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About this book

As part of the emerging new research on civic innovation, this book explores how sexual politics and gender relations play out in feminist struggles around body politics in Brazil, Colombia, India, Iran, Mexico, Nepal, Turkey, Nicaragua, as well as in East Africa, Latin America and global institutions and networks. From diverse disciplinary perspectives, the book looks at how feminists are engaged in a complex struggle for democratic power in a neoliberal age and at how resistance is integral to possibilities for change.

In making visible resistances to dominant economic and social policies, the book highlights how such struggles are both gendered and gendering bodies. The chapters explore struggles for healthy environments, sexual health and reproductive rights, access to abortion, an end to gender-based violence, the human rights of LGBTIQA persons, the recognition of indigenous territories and all peoples’ rights to care, love and work freely. The book sets out the violence, hopes, contradictions and ways forward in these civic innovations, resistances and connections across the globe.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1. Introduction

In the form of a three way conversation the introduction sets out the main themes of the book looking at the contesting issues around the gendered political economy of neoliberalism in the different localities, regions and transnational connections described in the book. It situates the arguments explored in the book around sexualities, body politics, race, culture, place, rights, identity, transnational feminisms, public space and decoloniality. The chapter outlines how the book’s conversations revolve around the multiple challenges imposed by changing and increasingly complex regimes of gendered power (re)configured by the influences of what we broadly termed “neoliberalism”...
Wendy Harcourt, Silke Heumann, Aniseh Asya

Erratum to: Bodies in Resistance

Without Abstract
Wendy Harcourt

The Politics of Place: Gender, Movements and Bodies


Chapter 2. Politics of Place at the Women’s School of Madrid: Experiences Around Bodies and Territory

Madrid, the location of our research, is a municipality located in the Sabana de Bogotá. It borders on Colombia’s capital city of Bogotá, along with other municipalities (Soacha, Sibaté, Mosquera, Funza, Facatativá, Chía, Cota, Cajicá, Sopó and Zipaquirá). These districts are very close to Bogotá, and this proximity increases the tension between metropolitan and rural areas that has characterized the region since the twentieth century. Today, 14 percent of Madrid’s inhabitants live in rural areas. However, they should not be considered to be peasants (Cardozo and Suárez 2014) (Fig. 2.1).
Juliana Flórez Flórez, Guisella Andrea Lara Veloza, Patricia Veloza Torres, Manuela Cardozo García, Claudia Espejo

Chapter 3. Reclaiming the Right to Become Other-Women in Other-Places: The Politics of Place of the Ecologist Women of La Huizachera Cooperative, Mexico

My opening claim is that the body is the first, central and conflictive space for women defending their place, in this case the Cooperativa Mujeres Ecologistas de la Huizachera Ecologist Women of La Huizachera Cooperative (COMEH)(COMEH [Ecologist Women of La Huizachera Cooperative]) appropriate in their defense of place. This includes claiming the right to construct themselves as bodies and subjects, a process which has a complex social nature because the bodies and identities of these women are traversed and constructed by power relations, practices, discourses and meanings that permeate their community, family and social public space (Harcourt and Mumtaz 2002; Underhill-Sem 2002).
Daniela M. Gloss

Chapter 4. Moments of Movement Intersection in India: Informing and Transforming Bodies in Movements

The terrain of social movements around gender and sexuality in India has shifted dramatically since the 1990s. It is vastly different from the 1970s and 1980s when the autonomous feminist movement was one of the only ones that addressed these issues. Today the queer, sex worker and transgender movements are also working for gender and sexual justice and are important interlocutors for the autonomous feminist movement. In this chapter I examine moments of what I call “movement intersection”, when movements actively challenge, contest and cooperate with each other. In particular I examine how these moments of intersection inform and transform understandings as well as practices around gender and sexual justice of the movements that intersect.
Manisha Desai

Chapter 5. Contesting Bodies in the Constitutional Debate About Citizenship in Nepal

The idea of citizens as rights-bearing bodies continues to be an important political tool for women through which to claim space as legitimate actors who have the right to equality under the law. However, in this process of seeking legitimacy from the state, women’s bodies continue to be entangled between the normalizing and essentializing forces of nationalism which positions them as second-class citizens. Taking the case of a constitutional debate over the right of Nepali mothers to pass on citizenship to their children irrespective of the nationality of the father, this chapter explores how the female body continues to be normalised as a mere biological reproducer of the nation, without equal rights as citizens of that nation. More importantly, the chapter further shows how women’s resistance to such discrimination might rely on the same masculine and exclusionary interpretations of nationalism. The chapter draws from in-depth interviews with key constituent assembly members writing a new constitution for Nepal after the dissolution of monarchy in 2008. The chapter argues how a neoliberal understanding of citizenship goes hand in hand with the neoliberal interpretation of women’s empowerment, which often overlooks the importance of how intersections of different identities affect the lived experiences of different groups of women. In the case of Nepal, this interpretation of citizenship has overlooked intersecting discriminations based on caste, ethnicity and sexual orientation, thus homogenizing the category of “Nepali women” and dictating what a unified agenda for the Nepali women’s movement ought to be. While it is true that the embodied experience of the female body often becomes an entry point for women’s political engagement, the chapter highlights the limitations this might pose. It shows how bodies are often inscribed by dominant political and sociocultural structures in such a way that within the biopolitics of national sovereignty, some (female) bodies might matter more than others
Kumud Rana

