"We are not one": Feminist grassroots activism and the politicization of difference
Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork with feminist grassroots groups in Sweden, this paper uses border theory (Mignolo and Tlostanova 2006) to demonstrate how contemporary feminist activists politicize difference in their performances of a multifaceted resistance against social hierarchies, and against the ways in which such hierarchies are made invisible within the frames of a popular narrative about multiculturalism and diversity. At first, this paper analyses feminist direct actions performed as protests against the (neo)liberal expansion and against the narrative of a national success story of feminism in Sweden. Then, drawing on interviews with feminist activists and fieldnotes from feminist events, I show how grassroots feminists reinvent a complex 'we' in the struggle, a 'we' characterized by variations, heterogeneity and difference. This 'we' is mobile and multifaceted, resulting from a variegated struggle in which feminist grassroots activists combine collaboration, separatism and coalition politics as key tactics. This is not a 'we' free from tensions or disagreements, but such difficulties, I demonstrate, are included in the struggle and conceptualized by feminist activists as important elements in the struggle for change. I argue that these understandings makes it possible to build temporary and tactical alliances in feminism and suggest that this calls for a rethinking of contemporary dominant representations of feminism as fragmented and/or weakened.
Mignolo, Walter and Madina Tlostanova (2006) "Theorizing from the Borders: Shifting to Geo- and Body-Politics of Knowledge", European Journal of Social Theory, vol. 9, no. 2, pp. 205-221.