PUERTO RICO 2006
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A. Preconference

Tuesday, March 14, 2006, Caribe Hilton, San Juan, Puerto Rico, Rooms Conference 3-5. 9:00 A.M.-5:00 P.M.)

“Inequalities, exclusions, integration and openings: Intersections in times of globalization”

 

Discussions will focus on intersections of gender, class, race/ethnicity, nationalities, migration, sexualities, generations and new social actors, among others.

 

We have organized the sessions in a more open format.  We will not have individual formal presentations, but a series of questions with regard to the topic, in order to have the time open for the discussion and contributions of the participants.

 We hope that you will be able to share with us that day and on the Section´s panels listed below, as well as the reception and business meeting.

 We also remind you of the Section´s panels, which according to the preliminary program will all be held on Wednesday, March 15th.

 “Gender, equity, and feminisms in times of neoliberal globalization.   Economic integration and technological development.”. Panel organizer: Gwyndolyn Weathers, Universidad de Puerto Rico, Río Piedras

 

“Thirty years of Latin American feminisms, where do we stand now?”

Panel organizers: Elizabeth Maier, Colegio de la Frontera Norte, California; Nathalie Lebon, Gettysberg College, Pennsylvania

 

“¿Tercera oleada feminista? Definiciones y discusiones feministas entre las nuevas generaciones de América Latina”

 Panel organizer: Adriana Causa, Instituto de Investigaciones Gino Germani - Universidad de Buenos Aires, Argentina

 

Preconference

“Inequalities, exclusions, integration, and openings: Intersections in times of globalization.”

Conversations on genders, races/ethnicities, classes, sexualities and nations

It has been important for the feminist movement to maintain its autonomous perspective, coming from the particular situation of women´s inequality and subordination and a focus on gender relations. Women´s particular claims to equity cannot be subsumed under other struggles and mobilizations for social justice. At the same time, as has been discussed in postmodern, border, transnational or postcolonial theorizings, we have been impelled to recognize that the situation of women varies across different classes, races, ethnicities and nationalities, among other social categories. At this point, we must again address how gender inequities cross and are mutually constituted by other dimensions of social inequality and consider women’s movements in relation to their concrete, particular situations.

Where are women situated in relation to the forces of globalization? Upfront and center?  On the periphery? Or hidden out of sight? There are a multitude of answers, depending on which women one thinks of, in which country at which time, and how one defines globalization. Much of the discussion on how to define globalization - prior to September 11, 2001 - focused on the rise and “success” of free market economics around the world, how this set of changes has decreased the power of the state in many countries, and the lack of or decline of environmental protection and labor rights in many places.  Concurrently, over the course of the 1990s, there was an increase in the number and quality of democracies in the world, and consequently, citizen, corporate and other non-governmental actors played more prominent roles in national and international politics around the globe. These new developments raised many questions, and many hopes for the advancement of women's rights.  As is written by one of the discipline's finest thinkers on women and international politics, Cynthia Enloe, it piqued a new time for feminist curiosity, meaning that researchers, students, politicians, and people in general should consider:

…taking women’s lives seriously. ‘Seriously’ implies listening carefully, digging deep, developing a long attention span, being ready to be surprised. Taking women – all sorts of women, in disparate times and places – seriously is not the same thing as valorizing women. Many women, of course, deserve praise, even awe; but many women we need to take seriously may appear too complicit in violence or in the oppression of others, or too cozily wrapped up in the relative privilege to inspire praise or compassion.  Yet a feminist curiosity finds all women worth thinking about, paying close attention to, because in this way we will be able to throw into sharp relief the blatant and subtle political workings of both femininity and masculinity (Cynthia Enloe. The Curious Feminist: Searching for Women in a New Age of Empire. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004).

       What about globalization in the post-9/11 world?  In mainstream politics, the focus of international relations has shifted to closer examinations and awareness of terrorist networks, extremist authoritarian regimes, and domestic and international security in the U.S. and many countries.  Despite high-minded rhetoric to the contrary, this new emphasis has detracted from the multiple initiatives to advance women’s rights and has brought back a new focus on women living in fear, as victims in need of rescue, as refugees and as war widows.  In this way, the forces of globalization that have gained power since 9/11 have broken the strides of gender equality advocates in the 1990s.

            Among the debates related to globalization, we may consider that claims to national definitions and State sovereignty have been contested suggesting that these have served to obscure internal inequalities in our societies- by class, race, ethnicity, gender, sexualities, among others- and maintain boundaries against “external others”, in the name of a homogeneous national unity.  National cultures have also served to reinforce gender and other inequalities, and women´s status, as well control of sexualities in our societies, have many times been intricate elements of those national definitions. At present, globalization has not only reduced/transformed the power and role of national states as anchors of national definitions, and blurred national borders and differences. Transnational power institutions and networks operating through multinational exchanges and geographical mobility among cultures, markets and peoples, are resisted by transnational networks, as well as by defensive nationalist movements, and those of a fundamentalist, reactionary nature.

