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25 Years

Consciousness Raising: Tracking the Transnational Diffusion of Feminist Practice

Date: 
Fri, 04/26/2019 - 12:00pm
Event Location: 
ICGC Heller Hall 537

Dr. Elizabeth Jay Friedman, University of San Francisco 

In the 1970s, hundreds of thousands of women seeking to liberate themselves and society from patriarchal domination eagerly adopted the feminist practice of consciousness raising (CR) as both method and theory. Through structured exchange in small groups, they sought to establish that “the personal is political,” transforming their individual experiences of gendered oppression into political knowledge that challenged androcentrism and inspired women’s mobilization.

Although CR is commonly understood as originating in and spurring the explosion of the so-called “Second Wave” US women’s liberation movement, it was not only informed by transnational ideas and experiences, but also quickly took off outside of the US. From Italy to Brazil, women adapted it to their own contexts and goals. Simultaneously, the CR ideology rooted in gender sameness was challenged within and outside of the US by the reality and representations of intersectional identities and interests spanning race, ethnicity, class, and sexuality.

The transnational travels of CR demonstrate that the geopolitical compass points of transformative political projects do not just lead North/West to South/East, but move in sometimes unexpected ways, and are altered through that movement.

Elisabeth Jay Friedman is Professor of Politics and Latin American Studies at the University of San Francisco. She is the author of Unfinished Transitions: Women and the Gendered Development of Democracy in Venezuela, 1936–1996 (Penn State Press, 2000), and the co-author of Sovereignty, Democracy, and Global Civil Society: State-Society Relations at UN World Conferences (SUNY Press, 2005). She has also published articles on transnational women's organizing, women's rights in Latin America, and same-sex marriage. Her most recent single-authored book, Interpreting the Internet: Feminist and Queer Counterpublics in Latin America (University of California Press, 2016), provides the first in-depth exploration of how Latin American feminist and queer activists have interpreted the internet in order to develop their identities, construct communities, and hone strategies for social change. By translating the internet into their own vernacular, they have also transformed the technology. Friedman is also the editor of the forthcoming collection Seeking Rights from the Left: Gender, Sexuality, and the Latin American Pink Tide (Duke University Press) which brings together 15 scholars from North and South America to explore to what extent contemporary left-leaning governments promoted the rights of women and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and engaged feminist and queer movements. Her current project explores the transnational diffusion of feminist practices.

Dr. Jay Friedman is in residence with ICGC through Spring semester, 2019.