Chapter 6. Embodying Change in Iran: Volunteering in Family Planning as a Practice of Justice

Although a set of roles and identities firmly entwined with the construction of the Islamic state have been developed for Iranian women (and linked to their sexualised bodies) by religious and state authorities, women’s public contributions and emerging gender tropes have countered this assigned repertoire. The chapter examines how rather than claiming ‘women’s rights’ or ‘gender equality’ groups of Iranian women adopt a pragmatic stance optimising a state push for public participation to improve health and affect population control, and it is this strategy that has allowed Iranian women an increased freedom of expression and movement. The chapter draws on research with groups that have benefited from the state drive for mass voluntary initiatives to enhance health and also to reduce fertility in the late 1980s and 1990s, groups that specifically addressed sexual and reproductive health and rights. In conversation with anthropologies of politics and human rights, and using critical feminist analysis emerging from law the chapter analyses the significance of these sexualized and symbolized bodies in state and non-state sexual and reproductive health and rights narratives and practices. The chapter questions whether discourses that draw on a limited state language about women and their bodies can lead to an outcome of justice resonant with Iranian women’s wide-reaching claims. These theories refers precisely to a practice that, while set within “power relations and asymmetries amongst languages, regions and peoples” (Femenías 2007), manages to change original meanings. These concepts converge with non-dominating knowledges, so that dominant meanings are destabilized and contestation can be acknowledged.
Aniseh Asya

Chapter 7. Neoliberal Body Politics: Feminist Resistance and the Abortion Law in Turkey

This chapter analyzes the anti-abortion biopolitics of the ruling AKP and counter discursive practices of activist groups taking place within the women’s movement in Turkey in recent years.1 It focuses on the debate that emerged with the attempt of the AKP to curb abortion in 2012. We use the term biopolitics to describe the hegemonic struggle over life—the life of the population and the life of the body. The chapter examines the neoliberal policies and discursive strategies that the AKP used to establish social legitimation for its attempt to prevent legal abortions, along with the parameters and limits of the activist groups within the women’s movements that tried to counter the law in different ways. We are particularly interested in analyzing the different approaches derived from distinct strategies of counteracting or engaging with the state’s policies and legislation.
Cevahir Özgüler, Betül Yarar

Chapter 8. Dialogue: Transgendered Bodies as Subjects of Feminism: A Conversation and Analysis about the Inclusion of Trans Persons and Politics in the Nicaraguan Feminist Movement

Twenty-five years after Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble, the question of women as the ‘subject’ of feminism continues to be hotly debated among feminists around the world. The proliferation of new subjects that claim a space within feminism has heightened and complicated debates about the ‘true’ feminist subject and ‘true nature’ of feminist politics. This paper aims to open up space for conversations about redefining feminism in ways that are more sensitive to diversity and intersecting forms of power. It deals specifically with the debate around the inclusion of trans persons in the feminist movement, through a dialogue developed with cis and transgender feminists in Managua, Nicaragua in 2015. The discussions revolved around four main issues: (1) The relationship between bodies, social position and subjectivity, and how that positions transwomen within feminism; (2) transwomen’s gender performance and politics and to what extent they (are seen to) share or rather challenge a feminist politics; (3) the inclusion of trans-bodies in feminist spaces; (4) the multiple points of convergence identified by both cis and transgender feminists who participated in the dialogue. Overall,despite differences and tensions, the dialogue revealed many points of convergence and cross-fertilization between trans and feminist politics. Abandoning essentialist notions (that sometimes prevail in both trans and feminist movements) is crucial to understanding the ways in which patriarchal and heteronormative understandings of gender and sexuality affect us all in different yet interrelated ways – and hence also for a meaningful inclusion of transpersons and politics into feminist agendas and movements.
Silke Heumann, Ana V. Portocarrero, Camilo Antillón Najlis, María Teresa Blandón, Geni Gómez, Athiany Larios, Ana Quirós Víquez, Juana Urbina

Points of View on Gender Politics, Rights and Bodies in Resistance


Chapter 9. The Development Industry and the Co-optation of Body Politics

The chapter interrogates the co-optation of feminist understandings of body politics in development practices and programs by constructing an ethnoscape of a recent South Asian training on gender, generations and sexuality. In a reflection on the potential of ruptures in the praxis of body politics, the chapter concludes with a consideration of how feminists can act from the ‘privilege of the middle’.
Wendy Harcourt

