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Africa and African Diaspora Feminism - Feminism In The African Diaspora

women feminist gender politics

Diasporan feminism is rooted in the historical experience of enslavement and racism, so it challenges the oppression of women within the relations of racism that still curtail the prospects of black people located in Western contexts.

African diasporan thinkers in the United States have therefore developed feminist thinking that maintains the centrality of racism in black women's experience. In the United States these include Angela Davis's book Woman, Race and Class (1982) and bell hooks's Ain't I a Woman: Black Women and the Politics of Feminism (1982). Literary works that illustrate changing African-American feminist perspectives include the well-known work of writers such as Toni Morrison, Audre Lourde, June Jordan, Maya Angelou, and Alice Walker, all of whom have had an influence far beyond the United States.

In the European diaspora, the debate on black feminism opened up in the early 1980s with the publication of Hazel Carby's article. Caribbean and black European feminist thinkers have since produced a body of feminist thought that incorporates antiracist and anti-imperialist perspectives, while displaying a sensitivity to class oppression (Amos and Parmar; Grewal et al.). Julia Sudbury's Other Kinds of Dreams: Black Women's Organisations and the Politics of Transformation (1998) presents an overview of the British black feminism that emerged out of the black struggles against racism and state harassment carried out within the predominantly working-class Caribbean, African, and Asian communities during the 1980s.

The history of feminism in the Caribbean diaspora is also rooted in antislavery and antiracist movements, with its contemporary manifestations typifying postcolonial struggles around identity and difference, while pursuing feminist agendas of antiviolence activism, and responses to sexual exploitation and global economic development, to name only some of the various fronts (Reddock; Mohammed; Antrobus; Barriteau). The Caribbean Association for Feminist Research and Activism (CAFRA) and the Centre for Gender and Development Studies at the University of the West Indies have played key roles in articulating and internationalizing Caribbean feminism.

African and African diaspora women concerned with emphasizing the distinctiveness of African legacies and not always wishing to be identified with feminists in the Western world have improvised a number of alternative terms. Womanism is a term attributed to the African-American writer Alice Walker and adopted by some South African and Nigerian writers, while others prefer the term motherism. Catherine Achonulu advocates motherism, while Omolara Ogundipe-Leslie advocates stiwanism, to denote commitment to the social transformation involving women of Africa (stiwa). The more pragmatic term gender activism has been increasingly deployed by women activists working in development organizations, where policy demands require expertise in gender, but the term feminism is considered too political.

While it may be hard to discern a unified and coherent feminist movement in many African countries given the complexity of gender politics and the disparate influences of the state, local, and international development agencies and diverse women's movements, it is clear that African women have been able to come together as a powerful force at key historical moments in various countries during the recent historical period. Feminist thought continues to evolve on the African continent and to maintain links with women located in various Western countries, not least because conditions on the continent ensure that continental feminists often find themselves in the diaspora.


Antrobus, Peggy. The Rise and Fall of Feminist Politics in the Caribbean Women's Movement 1975–1995: The Lucille Mathurin Mair Lecture March 2000. Kingston, Jamaica: Centre for Gender Development Studies, University of West Indies, 2000.

Badran, Margot. Feminists, Islam and Nation: Gender and the Making of Modern Egypt. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1995.

Barriteau, V. Eudine. "Confronting Power and Politics: A Feminist Theorising of Gender in Commonwealth Caribbean Societies." Meridians: Feminism, Race, Transnationalism 3, no. 2 (2003): 57–92.

Boswell, B. "Gender and Women's Studies in Africa in the Year 2002: A Directory of Institutional Sites." 2003. Available at www.gwsafrica.org/directory.

Collins, Patricia Hill. Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness and the Politics of Empowerment. Boston: Unwin Hyman, 1990.

Davis, Angela Y. Women, Race, and Class. New York: Vintage, 1982.

Feminist Africa. "Intellectual Politics." Feminist Africa (2002). Available at http://www.feministafrica.org. First issue of an electronic journal.

