Black women living in the French empire played a key role in the decolonial movements of the mid-twentieth century. Thinkers and activists, these women lived lives of commitment and risk that landed them in war zones and concentration camps and saw them declared enemies of the state. Annette K. Joseph-Gabriel mines published writings and untapped archives to reveal the anticolonialist endeavors of seven women. Though often overlooked today, Suzanne Césaire, Paulette Nardal, Eugénie Éboué-Tell, Jane Vialle, Andrée Blouin, Aoua Kéita, and Eslanda Robeson took part in a forceful transnational movement. Their activism and thought challenged France’s imperial system by shaping forms of citizenship that encouraged multiple cultural and racial identities. Expanding the possibilities of belonging beyond national and even Francophone borders, these women imagined new pan-African and pan-Caribbean identities informed by black feminist intellectual frameworks and practices. The visions they articulated also shifted the idea of citizenship itself, replacing a single form of collective identity and political participation with an expansive plurality of forms of belonging.
Colonial Metropolis: The Urban Grounds of Anti-Imperialism and Feminism in Interwar Paris
World War I gave colonial migrants and French women unprecedented access to the workplaces and nightlife of Paris. After the war they were expected to return without protest to their homes—either overseas or metropolitan. Neither group, however, was willing to be discarded.
Between the world wars, the mesmerizing capital of France’s colonial empire attracted denizens from Africa, the Caribbean, and the United States. Paris became not merely their home but also a site for political engagement. Colonial Metropolis tells the story of the interactions and connections of these black colonial migrants and white feminists in the social, cultural, and political world of interwar Paris. It explores why and how both were denied certain rights, such as the vote, how they suffered from sensationalist depictions in popular culture, and how they pursued parity in ways that were often interpreted as politically subversive.
A Subtlety by Kara Walker: Teaching Vulnerable Art
In late Spring 2014, the nonprofit organization Creative Time commissioned artist Kara Walker to create her first large-scale public installation. Hosted in the industrial relics of the leg- endary Domino Sugar Factory in Brooklyn, Walker’s A Subtlety, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby was as controversial as it was revered. The powerful presence of the installation, coupled with its immersion in historical consciousness, makes A Subtlety rich in educational value. This article engages in a comparative reading of A Subtlety in the light of female writers and thinkers from the Caribbean, but also incorporates some of the generative questions Walker’s installation has pro- voked my students to ask. I especially engage questions on how to unravel the mixed metaphors that make A Subtlety the artistic embodiment of the textured experience of the African diaspora, with its complex history, cultural hybridity and transnational ramifications. While Walker’s instal- lation seems to sustain its many layers of meanings through both form and content, the (mostly white, US-born) students in my class have responded to it in a range of critical ways that pointed especially to their emotional and critical response toward female Blackness, and reflections about the artist’s responsibility toward her intention. The article reflects on the inherent possibilities for teaching A Subtlety and other forms of what I consider “vulnerable art,” which at its best helps to channel our collective and personal discomfort in effective, healing ways.
Reverse Exoticism and Masculinity: The Cultural Politics of Race Relations
The black colony was sculpted from the elements of racial and political solidarity, but Paris was still dominated in the eyes of black people by white men. In consequence, strategies for sociocultural independence could not follow straightforward political lines, in particular with respect to the phenomenon of negrophilia. How did black men respond to their categorization as exotic others when faced with a vogue nègre that threatened to leave them voiceless? How did they reinforce their control not just over the political milieu they had forged in part through racial bonds, but also within the broader cultural sphere of the capital?
