Edited by Jill Steans and Daniela Tepe
Chapter 14: Transnational feminist politics: a concept that has outlived its usefulness?
The aim of this chapter is to map the meaning, usage and conceptual as well as political implications of the concept of ‘transnational feminism’. More specifically, it will explore the ways in which the term has been defined and deployed, identify some of the debates and tensions that surround its theory and practice and reflect on the ways in which my research with Catherine Eschle into feminist ‘anti-globalisation’ activism in the context of the World Social Forum (WSF) complicates the assumptions and claims of both its advocates and its critics (Eschle and Maiguashca, 2010). I will end the chapter by raising some questions about the extent to which ‘transnational feminism’ remains a useful concept and what kind of research agenda any revitalisation of the concept would require. My overall argument is that at best the notion of transnational feminism is a descriptive term that can help us look for and identify empirical instances of feminist co-operation across national borders. Having said this, it remains a concept associated with a number of debates that oversimplify the challenges facing feminist activists, in part because they reproduce false dichotomies that need to be carefully interrogated on the basis of detailed empirical research into contemporary instances of transnational feminist activism. For the purposes of this chapter, I will rely on one of the more uncontroversial expressions of feminism as an ‘emancipatory politics on behalf of women’ (McCann and Kim, 2013: 1).
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