HOME
ABOUT US
MISSION
HISTORY
SUBSCRIPTION & BUSINESS
EDITOR & BOARDS
VOLUMES
SUBMISSIONS
LINKS & RESOURCES
EVENTS & ANNOUNCEMENTS

 



VOLUME 3, NUMBER 1        BACK TO VOLUMES

Seeing Faces, Making Races: Challenging Visual Tropes of Racial Difference
Terry Kawashima

This article argues that faces are “raced” through a reading process that inevitably privileges certain features over others, taking these characteristics as synecdoches for a whole that is necessarily coherent. Two contemporary Japanese phenomena illustrate this point. First, comics and animation targeted at girls present Japanese characters who “look white” to uninitiated European and American audiences. Second, recent Japanese trends in hair-coloring and cosmetics that claim to “whiten” skin are explored. The article challenges the “Western” assumption that Japanese people are “trying to look white” by highlighting the subject position of the viewer who cannot conceptualize “whiteness” as anything less than desirable, and who cannot think of “Asian-ness” as anything other than what she or he already imagines as “that which looks Asian.” The author argues that “race” should be reconceptualized as radically fragmented features of the body that are made coherent only through individual instances of visual readings subject to learned cultural norms, and that this understanding permits disruptions in the current paradigm of “race.”

 

Are Women’s Rights Universal? Re-Engaging the Local (Lecture given at the 15th Anniversary of the Women’s Studies Program at Harvard University)
Radhika Coomaraswamy

The basic argument of this article is that human rights, as it has evolved over the last two decades, gives us an intellectual apparatus with which to mediate the complex relationship between universality and cultural relativism. Those cultural practices that violate human rights, as articulated for example in the Beijing Declaration, should be transformed with local movements taking the lead. Those practices that do not violate human rights should be celebrated, encouraged, and allowed the full diversity of expression. This belief that human rights should be the mediating principle, the litmus test of cultural traditions and the gatekeeper of universalism, comes from my experience as United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women. In my visits around the world, I have realized that human rights is a powerful discourse that can help to transform societies in the direction that I think is valid and essential. Many will argue that the “I” in this equation is socially constructed, since I have spent many years in American universities and international fora dedicated to the cause of human rights. Nevertheless, that is my belief, though as the Director of the International Center for Ethnic Studies, I am also a great believer in diversity, having spent many years grappling with Sri Lanka’s intractable ethnic conflict. This socially constructed “I” then firmly believes that the international tradition of human rights gives us the intellectual apparatus to help resolve the tension between universality and cultural relativism. However, like Abdullah An’Aim I feel that the strategy to implement this vision must come from the groups in the society that also subscribe to these beliefs and who in their own way are also struggling for the same goals.

 

Passion, Generosity and the Academy: Meridians Interview with Ruth J. Simmons
An interview with Kum-Kum Bhavnani.

 

She is Not Captured!
Farideh Farhi

Review of the following documentaries: The Perfumed Garden, The Women of Hezbollah, and A Female Cabby in Sidi Bel-Abbes.

 

Afghan women’s experience of conflict and disintegration
Ayesha Khan

The plight of thousands of Afghan women refugees in Pakistan has increased over time and has taken on new dimensions that threaten their survival, while international and Pakistani support for them dwindled during the 1990s. This paper is based on qualitative research conducted with 50 refugee women in camps in Peshawar, Pakistan, 1999-2000, in collaboration with the Sustainable Development Policy Institute. It uses the oral histories of 27 women, both Darri- and Pushto-speaking, who have arrived mostly since the collapse of communist 1992 and are unable to return home under the current Taliban government. It is an effort not only to present the perspective of Afghan women on their own lives in their own words, but also to elucidate from their narratives the exact nature of how they view their support infrastructure. Formal and informal support mechanisms are understood to include the security of citizenship in a viable state structure, membership of an ethnic or religious group and/or political party; and participation in a cohesive community and an extended family.

The paper provides a brief background on the refugee context and the conflict itself. It then demonstrates through women’s narratives how their family and community networks, the very core of a social support system, have disintegrated. Next, the relationship of the women interviewed to support mechanisms at the political level, such as the state and its policies, and related political organizations are examined. Recently arrived refugee women, many of whom have fled the new state apparatus in Afghanistan, will be shown to be extraordinarily vulnerable and lacking effective support to re-build their lives. While women’s experience of war and their role as both survivors and victims during the conflict has undergone many changes over the last twenty years, this analysis shows that one by one women’s support structures have been rendered unrecognizable or meaningless. This analysis demonstrates that the long-term consequences of protracted war are devastating for Afghan women’s support structures, particularly when the national government uses control over women to demonstrate its credibility. In such circumstances, humanitarian aid and efforts to re-build this country will not be relevant or effective unless women’s concerns and alternative support mechanisms form the cornerstone of new policies.

