Feminist Immersion: Reflexivity, Decoloniality, and Global Impact

Session Report
Trisha Shivdasan

The Gender Impact Studies Center (GISC) at IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi conducted a Three-Day Immersive Online Certificate Training Course on ‘Feminism: Fundamentals, Facets and Future’ from February 23rd to 25th, 2023. 

The course, spread over three-consecutive days, introduced the participants to the origins and trajectory of feminism, its contemporary and European aspects, intersectional feminism, feminist theory in India, and the intersection of law and feminism. It initiated a dialogue on the fundamentals and core values of feminist theory and encouraged a feminist consciousness within the participants. 

On the second day our second speaker, Dr. Manisha Desai, Department Head, Sociology; Professor of Sociology and Asian and Asian American Studies, University of Connecticut, continued the conversation by providing a thought-provoking and insightful exploration of the core principles of feminism, its historical development, and its ongoing evolution. The presentation delved into the concept of reflexivity within feminism and its engagement with decoloniality.

Feminist Reflexivity

In this section, Dr. Manisha introduced the concept of feminist reflexivity, emphasizing its significance in feminist discourse. She described how reflexivity involves continuous self-critique and engagement with critical challenges, both internal and external. Additionally, the historical roots of reflexivity in social theories like Marxism and subaltern theories were discussed.

Transnational Nature of Reflexivity

This subsection highlighted how feminist reflexivity transcends geographical boundaries. It stressed that reflexivity is a core element of feminisms worldwide, involving self-critique and receptivity to external critiques.

Evolution of Feminism

Dr. Manisha explored the historical evolution of feminism, with an emphasis on its shifting focus over the decades. The progression from women’s liberation to the inclusion of sexuality, race, class, and gender in feminist discourse was discussed. The concept of intersectionality, which acknowledges the intersection of multiple social forces in shaping identities, was also explained.

Decoloniality and Settler Colonial Feminisms

In this section, the presentation delved into the distinctions between decoloniality and postcoloniality. Dr. Manisha highlighted the relevance of decolonial critique in settler colonial societies where colonizers never left. She shared examples from the Americas, focusing on the demands for reparations and land return by indigenous and people of color feminists.

Caste and Intersectionality in Indian Feminism

This subsection examined the need for Indian feminism to incorporate intersectionality by addressing caste, race, and class. The critique from Dalit, Bahujan, and Adivasi feminists was discussed, emphasizing the importance of recognizing and challenging caste-based inequalities.

Alternative Approaches to Incarceration

The session provided an intriguing example from the Amish community in the United States, illustrating a unique approach to addressing sexual violence. The community’s emphasis on forgiveness and reconciliation, as opposed to a traditional carceral system, was explained.

Globalization and Climate Justice

This part of the presentation underlined the impact of globalization on feminism. Dr. Manisha discussed the emergence of transnational feminisms and cross-border solidarities, which allow feminists to learn from each other and adapt their perspectives to address contemporary issues. Climate justice was identified as a pressing concern, with feminists playing a vital role in discussions and solutions.

Climate-Resilient Farming and Feminism

The session concluded with Dr. Manisha sharing her research on climate-resilient agriculture among women farmers in Maharashtra, primarily from Dalit and Bahujan communities. These farmers integrated feminism and climate justice into their work, highlighting the need for feminism to adapt to global challenges faced by women.

In summary, Dr. Manisha’s presentation offered a comprehensive exploration of feminist reflexivity and its evolution, the transnational nature of feminism, the decolonial critique, and the challenges faced by Indian feminism in incorporating intersectionality. The session also addressed alternative approaches to issues such as sexual violence and emphasized the role of feminists in the context of globalization and climate justice.

Acknowledgment: Trisha Shivdasan is a research Intern at IMPRI.

Read more event reports of IMPRI here:

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