Women’s Movements Responses to New Global Political and Economic Dynamics

By Wendy Harcourt

The gender panel was part of the ‘Civic Innovation Research Initiative’ (CIRI) of the Institute of Social Studies Erasmus University looked at the changing dynamics in women’s movements due to new global political and economic arrangements. The three papers examined the challenges and difficulties faced by Egyptian women during the ‘Arab Spring’; Iranian women’s contribution to the green revolution reflecting on the growing diaspora of Iranian feminists; and the responses of youth and women’s solidarity movements to the economic crises hitting southern Europe.

Wendy Harcourt explained that the papers were part of the Sexuality Research Initiative’s contribution to the ISS Civic innovation initiative New forms of localized economic politics emerging or what she theorizes as ‘place-based globalism.’ Where different community economies are linking through the politics of place to create an ethical and political rather than structural conception of economic dynamics. She pointed out that in this imaginary the economy is seen as a diversified social space using the iceberg figure of JK Gibson Graham (See figure below). At the centre of these forms of economies are new economic subjects and ethical practices of self-cultivation. The research is look at place-based globalism is an alternative logic of politics, one that invests in what is to become not in what is to be replaced. Place based globalism offers a crucial role for alternative discourses by social movements which connects the private and public, the domestic and national, local and the global, changing the rigid boundaries of established political and economic discourse.

Gendered and Generational responses to the economic crisis in southern Europe

Wendy Harcourt and Paulina Trejo Mendez presented women’s movement organizing in response to the economic crises. They explained how they were using JK Gibson-Graham’s understanding of solidarity economies and the ‘place-based globalism’ approach. Taking examples from Madrid and Bolsena they looked at new forms of solidarity across the generations in southern European countries, as women and youth.

Feminism and social movements struggle for democracy in and outside Iran

Mansoureh Shojaee gave a history of the struggles of the Iranian women’s movement in the struggle for democracy and gender equality in Iran. She examined several key historical moments of the women’s movements looking at the campaigns, the different alliances formed, the types of strategies, the oppressions  by the state and the resistances.  Via pictures and photos that traced her own active engagement in the movements she concluded that there are now three areas which she will be looking at in her future research:

  • projecting voice through cyber arena,
  • public campaigns and
  • women’s associations working in academia, activist and civil society.

Questions of Neoliberal Subjectivity: The Effects of Transnational Funding on Civil Society and Egyptian Women

Sara Salem looked at the ways in which transnational funding relies on specific assumptions about gender equality in order to attempt to create a neoliberal subjectivity in Egypt. She argued that this is done primarily through grants and funding provided to Egyptian civil society, as well as through reports and press releases. She provided an overview of the Gramscian approach to civil society and the ways in which it challenges a liberal conceptualization. She then discussed how transnational donors have attempted to create a neoliberal subjectivity in Egypt through their programs with Egyptian civil society that focus on gender equality.

The discussion which followed looked at the different approaches to women’s movements resistance and shaping of alternatives to development discourse with an interesting discussion on the intersectionality, embodiment and hwo to move away from a capitalocentric view of the economy and ‘development’.

Wendy Harcourt is Associate Professor at the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) – Erasmus University Rotterdam