly active in social and political movements. In theoretical debate, this has been referred to as “feminization of resistance” (e.g. Motta 2013). Women’s political engagement has intensified in a wide range of movements. While some fight against neoliberal development projects that displace thousands of poor people, others contest new forms of colonialism that have resulted in conflicts over land, forests, and water, causing displacement and forced migration on a massive scale. Many movements work broadly for causes of social justice, equality, and dignity. Some concentrate particularly on women’s rights, and struggle against patriarchal capitalist coloniality, sexism, and heteronormativity. Importantly, as noted by postcolonial feminists (e.g. Mohanty 2003; Motta 2013), subjects who simultaneously face multiple oppressions are in a position to re-imagine emancipatory politics, to produce and embody difference, and to create and experiment with new subjectivities. Viewed from this perspective, the feminization of resistance raises many important epistemological and political questions.

The increasing engagement of women in social movements, together with the growing role of feminist movements in the global South is not, however, a development celebrated by all. In many countries it has been met by a sharp increase in government intimidation and state surveillance. Social movements and activists are disciplined and punished, and represented as being against “progress” and “development” (e.g. Roy 2009). Direct violence is used regularly for silencing female activists - they are raped, kidnapped, tortured, and abused. In other words, the dark side of feminization of resistance manifests itself in giving birth to new technologies of rule, governance, and domination over feminized and raced bodies. However, as Louiza Odysseos (2011) argues, political subjects are always governed, also when they are resisting. There exists a complex interplay between governance and resistance, which means that besides different forms of resistance, attention needs to be paid to governance of resistance, as well as governance through resistance. It should also be noted that even violent struggles are not simply destructive for social movements as they simultaneously involve “the construction of new subjectivities and social relationships that reinvent a development beyond developmentalism and against neoliberalism” (Motta and Nilsen 2011: 16).

Due to ever-growing skepticism towards mainstream politics controlled by political and economic elites, the idea of autonomous resistance has become increasingly popular among social movements, including women’s rights and feminist movements. Some of these movements are local while others are transnationally oriented. Feminist scholars from the global North are usually welcomed to study and take part in these struggles but - as postcolonial feminists have significantly pointed out - hegemonic Western feminist approaches are problematic in many ways. Western feminism has a problematic tendency to conceptualize not only oppression but al so women’s resistance from its own particular, Eurocentric perspective. Western feminism often also compartmentalizes issues that are not separate, for example, by ignoring economic issues and structural violence caused by neoliberalism and/or neocolonialism. Another point of criticism is that Western feminists do not always realize that their own interests and the interests of poor and/or middle-class women in the global South are far from being identical.

These critiques are highly important as the position of a Western researcher, whether a feminist scholar or not, is made possible because of the existing structural differences, and the efforts to “help” social movements in the global South by studying them can in fact end up strengthening those hierarchies. As suggested by Sara Motta (2011), researchers need to “unlearn” their academic privileges in order to widen their understanding of movement-relevant research, learn from the practices of social movements, and reorient their own practices. According to Motta (2011: 194-196), theory is produced collectively “via reflection, within political struggle, based upon the lived experiences and struggles of excluded and marginalized communities” and consequently, research that is done in solidarity must involve mutual learning connected to lived experience and practices of everyday life. Similarly, many women activists in the global South emphasize the importance of “ideological solidarity” between different groups of women when engaging in a broader project of constructing decolonizing forms of feminist solidarity (cf. Mohanty 2003).

The workshop seeks to explore the above discussed, and related, themes and problematiques from different perspectives across the disciplines. In the context of gender, development and resistance paper topics could include, but are not limited to:

- Social movements, political activism, feminization of resistance
- Post/neo-colonialism, poverty, land grabbing, privatization
- Displacement, forced migration, refugees
- War, conflict, biopolitics, securitization
- Power/knowledge, conduct and counter-conduct
- Women’s rights, politics of sexuality
- Politicization of social reproduction and everyday life
- Politics of knowledge, critical pedagogies
- Decolonizing/queering theories and practices
- Emancipation, empowerment, autonomy, spirituality
- Politics of feminist solidarity across borders

Please send your abstract (max 300 words) to Dr. Tiina Seppälä by 15 January 2014.

Selected workshop papers will be considered for publication in a Special Issue on Gender, Development and Resistance to be offered to a peer-reviewed international journal.

The workshop is organized so that the participants can also attend the 9th European Feminist Research Conference - Sex & Capital - to be held at the University of Lapland, Rovaniemi 3-6 June 2015. For more information, see www.ulapland.fi/efrc2015

Important Dates and Deadlines


Call for abstracts: 25 November 2014
Deadline for abstract submission: 15 January 2015 Acceptance letters: 30 January 2015 Deadline for confirming participation: 15 February 2015 Deadline for complete papers: 15 May 2015 Workshop dates: 7-8 June 2015

Special issue

First drafts: 15 August 2015
Proposal for a special issue: 15 September 2015 Second drafts: 30 October 2015 Papers sent to reviewers: 15 November 2015 Referee reviews: 15 January 2016 Submission of final papers: 28 February 2016 Copy-editing finished: 15 May 2016


Mohanty, Chandra T. (2003). “Under Western Eyes” Revisited: Feminist Solidarity through Anticapitalist Struggles. In C. T. Mohanty (Ed.) Feminism Without Borders: Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity, pp. 221-251. Durham: Duke University Press.

Motta, Sara C. (2011). Notes Towards Prefigurative Epistemologies. In S. C. Motta & A. G. Nilsen (Eds.) Social Movements in the Global South: Dispossession, Development and Resistance in the Global South, pp. 178-199. Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan.

Motta, Sara C. (2013). ''We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For'': The Feminization of Resistance in Venezuela. Latin American Perspectives, 40(4): 35-54.

Motta, Sara C. & Nilsen, Alf Gunvald (2011). Social Movements and/in the Postcolonial: Dispossession, Development and Resistance in the Global South. In S. C. Motta & A. G. Nilsen (Eds.) Social Movements in the Global South: Dispossession, Development and Resistance in the Global South, pp. 1-31. Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan.

Odysseos, Louiza (2011). Governing Dissent in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve: ‘Development’, Govermentality, and Subjectification amongs Botswana’s Bushmen. Globalizations, 8(4): 439-455.

Roy, Arundhati (2009). Listening to Grasshoppers: Field Notes on Democracy. New Delhi: Penguin Books India.

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Tiina Seppälä
Dr.Soc.Sci. (Ph.D.)
Post-Doctoral Researcher
International Relations
Faculty of Social Sciences
University of Lapland
P.O. Box 122, 96101 Rovaniemi
work phone +358-40-484 4233
mobile +358-40-726 2687