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VOLUME 2, NUMBER 1       BACK TO VOLUMES

Race, Gender, and the Prison Industrial Complex
Angela Y. Davis and Cassandra Shaylor

Activist opposition to the prison industrial complex has insisted on an understanding of the ways racist structures and assumptions facilitate the expansion of an extremely profitable prison system, in turn helping to reinforce racist social stratification. This racism is always gendered, and imprisonment practices that are conventionally considered to be “neutral”—such as sentencing, punishment regimes, and health care—differ in relation to the ways race, gender, and sexuality intersect. The authors explore this thesis through the specific concepts of: violence against women in prison, medical neglect, reproductive rights, sexual harassment and abuse, policing sexuality, women’s prisons and anti-immigrant campaigns, legal challenges to women’s imprisonment, and organizing for change.

 

The Aliens have Landed! Reflections on the Rhetoric of Biological Invasions
Banu Subramaniam

There has been a recent surge of interest in invasion biology. Ecologists, conservation biologists, and policy experts are currently actively shaping national policies on plant and animal movements. In this paper, I examine the rhetoric and policies on biological invasion and claims that exotic/alien plants out compete native plants, destroy native plants and erode soil communities and habitats. Like the germ panics in the last century, I argue that we are living in a cultural moment where anxieties of globalization are feeding nationalisms and xenophobia. The battle against exotic and alien plants is a symptom of a campaign that misplaces and displaces anxieties about economic, social, political, and cultural changes onto an anxiety about outsiders and foreigners.

 

Media Matters: The Many Faces of Globalism and the Challenges of Documentary Filmmaking
C.A. Griffith and H.L.T. Quan

How do we as audiences provide honest, thorough, and generous critiques of what is missing in documentary film which address under-explored and controversial issues such as rape, incest, corporate exploitation, and racism? And how do filmmakers redress what is missing from mainstream films about minorities and communities of color? Many have argued that documentary films, as evidence from the world, work best when they are narrowly focused, intense examinations of the lives of people and communities far outside the mainstream. A documentary film also works when it speaks to those with vastly f=different histories =, or to those whose perspectives are challenged and widened by experiencing such an intimate gaze into the lives of people and communities completely “foreign” to them. Here, the power of documentaries to inform, engage, open dialogue, and create bridges which cross rigid boundaries of culture and identity is most apparent. Such criteria need to trump the titillation of slickness and commercialization. This film review is a doest attempt to identity several complex gaps and to use a re-adjusted gaze to work toward a constructive critique of three films as they address the issues of race, gender, and transnationalism.

 

Histories and Heresies: Engendering the Harlem Renaissance
Cheryl Wall

“Histories and Heresies: Engendering the Harlem Renaissance” opens with an account of the now famous dinner held in March, 1924, at Manhattan’s Civic Club, that officially launched the New Negro Renaissance. Part literary history, part scholarly memoir, the essay reads the neglect of Jessie Fauset’s contributions at the Civic Club dinner as emblematic of ways in which African Americanist historians and literary scholars long treated female artists. It explores the impact of feminist criticism and theory on Harlem Renaissance studies since 1971, when Nathan Huggins published his ground breaking monograph. As it charts a series of feminist interventions in the 1970s and 1980s, it demonstrates how feminist heresies first challenged and then became assimilated into official histories. The essay concludes with a reading of Fauset’s 1928 novel Plum Bun that demonstrates Fauset’s contemporaneous understanding of race and gender politics.

 

Contradictory Locations: Blackwomen and the Discourse of the Black Consciousness Movement in South Africa
Pumla Dineo Gqola

This paper examines the dominant representations of Blackwomen in the discourse of the Black Consciousness Movement in South Africa. The analysis takes into account race, class and gender and is informed by some of the writings and interviews conducted with the few female founders of BCM who have recorded their experiences and continue to theorize on the intersections of race, gender and class in BC. It is an inquiry into the gender dynamics of the Black Consciousness ideology and an interrogation of the languages of its expression. Briefly sketching the development of BC, it scrutinizes the implications of the ideological positioning of Black women in the masculinist discourse of BC. It argues that the position of Black subjects gendered female within BCM is a fraught one. The status of Blackwomen in the language of BC is found to mirror the position of female activists within the movement as a whole.

