Radical History Review
Women, Transnationalism, and Human Rights
Two years after 9/11 and the U.S.’s military incursion in Afghanistan, Arundhati Roy, the award-winning novelist, public intellectual, and human rights activist, challenged President George W. Bush’s lofty pronouncement that U.S. intervention was an effort to liberate oppressed Afghani women. As Roy wrote in December 2003: “It’s been made out that the whole point of the war was to topple the Taliban regime and liberate Afghan women from their burqas. We’re being asked to believe that the U.S. Marines are actually on a feminist mission.” Roy argued that the Bush administration was exploiting the rhetoric of women’s oppression and, by extension, international struggles for women’s and human rights to further national and global interests. Far from liberating women or even highlighting the vagaries of oppression, however, such vacuous and power-invested claims have actually obscured women’s complex material realities, worldviews, and grounded liberation strategies – particularly with regards to human rights.
The claim to human rights has been a progressive, even radical intervention. Yet current politics require that we problematize the deployment of human rights as a liberating discourse and agenda for women. In its most progressive sense, the notion of human rights has elevated and linked local, seemingly disconnected, grassroots battles, to a broader global agenda of social justice. But in the hands of the status quo, “human rights” claims have also served as a mechanism for reconstituting hierarchies and asserting agendas that have little to do with those suffering harm.
In recent years, scholars such as Kenneth Cmiel have called for historicizing the popular “idiom” of human rights and examination of its emergence as a “political language.” For this special issue, the Radical History Review invites submissions that elucidate, interrogate, and complicate the relationship between women’s liberation and human rights. How should we define, periodize, and discuss human rights, and is that discourse on human rights a gendered one? In what ways have human rights shaped women’s liberation ideas and/or activism and vice versa? To what degree are human rights discourses constituted as transnational phenomena? How have women’s politics, while often bounded by the particularities of the nation-state, operated within a fluid global world? In deliberating these questions, contributors are encouraged to think about the relationship among and shaping influences of women’s material realities, local conditions, and universal claims.
We imagine essays that also might address and analyze the following issues in a historical framework:
- women, gender, and human rights as liberation language
- women, gender, and human rights as an activist strategy
- relationship between local and universal claims
- socio-historical conditions of women’s human rights agendas
- political economy and women’s human rights movements
- the politics of everyday and liberation strategies
- the role of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and culture
- religion, age, motherhood, and reproductive rights
- universalizing language of western feminism & transnational activism
- oppressive state regimes and discourses
- links between human rights and state power
- shaping influence of citizenship and nationalism
These are only suggestions and we encourage contributions on the widest range of topics related to this thematic issue. We also encourage submissions from scholars who teach women’s history/women’s studies for our special section, “Teaching Radical History.” In TRH pieces, scholars discuss their methodological, theoretical, and pedagogical frameworks, reflect on the class experience, and supply course syllabi.
Procedures for submission of proposals and articles:
By August 30, 2006 please submit a 1-2 page abstract summarizing your article to firstname.lastname@example.org. By September 30, 2006 authors will be notified whether they should submit their article in full. The due date for solicited, complete articles is February 1, 2007. All articles will then be put through the peer review process. Articles selected for publication after the peer review process will appear in Issue 101 of Radical History Review, scheduled to appear in Spring 2008.
To be considered manuscripts should be submitted to electronically, preferably in Microsoft Word or rich text format, with "Issue 101 submission" in the subject line.
Abstract Deadline: August 30, 2006
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