Chapter 10. An Intergenerational Trialogue on Global Body Politics

This intergenerational dialogue explores global body politics from our different historical standpoints. Inspired by Alexandra Garita's reflections on sexual and reproductive justice the three authors look at what sexual and reproductive health and rights means to them.
Sara Vida Coumans, Wendy Harcourt, Loes Keysers

Chapter 11. Post-What? Global Advocacy and Its Disconnects: The Cairo Legacy and the Post-2015 Agenda

The world has changed drastically since the transnational and international advocacy (primarily at the UN) of the 1990s, and it is now much easier to organise actions across geographies and time. The advent of email and instant messaging, and the vastly improved telecommunications channels, have left behind the days of using up a few thousand reams of paper to fax each other strategies, updates and language recommendations.
Rishita Nandagiri

Chapter 12. Where Are the Men? Reflections on Manhood, Masculinities and Gender Justice

The chapter looks at male body-in-resistance to the current inequitable and unjust world order, seeking a humane, sustainable alternative. It is a (self-)reflection on masculinities, based on conversations the author has had over the last three decades during his work as a gender justice, GBV and SRHR consultant, trainer, lecturer and activist.
Jan Reynders

Chapter 13. Body Politics, Human Rights and Public Policies in Brazil: In Conversation with Jacqueline Pitanguy

In the following extended interview Jacqueline Pitanguy shares her views on body politics and human rights in public policies in Brazil with the editor of Bodies in Resistance, Wendy Harcourt. Jacqueline Pitanguy has played a key role in Brazilian feminist politics. From 1986 to 1989 she held a cabinet position as President of the National Council for Women’s Rights (CNDM), designing and implementing public policies to improve conditions for women in Brazil. The CNDM played a key role in assuring woman’s rights in the new Brazilian Constitution and in developing programs in the areas of reproductive health, violence, legislation, labor rights, culture and education, and black and rural women rights. In 1990, she founded Citizenship, Studies, Information and Action (CEPIA), an NGO based in Rio de Janeiro. CEPIA conducts research and does advocacy work mainly on reproductive health, violence against women (VAW) and access to justice.
Wendy Harcourt, Jacqueline Pitanguy

Chapter 14. Some Thoughts on New Epistemologies in Latin American Feminisms

The Chapter explores the current Latin American “dialogue of knowledges” that is forming new spaces in which to discuss body politics among individuals and social movements coming from women`s indigenous movements, Afro-Latinas, youth, sexual dissidence movements. In these dialogues, sexuality remains complex dimension, resisted and contested. In discussing the differences, the chapter looks at significant points of affinity and difference as ‘body politics’ is helping a “translation” of different perspectives. It shows how “the body as a territory” is emerging as a discourse that connects indigenous women’s movements in their struggle for territory. The fight against racism by Afro-Latina women’s movements challenges how their bodies are denigrated. A new view of gender is provided by transvestites and by transgender women in the struggle against homophobia and heternormativity.3
Virginia Vargas

Chapter 15. The Subject of Porn Research: Inquiring Bodies and Lines of Resistance

The current status of research into pornography is marked by several rather contradictory tendencies. On the one hand, the volume of research and writing on porn has been steadily increasing, and gaining a degree of academic acceptability within the Western academy—particularly since Linda Williams’ volume on porn, Hard Core: Power, Pleasure, and theFrenzy of the Visible” (1989). In Eric Schaefer’s words, “she made it safe” for scholars to engage with porn “and not face the wrath of steaming administrators, snickering students, and their apoplectic parents” (2005: 8). That is, “within the field of film and media studies adult film and video is now an accepted, and legitimate, area of scholarly inquiry” (2005: 10). On the other hand, work on porn continues to be stigmatized, as Georgina Voss (2012) notes:
Karen Gabriel

Chapter 16. An American’s View of Trans* Emergence in Africa and Feminist Responses

Transgender is now one of the more contested issues in feminist theory and practice. In this chapter I argue along with Deyi that “Transgender feminists are not agents of patriarchy or a mockery to feminism.” Instead they need to be seen as “a celebration of the central principles that feminists have long sought to have recognized … that self-determination is a principle worth fighting for, that we as feminists in all body forms have become a social movement that can create spaces that enable those that are differently gendered to express their true selves” (Deyi 2012). As Van der Merwe poignantly states, “I am that transgender woman featured in so many Ph.D dissertations, HIV research, and documentation of violent experiences [but] I have a face, I have a name, and I have an identity.” In this chapter I also argue along with Van der Merwe that “We transgender women must be seen in our racial, class, and other diversities. Ultimately, it is we who are the relevant stakeholders in our struggle for equality and rights” (Van der Merwe and Leigh 2013).
Chloe Schwenke


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