 

When Ten Minus Two Equals Zero: An Interview with Sanda Lwin
Interviewed by Nina Ha

 

The Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo and the Struggle Against Impunity in Argentina
Rita Arditti

The Association of Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo is a human rights organization that has struggled for truth and justice in Argentina since 1977. It is estimated that 30,000 people disappeared in Argentina during the 1976-1983 dictatorship. The Grandmothers are mothers of the disappeared who are also looking for their grandchildren who were kidnapped with their parents or born in captivity. They have identified 71 children, many of them living under false identities with members of the repressive regime. A culture of impunity arose in Argentina after the end of the dictatorship. The Grandmothers have fought impunity at the national and international levels through the telling of their stories, reclaiming collective memory, investigating the abuses, bringing charges against the perpetrators, and supporting the victims.

The Grandmothers believe that for a true national reconciliation to occur and for democracy to develop in Argentina, impunity has to come to an end. They have devoted their lives to make this happen.

 

Practicing Transgression: Radical Women of Color for the 21st Century
Martha Arevalo-Duffield and Karina Lissette Cespedes

This is a report of the above named conference held at U.C. Berkeley, CA from February 7 – 10, 2002. The conference focused on the scholarly and activist legacy and impact of This Bridge Called my Back and showcased how This Bridge has inspired the work of many activists and scholars inside and outside the U.S.

 

Temporary Tattoos:Indo-Chic Fantasies and Late Capitalist Orientalism
Sunaina Maira

This article focuses on the late-twentieth century commodification of Indian style in the U.S; commodities such as henna have been recreated as style markers of various U.S. subcultures, from New Age feminism to “global trance,” illustrating all the contradictions of late capitalist
Orientalism. While Indo-chic lends an exotic aura to white femininity, interviews with young South Asian women in Northampton suggest that they are deeply ambivalent about its appropriation. Indo-chic becomes the site of debates about ethnic authenticity, multiculturalism, and nationalism, but it also offers a window into the polycultural narratives of diasporic subjects. Culturalist discourses exist in tension with the broader structural contexts of transnational capital
and labor that make the production of Indo-chic profitable in the U.S. The article argues that it is not coincidental that this has occurred even as South Asian immigrant labor has increasingly entered the U.S., for Indo-chic offers a way for ethnic and racial difference to be domesticated through consumption.

 

Juana Alicia’s Las Lechugueras/The Women Lettuce Workers
Dyan Mazurana

Juana Alicia’s mural Las Lechugueras is public, community art, situated outdoors and constantly in dialogue with its audiences. I carry out a feminist and semiotic analysis of Las Lechugueras’ images and investigate its interactions with numerous audiences, taking into account its material, historical, architectural, social, political, cultural, and geographical communities and location. In Las Lechugueras multiple signs generate complex messages that are intricately interwoven into one another, forming an overall narrative of the simultaneous abuse and resistance, beauty and destruction, that goes on in industrial agriculture’s production of lettuce. Self-communication is also a driving force—Juana Alicia’s pregnant lechuguera is a public expression of the violence she encountered during her work in the fields harvesting lettuce. Moving the private—intimacy, sexuality, and women’s bodies—into the public is paramount to this artist’s communicative goals. Throughout the mural, Juana Alicia engages in the redefinition and rearticulation of gender, sexuality, race, and ethnicity.

 

South African and African Women: Journey to Freedom
Elise Young

The Global Women’s History Project at Westfield State College brought together South African women with African American women from the United States, April 27-30, 2000. Delegates to GWHP deliver papers that theorize their activism and they engage their audience in discussion about how the issues raised can be constructively addressed in an on-going way. Because women globally face severe economic destitution, traffiking, violence in their homes and streets, and given the enormous toll on populations and on environments of on-going wars, it is especially important to ask what forms of activism women are engaged in and how that activism can be supported. Given the ‘First World-Third World’ divide of geo-politics in the 21st century, most women in the U.S. have little opportunity to learn about the lives and activism of women globally. South African and African women emerge out of well documented systems of bondage and are engaged in struggle against the impact of these systems. Outcomes of the conference included: identifying areas of common historic and current struggle; identifying strategies for resistance and reconstruction; and forming on-going and mutually supportive links.

 

Looked Class, Talked Red: Sketches of Ruth First and Redlined Africa
Barbara Harlow

Ruth First was a South African journalist, historian, and anti-apartheid activist. She struggled in South Africa against the apartheid regime in the 1950’s. She spent a decade and a half, from 1964 to 1979, in exile committed to the same struggle. She died—assassinated by a letter bomb send to her from Pretoria in 1982. At the time of her death she was working in Mozambique. This essay proposes a series of sketches that attempt to take note of both her biography—as a private person and as a public intellectual in the struggle—and her bibliography—as a suggestive of an exemplary written record of an internationalist perspective in the contest between worlds, first, second, and third.

 

Demanding the Right to Live without Violence: Reflections on Color of Violence II
Sharmila Lodhia and Sylvanna FalcÛn

From April 28–29, 2000, the historic conference, Color of Violence I, convened at the University of California, Santa Cruz. From March 15–17, 2002, the Color of Violence II was held at the University of Illinois, Chicago. A wide range of activists, scholars, young women of color, and advocates assembled at the second Conference, which was organized under the theme “Building a Movement.” The critical issues highlighted in the above quotations from Conference panelists, and as evidenced by the approximately 2000 people in attendance—double the size of the first Conference—suggest an urgent need for such a gathering, especially given the current political climate.