Gender, Development, Resistance

A special issue for the Journal of Resistance Studies 

Editors: Tiina Seppälä and Sara C. Motta


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Women are increasingly important actors in a broad spectrum of contemporary struggles and social movements in the so-called “global South”. The often cited feminization of poverty in which racialized subaltern women were framed as merely victims of contemporary neoliberalism is being reframed in practice by the emergence of a multiplicity of female political subjectivities and a marked feminization of resistance (Motta, 2013). Women’s political engagement is varied and complex – some fight against neoliberal development projects that displace thousands of poor people, whilst others contest new forms of colonialism that have resulted in conflicts over land, forests and water, causing displacement and forced migration on a massive scale. Many movements work broadly for causes of social justice, equality and dignity. Some concentrate particularly on women’s rights, and struggle against patriarchal capitalist coloniality, sexism and heteronormativity. Importantly, as noted by postcolonial feminists (e.g. Mohanty, 2003; Motta, 2013), racialized subaltern women who simultaneously face multiple oppressions are in a position to create and experiment with new political subjectivities, re-imagine emancipatory politics, and  produce and embody multiple grounds of epistemological difference and becoming. Viewed from this perspective, the emergence of female political subjectivities and the feminization of resistance raise many important epistemological and political questions.

The increasing engagement of women in social movements in the “global South”, together with the growing role of feminist movements is not, however, a development celebrated by all. In many countries it has been met by a sharp increase in government intimidation and state surveillance. Social movements and activists are disciplined and punished, and represented as being against “progress” and “development” (Roy, 2009). Direct violence is used regularly for silencing female activists – they are raped, kidnapped, tortured and abused. In other words, the dark side of feminization of resistance manifests itself in giving birth to new technologies of rule, governance, and domination over feminized and raced bodies. However, as Odysseos (2011) argues, political subjects are always governed, also when they are resisting. There exists a complex interplay between governance and resistance, which means that besides different forms of resistance, attention needs to be paid to governance of resistance, as well as governance through resistance.

Due to ever-growing skepticism towards mainstream politics controlled by political and economic elites, the idea of autonomous resistance has become increasingly popular among social movements. These movements often politicize the everyday and seek to create horizontal forms of political power, disalienated subjectivities as well as collective and collaborative forms of social reproduction. As women are at the heart of community they also tend to be key thinkers, doers and organizers within these movements. While some of the movements are local, others are transnationally oriented. Feminist scholars from the “global North” are usually welcomed to study and take part in these struggles but – as postcolonial feminists and activists have significantly pointed out – hegemonic Western feminist approaches are problematic in many ways. Western feminism has been criticized, for example, for its tendency to conceptualize not only oppression but also women’s resistance from a Eurocentric perspective, as well as for not taking economic issues and structural violence caused by neoliberalism and/or neocolonialism sufficiently into account. Another point of criticism is that Western feminists do not always realize that their own interests and the interests of racialized subaltern women and feminized communities in the “global South” are often in tension (Lugones, 2010; Mohanty, 2003). Moreover, in this context the categories of “global South” and “global North” are problematic if understood in the traditional, geographical sense, and not as positions in relation to capitalist power, as suggested by Mohanty, for global South can exist in the global North through the racialized underclass subjects such as refugees, and vice versa, global North can exist in the global South through the transnational and local elites, both economic and political.

These critiques are highly important as the position of a Western researcher, whether a feminist scholar or not, is made possible because of the existing structural differences and hierarchies that are often difficult to challenge and transform. As argued by Motta (2011), researchers need to “unlearn” their academic privileges in order to widen their understanding of movement-relevant research, learn from the practices of social movements, and reorient their own practices. According to her, theory can be produced immanently and collectively “via reflection, within political struggle, based upon the lived experiences and struggles of excluded and marginalized communities” and consequently, research that is done in solidarity must involve mutual learning connected to lived experience and practices of everyday life (ibid., 194–196). Similarly, many postcolonial activists emphasize the importance of “ideological solidarity” between different groups of women when engaging in a broader project of constructing decolonizing forms of feminist solidarity in their resistance (cf. Mohanty, 2003).

In this special issue of Journal of Resistance Studies we seek to explore the above discussed, and related, themes and problematiques from different perspectives across the disciplines. We are especially interested in critical understandings of feminized resistance strategies, discourses, tactics, effects, causes, contexts and experiences. In line with the journal’s main aim, we want to advance an understanding of how resistances and emancipatory practices – and in this context, especially feminized resistances and emancipatory practices – might undermine repression, injustices and domination of any kind, as well as how such resistance might nurture autonomous subjectivity, as e.g. constructive work, alternative communities, and oppositional ways of thinking, being, doing and loving. We invite texts with critical reflections, evaluations, theoretical developments and/or more empirical based analysis, encouraging a broad and critical discussion on the possibilities, forms, conditions, as well as problematics of feminized resistances and political subjectivities.

In the context of the theme of the special issue, suggested paper themes include, but are not restricted to:

    • Feminization of resistance
    • Women in movement, women’s movements and feminist politics
    • Feminized protest, rebellion, contention, disengagement, disobedience
    • Women’s rights
    • Politics of sexuality, sex and reproductive autonomy
    • The politics of the body/embodied
    • Politicization of social reproduction and everyday life
    • The role of power/knowledge in the production, containment and/or nurturing of feminized resistances and political subjectivities
    • The role of radical traditions of education in the creation of new forms of feminist and/or feminized emancipatory horizons and projects
    • Decolonizing and queering feminism, emancipation and resistance
    • Emancipation as healing
    • Feminist/feminized radical spirituality and emancipation
    • Politics of feminist solidarity across borders

In addition to academic articles (up to 12000 words), we welcome other contributions, such as book reviews (3000 words) and comments columns (5000 words) that relate to the topics of this issue. For author instructions on submissions, see

Please send preliminary abstracts (max 500 words), together with a short bio, to both special issue editors, Tiina Seppälä <tiina.seppala(at)> and Sara C. Motta <sara.c.motta(at)> by 15 December 2015. All questions regarding the special issue should be directed to the issue editors. The submission deadline for the final article manuscripts is 15 March 2016.

Important Dates and Deadlines

  • Abstracts                               15 December 2015
  • Notification of acceptance        15 January 2016
  • Submission of final papers       15 March 2016
  • Referee reviews                       15 April –1 June 2016
  • Submission of revised papers   30 July 2016
  • Copy-editing finished               1 November 2016


Lugones, Maria. 2010. Towards a Decolonial Feminism. Hypatia: The Journal of Feminist Philosophy, 25(4):742–759.  

Mohanty, Chandra T. 2003. “Under Western Eyes” Revisited: Feminist Solidarity through Anticapitalist Struggles. In C. T. Mohanty (Ed.) Feminism Without Borders: Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity, pp. 221–251. Durham: Duke University Press.

Motta, Sara C. 2011. Notes Towards Prefigurative Epistemologies. In S. C. Motta & A. G. Nilsen (Eds.) Social Movements in the Global South: Dispossession, Development and Resistance in the Global South, pp. 178–199. Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan.

Motta, Sara C. 2013. ''We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For'': The Feminization of Resistance in Venezuela. Latin American Perspectives, 40(4): 35–54.

Odysseous, Louiza. 2011. Governing Dissent in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve: “Development”, Govermentality, and Subjectification amongs Botswana’s Bushmen. Globalizations, 8(4): 439–455.

Roy, Arundhati. 2009. Listening to Grasshoppers: Field Notes on Democracy. New Delhi: Penguin Books India.

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