volume 16, number 2/2015: Transnational Feminism
GUEST EDITORS: ZUZANA UHDE
The interpretative line of thought of transnational feminism has been gaining ground in contemporary feminist thought, and it also provides the framework for this special issue of the journal Gender and Research. Transnational feminism is not a unified body of theoretical work but a perspective through which topics and issues are viewed. The term transnational refers here to an approach which goes beyond the boundaries of nation states and which analytically focuses on transnational forms of capital accumulation, transnational cultural exchange, transnational life forms and transnational power relations. This approach supports a contextually embedded analysis in a globalising world in which global inequalities become part of our intimate lives, and our everyday lives are shaped by distant processes and relations. And it is these mutual relations of gender structures in various parts of the world that must be identified and analysed.
In some respects, transnational feminism builds on the previously dominant postcolonial feminism. However, these two lines of feminist thought must be distinguished. Postcolonial feminism is embedded in the historical reflection on colonialism and imperial policies, and deconstructs power relations between the ruling and the ruled, which—despite the disintegration of the colonial empires after the Second World War—continues to partly contribute to the reproduction of geopolitical, social and gender inequalities. In contrast, transnational feminism reacts to the ongoing shifts in relations among macro-regions and is embedded in the reflection of globalization processes which have intensified especially after the disintegration of the bipolar world at the beginning of the 1990s. The current context of global capitalism which absorbs nation states into a wider framework of transnational and supranational institutions reshapes and gives new meanings to colonial and postcolonial representations. The analytical viewfinder of transnational feminism captures exploited, oppressed and otherwise marginalized groups of women (and men) in global interactions, and relations among variously situated social actors at various levels (from the individual through local, national, transnational, macro-regional to the global level). Transnational feminism also goes beyond methodological nationalism which—by being limited only to analyses within states—cannot capture the mutual relations of transnational practices which may be occurring locally but their causes and consequences surpass the boundaries of states. In this respect it may bring the much needed inspiration for social science research.
Papers and other texts in this thematic issue present various ways of dealing with transnational feminist analysis. In her paper Chandra Talpade Mohanty examines how her now canonical text Under Western Eyes travelled and how its interpretations changed in various socio-political and cultural contexts, which allows her to critically identify the impact of neoliberal geopolitics on contemporary feminist thought. Radka Janebová presents the growing school of transnational feminist social work. Andrea Kuchyňková and Petra Ezzeddine explore translocal gender reconfigurations in the circular migration of care workers from the Czech Republic to Austria, which allows them to discuss the paradoxical consequences of migration involving the incongruence of their improved social situation in the country of origin and their marginalized status of domestic care workers in the receiving country.
In her essay on surrogate motherhood Arlie R. Hochschild looks into the transnational reproductive business which is acceptable for many people although it basically involves trafficking in children before they are born and which directly capitalizes on intensifying global inequalities. In the section Interview we publish a debate with activists from Zambia who reflect critically on development cooperation practices and on how poverty in Africa is co-produced by transnational economic and geopolitical relations. Transnational feminism also resonates with some book reviews published in the issue, e.g., Gender and Global Justice edited by Alison Jaggar or Distant Love by the Becks.
Transnational feminism and the texts in this issue open many questions that deserve to receive more attention in public debates. What is important is to realize that we cannot understand what is happening around us if we limit ourselves to analysing nation states only.