What wars and ‘war bodies’ know about international relations
What happens when the ‘international’ as a distinct social space is approached from the perspective of war rather than war from the perspective of the ‘international’? Tarak Barkawi’s question (Millennium, 39:3, 2011, 701–706) is best answered by attempts to understand war not as part of inter/intra-state relations but as a socio cultural, trans-historical institution that impacts on the ‘everyday’ lives of men, women and children. In this article I argue that war is not a disruption of the ‘everyday’, an abstraction that has a definite beginning and end, something we enter into and exit. Instead, it can be captured in daily and mundane lived experiences of people and in powerful emotions that constitute ‘self’, community and the ‘other.’ Drawing upon my research on wars in South Asia, I particularly reflect on how war shapes the banal and the fervent and how cultural and political narratives of ‘war bodies’ perform the ‘international’ in a variety of ways. Most significantly I want to draw attention to how international relations as a scholarly discipline is so deeply engaged with war and yet seems to have an estranged relationship with it.
The Status of African Women in Foreign Policy
‘The Status of African Women in Foreign Policy’ focuses on the necessity of reducing the underrepresentation of African women in foreign policy, the barriers that hinder this development, and solutions to overcome those. According to Bimha, filling the gender gap, or solving the underrepresentation of women, will constitute the end of discrimination against women. Moreover, she argues, this is necessary to repair the currently male-dominated nature of international relations and will complement to reformation process of gender stereotypes, namely, “men as decision-makers and women as subjects of war-related decisions”. However, Bimha recognizes that certain barriers that this underrepresentation are alive. She notes that, although the number of female representatives is increasing, these women are often assigned to less significant posts.
The impact of IR & politics being male-dominated
The heads of state often make diplomatic appointments. If a head of state, which is often male, is conservative, he is less likely to appoint female diplomats, as they are often very progressive and transformation-oriented. This is also apparent in party-bias, a phenomenon where party leaders prefer to promote male candidates over female candidates. , even though female candidates have not been proven to attract fewer votes than male candidates. The underrepresentation of women in politics is a vicious cycle, with males in the male-dominated field of IR theory and politics preferring the appointment of men over the appointment of women. This is reinforced by sociocultural standards and expectations, as African women are still mostly associated with the domestic sphere. However, little attention is paid to IR theory and politics being male-dominated, even though it is apparent that this does have a big impact on the underrepresentation of women in the field.
The underrepresentation of feminism in the IR curriculum and its consequences
In the ‘Introduction Course International Relations’ at Utrecht University, different IR theories have been discussed. While extensive attention has been paid to especially realism and liberalism, which are both male-dominated IR theories, feminism has been discussed for exactly 3 minutes and 48 seconds during the lecture on IR theories and has not been discussed in the seminars to the same extent as the other IR theories. This is a great although a small example of feminism theories being vastly underrepresented in the IR curriculum. Therefore, Bimha argues that the international relations curriculum should be reformed into a more gender-sensitive one with an increased focus on feminism and female contributions in the field.
The importance of spreading awareness of IR and politics being male-dominated can be illustrated by a small comparison with another article on women in international relations. The other article reviewed appoints the underrepresentation of women in the IR field to them being a minority group and therefore behaving differently, or them focussing on topics that are not considered important in mainstream IR. These arguments may seem plausible to people who lack the understanding that the field of IR is male-dominated. But students who are aware of this unequal representation may ask the following questions: who steers mainstream IR research? What causes women to be a minority in the field of IR? Who keeps that disbalance intact? Thinking about these questions and critically reviewing the conclusions of reports on women in international relations is a crucial step in academics. However, the ability to perform this critical thinking is subject to one’s understanding of the field. Therefore, awareness of and the spread of knowledge on the IR field being male-dominated, thereby reinforcing the vicious cycle of women being underrepresented, is incredibly important and should be part of the IR curriculum.
Women, Gender and Development in Africa
Gender denotes the social prescriptions associated with biological sex in regard to roles, behaviour, appearance, cognition, emotions, and so on. Social relations of gender or gender relations encompass all relationships in which gender subjectivities play a role, including those among people, and between people and the institutions, systems, and processes of development. The chapter describes three features of gender relations that are generally consistent across societies – gender ideologies and myths; gendered division of labor; and unequal power relationships – and discusses their implications for development. The chapter further explains the centrality of gender to the development enterprise and discusses various approaches to integrating gender analysis in development processes.