Hale, Sondra. Gender Politics in Sudan: Islamism, Socialism, and the State. Boulder, Colo.: Westview, 1997.

hooks, bell. Ain't I a Woman: Black Women and the Politics of Feminism. Boston: South End Press, 1982.

Jayawardena, Kumari. Feminism and Nationalism in the Third World. London: Zed Books, 1986.

Johnson-Odim, Cheryl, and Nina Emma Mba. For Women and Nation: Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti of Nigeria. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1997.

Kabira, Wanjiku Mukabi, and Elizabeth Akinyi Nzioki. Celebrating Women's Resistance: A Case Study of the Women's Groups Movement in Kenya. Nairobi: African Women's Perspective, 1993.

Karam, Azza M. Women, Islamisms, and the State: Contemporary Feminisms in Egypt. London: Macmillan Press; New York: St. Martin's Press, 1998.

Khasiani, S. A., and E. I. Njiro, E. The Women's Movement in Kenya. Nairobi: African's Women's Perspective, 1993.

Lewis, Desiree, ed. African Women's Studies: 1980–2001: A Bibliography. Cape Town: African Gender Institute, 2003.

Mama, Amina. "Feminism or Femocracy? State Feminism and Democratisation in Nigeria." Africa Development 20, no. 1 (1995): 37–58.

Mba, Nina Emma. Nigerian Women Mobilized: Women's Political Activity in Southern Nigeria, 1900–1965. Berkeley: Institute of International Studies, University of California, 1982.

Mismang, Sisonke. "Editorial: African Feminisms Two." Agenda 54 (2002).

Mohammed, P. "Rethinking Caribbean Difference." Feminist Review 59 (1998): 6–39.

Reddock, Rhoda. "The Early Women's Movement in Trinidad and Tobago 1900–1937." In Subversive Women: Historical Experiences of Gender and Resistance, edited by Saskia Wieringa. London and Atlantic Highland, N.J.: Zed Books, 1995.

Sharaawi, Huda. Harem Years: The Memoirs of an Egyptian Feminist. Translated and introduced by Margot Badran. New York: Feminist Press, 1987.

Sudbury, Julia. Other Kinds of Dreams: Black Women's Organisations and the Politics of Transformation. London and New York: Routledge, 1998.

Tamale, Sylvia. 1999. When Hens Begin To Crow: Gender and Parliamentary Politics in Uganda. Boulder, Colo.: Westview, 1999.

Tranberg Hansen, Karen. African Encounters with Domesticity. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1992.

Tsikata, D. "Gender Equality and the State in Ghana: Some Issues of Policy and Practice." In Engendering African Social Sciences, edited by Ayesha M. Imam, Amina Mama, and Fatou Sow. Dakar, Senegal: Council for Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA), 1999.

Women's Studies and Studies of Women in Africa during the 1990's. CODESRIA Working Paper Series No. 5. Darkar, Senegal: Council for Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA), 1996.

Zeleza, P. T. "Gender Biases in African Historiography."' In Engendering African Social Science, edited by Ayesha M. Imam, Amina Mama, and Fatou Sow. Dakar, Senegal: Council for Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA), 1999.

Amina Mama

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over 3 years ago

Please, check out this book…..with cultural anthropological touch
“An African Student in Russia – Soviet Union “
At Amazon.com


Included is realistic definition of true democracy that is reflective of the traditional family upon which a society/demos/people is founded. A traditional family is, by default, 50 % male and 50 % female. True democracy has to mirror that foundational unit. We currently have “homocracy” (male-rule). Only true democracy can solve most of the gender and other group-specific problems, including religious, notably equal access to resources, power and associative prestige especially in the developing counties and new “democracies.” Assuming elections were free, at 64 %, Rwanda is leading the world in the number of women in parliament. (http://www.ipu.org/wmn-e/classif.htm). But progress is slow in upper house, ministers, judiciary and executive branch. Belgium has over 50 % female ministers. USA, with 18 % Congresswomen, occupies 80th place.

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over 9 years ago

I am trying to reach the distinguished scholar Fatou Sow by e mail. Would you be able to provide that information.

Joseph C. Bell