NextGENDERation Network at the European Social Forum: A Feminist Intervention
- Rutvica Andrijasevic, Sarah Bracke, Cristina Gamberi
Different levels of theoretical reflections and political activism that characterized the first European Social Forum in Firenze showed that representational politics are definitely in crisis and that forms of expression, deeply related to questions of belonging, have changed radically. Many of these new forms of expression put forward by the antagonist movement are characterized by leaving behind of the reassuring organized identities. Instead, we are witnessing the formation of a body of subjectivities in continuous re-formulation, grounded as it has already occurred in the pastupon notions of and desires for belonging. But belonging, this time, is to be understood as constantly in motion and therefore creating spaces for various forms of networking.
This becomes particularly visible in forms of feminist thinking, as well as the theoretical and organizational framework that the NextGENDERation network at the ESF gave to the workshop it organized. Our network starts from a feminist perspective based on a multiplication of the axes of power, and therefore the axes of political action. Concretely this means we underscore the contribution of analysis produced by post-colonial subjects and the migrant's movements as well as the importance of the criticism of hetero-normativity coming from lesbian and queer subjects. Through these perspectives we looked at the contradictions of academic feminism, present within the universities, that seem to have lost the ability of political disruption they had in previous decades.
In the process of preparation of the ESF, one of us got to observe a meeting of the ESF preparation team in Bruxelles, where we learned that most of the "gender and ethnicity work" fell on the shoulders of a white woman representing women's movements, and a black man representing black, migrant and refugee groups. We also learned that the structure of the ESF itself reflected the idea that the power relations involved in gender and ethnicity (let alone sexuality) were not considered a common, transversal, concern, but were seen as "particular" issues, particular to certain groups or certain subjects. The forum was organized around clusters: Globalisation and Liberalism, War and Peace, and Rights Citizenship Democracy, of which the third one incorporated issues concerned with women, racism, prostitution and trafficking, asylum, Fortress Europe, Islamophobia, etc. It made us wonder how the issues such as globalisation/liberalism/war/peace would look like if intersected by gender and etnicitity?
Discussing the marginalisation or absence of women's, black, migrant and refugee movements, and gay and lesbian movements in the organizational team, with a white male representative of Attac in an informal way, we learned what he thought of this "unfortunate" situation. "Listen," he said, quite irritated after a while, "We are trying to organize this globalised resistance. If they [women's movements, black, migrant and refugee movements, and gay and lesbian movements] don't come, than that's their problem." No, it continued to echo in our heads, it's his problem, it's the ESF's problem. And by deciding to organize a workshop, to intervene, at the ESF, we made it our problem as well. We went to the ESF to talk about "missing links", we went to put the conflicts on the agenda, and to look for alliances with others putting the conflicts of sexism, racism and heterosexism on the agenda. We see this conflict in terms of a 'creative conflict' which would allow for the presence and participation of 'other' subjects and thus challenge the current way of doing and thinking politics within the 'movement of the movements'. Addressing heteronormativity and whiteness means not only challenging some of the basic categories on which the current conceptualization of politics is constructed, but also opening up possibilities for a different form of political struggle.
It was important to structure our political and theoretical intervention in this way, not only to construct a network of strategic alliances with women and militants from various parts from within and beyond Europe, but also to give shape to new forms of feminist subjectivity, that reflect the embodied complexities we live, and struggle against being reduced simply to the notion of gender or sexual difference. Precisely for this reason it is important to recognize and validate those knowledges and political movements that are marginal within our dominant cultural system and unfortunately within feminism itself too.
In this sense, ESF has been a crucial moment for two reasons. Firstly, ESF showed the growth of the 'movement of the moments' and its role in being a place of creation of critical knowledges that resist institutional politics. Secondly, ESF was crucial for the articulations of radical criticism of capitalist relations of production and political representation. Such articulations, however, remain sites of struggle and conflict, in which the agenda's of new feminist subjectivities often clash head on with more orthodox anti-capitalist visions rooted in an unidimensional concept of power inequality. We have located ourselves in such a way to take distance from such an orthodox capitalism, and a model of militant machismo, as well as the auto-referentiality of certain type of feminism. In order to account for the complexity and plurality of voices that are active today not only in the West but especially on the other continents, it is more appropriate to talk of 'feminisms' instead of the feminism. Even though our impressions of the ESF are not univocally positive, this does not mean that ESF was not a moment of extreme political importance. In fact, during the ESF we have established contacts and started collaboration with a number of women's groups present there, all of which will lead into the organization of a Women's Forum preceding the ESF in Paris next year.