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VOLUME 1, NUMBER 1       BACK TO VOLUMES

Translating the Global: Effects of Transnational Organizing on Local Feminist Discourses and Practices in Latin America
Sonia Alvarez

Alvarez explores two distinct Latin America feminist transnational activist logics-- one which aims to reconstruct marginalized identities and establish solidarity through transnational contacts, and one which organizes across borders in an effort to expand formal rights and affect public policy—and how, though they often operate simultaneously within the same governmental, non-governmental, and movement spaces to be mutually reinforcing, they nonetheless can have different effects on local movement organizational dynamics and can sometimes even clash with contradictory consequences.

 

Ama Ata Aidoo, Edna Acosta-Belén, Amrita Basu, Maryse Condé, Nell Painter, and Nawal Saadawi speak on feminism, race and transnationalism

This interview records the personal reactions of five feminist activists, academics, and writers who served on Meridians founding advisory board to the terms “feminism,” “race,” and “transnationalism.”

 

Notes from the (non)Field: Teaching and Theorizing Women of Color
Rachel Lee

Though it would be convenient to explain women’s studies’ curricular commitment to courses like “Women of Color in the U.S.” as a function of undergraduate demand, I would suggest that more complex and troublesome investments on the part of women’s studies’ faculty sustain this course and also incapacitate it deeply. The politics surrounding “women of color” classes have much to tell us not only about the current relation of women of color to women’s studies but also about how that relationship is entangled with women’s studies own negotiations of its intellectual, educational, and political roles in the institution. My exploration of these relations begins with the WS130 requirement at UCLA, the underscrutinized investments in colored bodies rather than bodies of knowledge that motivate this class, and the peculiar resolution of this course’s fulfillment through a kind of off-shore manufacture precisely because the colored bodies desired to teach this class are situated for the most part outside of women’s studies. Because WS130 serves notice of women’s studies diversification and self-awareness of its own faults, women’s studies programs require this class to be both within the institution of women’s studies and simultaneously outside or marginal to it. More distressingly, and as my reading of two recent essays will reveal, when “women of color” are perceived as too much “inside” the field, determining a new hegemony for Women’s Studies, this state of affairs causes as much of a crisis for the field (becomes the catalyst or symbolic nexus through which women’s studies can voice anxiety over its institutional stature and its uncertain academic ends) as when “women of color” are felt to be wholly left out. Finally, I suggest some ways in which the scholarship of “women of color” can begin articulating its own historical formation as a function of its own blindspots, rather than to persist (merely) as a ghostly presence haunting women’s studies. Thus, the “women of color” class crystallizes a number of seemingly disparate but connected events: 1) the over-eagerness of women’s studies to sustain this course, 2) the attack on “women of color” scholarship and pedagogy in feminist journals, and 3) the fetishization on all sides of marginality and non-territoriality.

 

Hair Race-ing: Dominican Beauty Culture and Identity Production
Ginetta Candelario

The beauty shop can be analyzed as a site where hegemonic gender, class, sexuality, and race tropes simultaneously are produced and problematized. In particular, hair—the subject and object of beauty shop work—epitomizes the mutual referentiality of race/sex/gender/class categories and identities. The essay’s concern is to present both the representation and the production practices of hair culture as a window into the contextualized complexity of Dominican identity. The hair culture institutions, practices, and ideals of Dominican women in New York City during the late 1990s are presented as an instructive selection from a larger study.

 

Mixedblood Mediation and Territorial Re-Inscription in Ceremony
Marilyn Miller

Taking Leslie Marmon Silko’s novel Ceremony (1977) as an example, Miller considers mixedbloodness as a potent figure of narrative expression. (“Mixedbloodedness” is a synonym of mestizaje, a term that refers broadly to the matrix of physical and cultural mixtures occasioned by the initial and continuing contact between Europeans and indigenous peoples in the American arena.) Miller cites Mikhail Bakhtin’s assertion that the novel is an influence, rather than a formal structure, that “inserts into… other genres an indeterminacy, a certain semantic openendedness, a living contact with unfinished, still-evolving contemporary reality (the openended present).” She then argues that this hybridity can be tied structurally and thematically to the experience of Silko’s mixedblood protagonist. Hence, Ceremony, as its title suggests, both documents and constitutes a ceremony that can be read on many levels: as the purification of a character who is a shell-shocked veteran, as a ritual to heal the stigma of the combined histories of European wars waged against native peoples, and perhaps as a narrative ritual for renewing the practice and practitioners of storytelling.

 

Organic Hybridity or Commodifcation of Hybridity? Comments on Mississippi Masala
Kum Kum Bavnani

The essay, “Countering Racisms: Interconnections and Hybridity,” explores the notion of a hybrid identity in relation to political commitments and resistances. The author examines ways racisms can be countered by strategies that rely on the interconnectedness of identities, differentiating between what is called “situational” and “organic” hybridity. Situational hybridity is reliant upon the idea that elements of identity and culture are discrete, static and distinct that ignore inequalities. The conceptualization of an organic identity recognizes “deep and intertwined roots” that “play with genders, cultures, nationalities and racisms” in order to conceive of new possibilities for relationships and politics. The author argues that “identity and experience and culture all articulate with each other, and, simultaneously, with issues of representation, politics, and power.” Using the film Mississippi Masala to discuss the boundaries of organic hybridity, and that this, in turn allows for “new subjectivities” that is necessary to counter racisms.

 

On Constance Baker Motley
Kathleen Banks Nutter

The papers of Constance Baker Motley, the first African American woman elected to the New York State Senate and the first appointed to a federal judgeship, document more than a life of extraordinary achievement. Motley’s papers also provide ample and, at times, dramatic evidence of the prolonged struggle for racial equality in post-World War II America. That this one woman of color chose to engage in that struggle through the legal system gives a particular slant to these papers. They are a rich source for both research purposes and classroom use alike.

To purchase this issue contact Indiana University Press at
www.iupjournals.org/meridians