Feminism(s)| Part V: Black and African Feminism(s)
WITH SHEENA ANDERSON AND WADZANAI MOTSI-KHATAI
April 29, 7-8:30 pm
As part of our Feminism(s) series in the program Gender and International Politics we came together with Sheena Anderson and Wadzanai Motsi-Khatai to kick off a mini-series on African and Black Feminisms. The goal of the series is to broaden and deepen the understanding of feminism beyond Western interpretations, thereby provide a foundation for international collaboration. In the forthcoming events, we (re)center Black and African feminist theories, battles, scholars, and activists and challenge understandings of what feminism means. African and Black feminisms are diverse and develop their concepts centering Black and African women’s experiences. To explore this diversity, we will invite Black feminists in Africa, in the diaspora, and in Germany to join the conversation and share their feminist perspectives.
There is not one clear-cut definition of African or Black Feminism, instead, the main idea is to reflect critical ways of thinking and to center different experiences of Black women. Sheena started the evening by giving a short overview of the history of Black Feminism in the US, mirroring the struggle for justice and equality of which Black feminists formed an integral part. However, Black women were excluded and marginalized from many social movements, such as the white feminist movement or the civil rights movement. They experienced sexism, racism, and classism and built their own movement based on the concept of intersectionality that originated in Black feminist thought.
Wadzanai pointed out the difficulty to disentangle the diversity of the experiences of Black women. One of many perspectives is African Black Feminism, whereby it is again relevant to say that there is no such thing as the one African Black Feminism. Instead, the experiences from different contexts shape different feminisms.
Wadzanai further drew our attention to the double-edged sword of modern African feminists receiving a lot of attention. On one hand, it is relevant for the cause to have these women and their stories heard and spoken about. On the other hand, the focus on the individual story tends to overshadow the legacies of the wide range of African Black feminists and their experiences. There remains crucial importance to disentangling the discourse around feminism and the different oppressing systems such as racism, capitalism and colonialism, and to look at the intersectional nature of what it means to be a Black feminist.
Another issue that we discussed throughout the evening was the relevance of the inequalities in knowledge production for Black and African feminisms. The question of who gets heard, who shares knowledge, and who is being listened to has always been at the heart of feminist movements and demonstrates the need for long-term structural change and the need to question well-established structures that were designed in a non-inclusive way, such as the United Nation.
After this introductory event on what can be understood as African Black Feminism, the upcoming events will explore the differences and resemblances as well as points of contention within Black, Afrodiasporic, and African Feminisms in more depth. We are currently planning events on Afro-German Feminisms and Feminisms in Ethiopia and Uganda. Each event will feature guest speakers who have knowledge and expertise on the specific topics. If you know Black feminists or have specific topics in mind that you would like to see or hear about in this series, please don’t hesitate to let us know.
This event was organized by Polis180’s programs Gender and International Politics. It is part of the event series Feminism(s) that takes a look at feminist movements, ideas, and actors around the world. You can read more about our past events on Islamic feminism, feminism in China, Turkey, and Mexico on this website.