 

Con un pie a cada lado / With a Foot in Each Place: Mestizaje as Transnational Feminisms in Ana Castillo's So Far from God
Laura Gillman and Stacey M. Floyd-Thomas

Transnational feminisms perform what Chela Sándoval terms “an untried revolution.” It is a set of theories and methods born to meet the economic, political and ethical crises of a multicultural, global society in the 21st century. It reformulates the “idea” of citizenry into a transnational site, joining across nations citizen-subjects separated by gender, race, class, and culture. Within a Hispanic context more specifically, the significance of feminismo hispano draws on various methodologies in order to embrace Hispanic women’s voices and realities across their differences, all of which culminate within mestizaje---the intrinsic element of Hispanic culture: mestiza consciousness, xicanisma, and mujerista theology. It is the purpose of this essay to trace the articulation and the tactical implementation of transnational feminisms as they are applicable to Ana Castillo's novel So Far from God (1993) and her essay “The Countryless Woman” in her work Massacre of the Dreamers (1994).

 

The Other Dancer as Self: Girlfriend Selfhood in Toni Morrison’s Sula and Alice Walker’s The Color Purple
Kevin Everod Quashie

Using close readings of Toni Morrison's Sula and Alice Walker's The Color Purple, this essay argues that the issue of selfhood in some diasporic Black women's writing is also an issue of community, a negotiation and balance of the individual and the community of people around her. Through a discourse of otherness, Black women writers represent selfhood as the dynamic relationship between a Black woman and her girlfriend, such that both subject and other (girlfriend) are repeated and sometimes contiguous bodies. In this narrative aesthetic, the Black female subject moves between identification with her girlfriend, and identification as her girlfriend, a process that ultimately represents solidarity, collectivity, and selfullness (as well as the sometimes difficult politics of community). Such identification is a realization of the potentially disintegrating boundaries of physical bodies, and the embrace of abundance that is psychic and spiritual and that momentarily foregoes the general limits of corporeality, and its specific limits for Black women.

Identity, then, is a sometimes uneasy sisterhood, and sisterhood is "political solidarity between women"- an earned and earning political solidarity between two women who are girlfriends. This solidarity also extends beyond its own specificity, such that the potency of negotiating otherness between two Black women serves as a model (and conduit) for how a Black subject can negotiate her identity in relation to other subjects who are not Black women. In addition to Sula and The Color Purple, the essay also engages examples from Toni Cade Bambara's The Salt Eaters, Michelle Cliff's No Telephone to Heaven and Walker's essay "Beauty: When the Other Dancer is the Self."

 

Hillary Rodham Clinton’s Orient: Cosmopolitan Travel and Global Feminist Subjects
Caren Kaplan

The "art" of travel as advocated by Stark and many others, then and now, is an invested ideology that produces modern subjects as mobile subjects. Their mobility has historical, political, and cultural constraints as well as possibilities. And mobility, like any binary, has its own required opposite--fixity. As Peter Wollen has put it: "Sometimes it seems as if there are two types of identity: one for those of us who stay at home, and another for those who move around" (Wollen 1994, 189). I would argue that any study of mobile subjects requires a deconstruction of this binary figuration itself including a genealogy and demystification of the presumed otherness of the two terms.

The emphasis on one term, displacement or mobility, has a cultural history that can be read in the rise of various disciplinary and institutional practices. The same is true of an emphasis on the corollary fixity or location. Here I would like to look at the way a particular kind of feminism is produced by discourses of travel in the expanded sense of the term. Rather than adopt an ahistorical notion of mobility, I would follow Inderpal Grewal's argument in Home and Harem to inquire into the way that "nationalism, imperialism, and colonial discourses" shape the contexts in which "feminist subjects become possible. . ." (Grewal 1996, 11). In particular, how does contemporary globalization produce feminist subjects?