            Nations are not homogeneous, and inequalities are reproduced to different degrees in countries that remain politically and economically dominant, as well as those lower in the transnational hierarchy. Economic integration and its concomitant social linkages, however, are still given in conditions where national states do maintain a role, as they share unequally in world power. At an international/transnational level, nationality becomes linked with race and racialization establishing hierarchies among populations of different regions and nations.  Women share in the differentiation, as has been discussed, for example, by postcolonial feminists and nonwhite feminists, who have contended that dominant feminism is Western, white, and middle class in terms of definitions, issues and priorities.

            It is important to consider racial/ethnic and class differences among women and how these are linked to gender definitions and hierarchies in our societies.  Such an analysis would have to incorporate the differences in racial definitions and processes of racialization in our diverse regions and countries.  Racial constructions in the United States and in Latin America/the Caribbean, for example, are fundamentally different.  The U.S. has a bipolar system where one drop of black blood classifies a person as back, while the Latin American/Caribbean system if more fluid.  The latter relies on mestizaje (racial and cultural mixture), whereby the middle or mixed race is often predominant.  The goal has been, nonetheless, to whiten culturally, through education and income, as well as biologically, and to adopt the cultural and class characteristics of the white or mestiza elite. More recently, indigenous and Afrodescendent groups, including women, are organizing against this white bias, and arguing for greater recognition of the roots and values of black and indigenous people and culture.

It is also of interest to analyze the role of national identity and allocation in its intersection with gender and other social hierarchies. Even among populations in nations which are less dominant in the world order, there are unequal relations, and the diversity  of historical trajectories, political systems, cultural heritage and language barriers- including the situation of non/independent nations-, among other conditions, have hindered transnational work among women. With our meeting place as an example, linguistic differences and colonial legacies have maintained a relative isolation among Caribbean women in diverse linguistic areas, despite important efforts and activities of the regional feminist movement. It is important that we analyze how issues of national definitions remain enmeshed with gender and racialization in feminist activity in our locales, nations and in a global women´s movement.

            These initial thoughts are but a first approximation, open to discussion, as a means to begin our exchange for the preconference. The preconference will be an opportunity for us to discuss what we know about these processes in our locales, countries and sub-regions, and to map how these intersections have been operating in Latin America, compared to other areas. Our discussions could include the following, among other questions:

1. When was the first time you remember hearing the term globalization?

How does this definition differ from previous terms describing neoliberalism or capitalist political economic systems?

2. What images or snapshots do you associate with your initial introduction to the term, that have driven or prompted media coverage, public responses and academic research?

Could you identify a pre-9/11 set of images and a post-9/11 set of images? How have they changed? 

3. Where are women in relation to your images?  How does their position change in the pre- and post-9/11 scenarios?

4. What have been the national definitions in our countries and to what extent have they reinforced women’s unequal status and class and racial hierarchies? How have these been linked to dominant definitions of sexuality and family relations?

5. How has the term Afrodescendent been used? What debates have take place regarding its use?
6.  How do you define mestizaje?  How is it related to nationalism in Latin America and the Caribbean?  How did mestizaje reaffirm white superiority? How are indigenous and Afrodescendent groups challenging mestizaje? 

7.  To what extent  and in what ways have women’s movements reproduced class, racial, sexual, and other hierarchical national definitions?

8.  Why did Afrodescedent and indigenous women organize separately? How do they combine their demands for racial/ ethnic and gender equality?  Do Afrodescendent , indigenous and mestizo/white women have different gender ideologies?

9. Why are these movements apparently stronger in places like Brazil and Colombia than in the Caribbean or other countries?  How does the Caribbean feel about racial equality?  What are the differences between the Anglophone and Hispanic Caribbean in this regard?

10. To what extent have women’s movements pushed for broader equitable social relations in termsof race/ethnicity, class, sexualities and other definitions beyond gender equity? What actions and strategies of the womens’ movements have provided for these ruptures? How have women’s mobilizations at a transnational level, including, for example, the discussions and measures generated by the U.N.’s Women’s Conferences, supported those redefinitions?

11. How are women’s particular conditions, needs and mobilizations in our country related to our nation’s location in the world order?   Have these particular conditions been incorporated  in regional and transnational women’s activities and movements incorporated  in regional and transnational women’s activities and movements? What strategies and activities have promoted the incorporation of these particularities?

12. What may be possible policy and political implications of the trends discussed?