Project Title: Empire, Gender, Violence
Participating Faculty and Students:
Our proposed workshop focuses on the currently topical and widely discussed theme of Empire, specifically as elaborated in the recent publication by Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt. While the book has been controversial and highly influential for many reasons, we believe that its near complete omission of the theme of gender merits a special workshop theme. We are proposing a workshop that would address the linkages between gender, gender politics and empire. In order to delineate a more specific theme and set of discussions, we would like to focus on how various forms of violence against women – public and private, economic and epistemological - are generated by the workings of Empire. In thus expanding the concept of violence, we hope to examine how war and military interventions, neoliberal policies, the rolling back of the welfare state, resurgence of the Right, and religious fundamentalisms, are inherently if indirectly generated by the new era of U.S. hegemony, while they are also inherently gendered.
Hardt and Negri outline the contours of Empire as not simply an economic, but a “biopolitical” regime, one which has tremendous implications for our bodies and modes of resistance. In this vein we propose to explore the specific issue of various forms of violence against women that are enabled by the new regime, even if indirectly. We hold that the institutional practices of Empire constitute a masculinist terrain within which women’s agency is assumed, marginalized, or made invisible. Significantly, and perhaps paradoxically, hegemonic translations of neo-liberal politics have had a severe impact on the lives of ordinary women and their families. Apart from the serious cut-back of social services relating to health, poverty-alleviation, and education, there have been other outcomes that include a shift in political discourse to the Right, the rise of religious fundamentalism worldwide, and state sanctioned violence against minorities and other vulnerable populations, women among them. The present war brings to the very center the interconnections between militarism, racism and Empire, a triadic pact which we hope to explore through a feminist lens.
Through the proposed workshops we would also like to pay close attention to the dominant, and sometimes hegemonic, languages and practices of institutional politics, asking how women create viable discourses that powerfully respond to the compulsions of globalized normativity which bear down in such deleterious ways on their bodies and lives. These are discourses that bring together symbolic languages and material economies in one inextricable weave. In some instances, they offer critiques of globalization and neoliberalism through cosmologies and knowledge-systems that are radically “different” from the binary and linear analytical registers of normative “development” ideology. In other instances, they are institutionalized responses – through grassroots political organizing – to the violence of neo-liberal globalization. In this workshop we hope to bring together various scholarship on violence enacted in the often analytically distinct public and private spheres – of physical, cultural, economic and environmental violence.