Transforming Feminist Practice: Non-violence, Social Justice and the Possibilities of a Spiritualized Feminism
Leela Fernandes' years of teaching women studies courses at Rutgers--where she has seen frustration, paralysis and depression take hold of young students grappling with the hard realities of social activism--led her to examine the state of contemporary feminism and social justice movements. The result is an accessible social critique that goes directly to the heart of the issues.Transforming Feminist Practice takes a hard, unrelenting look at:
* Social justice organizations--their need to show results (for funding), the egotism that filters in, and the replication of power bases that work against social justice goals
* Academia--its emphasis on publishing, the pretensions and posturing that result, and the use of western contexts to study non-western cultures
* Identity politics--that, though necessary for policy change, make it difficult to forge bridges for social justice work
Fernandes' solution refocuses the struggle and opens dialogue for a new era. She suggests that feminists, as well as other social justice activists, find a non-institutional, personal spiritual base that will give them the humility and strength needed for their work. Citing the active political effect of spiritual leaders like Ghandi and Martin Luther King, Jr., she challenges contemporary activists to rethink what they need to do personally to sustain a thoughtful, ethical base for a lifelong struggle.
Leela Fernandes is an Associate Professor of Political Science and Women's Studies at Rutgers University, specializing in feminist approaches to the study of class politics. She is the author of Producing Workers: The Politics of Gender, Class and Culture in the Calcutta Jute Mills, as well as numerous articles and book reviews. Originally from India, she has lived in the U.S. for the past twenty years.