Welcome to the Reading Room
This space is forever emerging, containing literature on identity politics, black feminism, ideology and ideological critique on patriarchy, racism, accumulation, appropriation, and annexation and praxis among other ideas and subjects contained in the volumes and books that define and shape our lives.
This page can be re-named ‘the books I have read’ and ‘the learning I have gained’. It is for those looking for good ideas about what to read. It is for those wanting to know more about black feminism, intersectionality and why we read these books.
All writers on this page are respected and valued.
The use of the pronoun ‘we’ is meant as collective and not intended to dismiss, minimise or erase individual experience with the ideas and subject matter engaged.
You are invited to share and exchange knowledge by making a contribution to this page.
Mostly, this page is what we give one another as one generation of women and black women to the many others. More importantly, it is about what younger women and black women think about the topics and subjects and the learning we can do together.
To make a submission or to comment on the contents complete the form below.
Newham Asian Women’s Project. 2012. From Violence to Safety and Freedom. A Photographic Journey of Women. London. NAWP.
The subject of the book is referenced in the title. It is a photographic journey charting the course of women and children fleeing domestic and sexual violence to the safety of a refuge. The journey to the refuge is depicted in photography. The photography is about a sense of belonging for the women and children who use safe space to reconstruct their lives and then move on to independent accommodation of their own. For those of us who work in the VAWG sector, we know the journey very well. However, the book requires us to think differently. What is valued? What is kept? What significance do items and objects hold where safety and freedom are allusive ideas at first and then, dreams to achieve? The book removes the journey from the realm of technical and method in other words, away from the tick box risk assessment, the support plan questionnaire and a communications log. It reconstructs narrative using language that is illustrative, symbolic and existential. Some of the images depicted in the book, as selected by the women themselves depict memories of life before the refuge while some show the reality of life in a refuge. The photo of the CCTV screen is a reminder of simultaneous events occurring in reality – the risk of violence and struggle for safety and freedom. Most of the images connect to nature and memory. A vase of flowers, a single leaf no longer colourful lying on the ground and a woman embracing freedom in an open field of weeds. A few of the images depict an object. These are poignant as they come from long ago and arrive at the refuge as remnants. All of the images are still in time while the life surrounding them is transforming from violence to safety ad freedom. One can learn from ‘violence to safety and freedom’ and by looking at reality from different perspectives that such representations and their locations transmit knowledge of experience that require understanding.
Posted by BBanga
Mies, Maria. 1986. Patriarchy and Accumulation on a World Scale. Women in the International Division of Labour. London. Zed Books
Discrediting the myth of man the hunter and woman as provider of subsistence starts an interesting dialogue leading to discussion on the predatory mode of appropriation realised under feudalism and capitalism where women are private property. The world we live in today raises a critical economic question about the models of accumulation leading to widening of the class, race and gender gaps and manifested in gross levels of inequality and injustice around the world. The book was published in 1986 when the new neo-liberal global market re-organisation restructure took force. While this level of oppression seen today was evident in patriarchal modes of production, appropriation and accumulation, the transition from social welfare to neo-liberalism has prompted yet again, the need for transformation of the economic and social structures that control our lives. Patriarchy is critical in analysis and helps to understand why sexual violence and rape increase under capitalism as a location where social, political and economic tensions reside. Historically the prevalence of violence against women and girls is traced. In patriarchy, there is a historical imperative to subjugate and oppress women. One can learn that there is a necessity for a new and alternative way of thinking and a need for total transformation of relationships based on inherent and structural tensions. As a black feminist reader one can appreciate a feminist economy and feminist concept of labour as one that must not only address but also name intersectionality as a framework for ‘creating’ in the conceptualisation of the new thinking.
Posted by BBanga
Mohanty, Chandra Talpade. 2003. Feminism Without Borders. Decolonising Theory, Practicing Solidarity. Durham. Duke University Press.
This time it is about all the toplines | headlines that jump off the pages that construct multiple narratives about black women’s lives and why black women matter. Institutional racism and the idea of blackness as a broad-based project dealing with black women’s realities and (ideologies), project of decolonisation as a collective and personal practice of identity politics reshaped from the state’s notion of ourselves as defined in colonial and contemporary capitalism, the self and collective agency considering sexualisation and racialisation of women’s work to deconstruct the idea of women’s work as a naturalised category, and the race industry built on the invisibility of women’s labour in terms of caste, class and race. Does more need to be said? Perhaps to address the call for feminist solidarity in transforming our world, community and now, even cyber space. One can learn why race, gender, caste, class, sexuality among other oppression and markers of political identity matter in the making of new ways of thinking and being.
Posted by BBanga
Mohanty, Chandra Talpade, Russo, Ann and Lourdes Torres. 1991. Third World Women and the Politics of Feminism. Indiana. Indiana University Press.
Defining the term ‘third world’ is discussed upfront for the same reasons that the term always requires definition and contextualisation. It is historical and political, it is also contemporary and relevant. The latter is suggested because the struggle against the capitalist imperialist world view continues to be a necessary point of reference. Referencing the work directly, third world refers to postcolonial or developing countries specifically the ‘colonised, neo-colonised and decolonised countries (of Asian, Africa and Latin America) whose economic and political structures have been deformed within the colonial process’ and to black and indigenous peoples around the globe. The history of colonialization and relationships of structural dominance make it a relevant analytical term. Focusing on one section of the book called the feminisation of the informal economy, we understand that the world’s reserve labour supply and labour supply for the informal economy is comprised of women. Applying the term above, it is possible to geographically and historically locate this reserve labour supply. As a black feminist, it is critical to understand how this reality affects the value of black women’s work or that of third world women around the world and the capacity of black women to secure and sustain appropriate work to manage and support families as heads of households given that such dynamics are structurally manifested and therefore, non-responsive to changes in production, appropriation and accumulation. One can learn how structural inequality creates a replacement labour force of third world women based on exploitative and unequal relationships to ‘productive’ (accumulation-driven) sectors and that such dynamics are based on disproportionate representation of diverse groups of black women living in poverty, working in exploitation conditions and under-represented in processes where decisions are made and policies formulated.
Posted by BBanga
Shakur, Assata.1988. Assata, An Autobiography. London. Zed Books.
Assata addresses many issues in her autobiography about movement, identity, racism, progressive political spaces and state assault on black people, communities of colour and poor people. It is an autobiography detailing her experiences and while it is easy to define those experiences as her struggle against the FBI or the police state in the United States referenced as COINTELPRO, the narrative really goes beyond this focusing on the historical fact of racism. With racism, colonialism, subjugation and displacement are also relevant subjects shaping experience. It is not possible to discuss all of these issues at length in this very brief annotation of the book. History is one subject that can be discussed as it brings together all experience to potentially serve as a catalyst for and of movement and it also stands as a reminder of the struggle for recovery where there has been systematic erasure. For example, the re-telling of history to school children that is void of representation of the diversity that comprises it and from truthful narrative or the whitewashing of topics such as slavery and the Armageddon against first nations in the ‘Americas’. History is also told from the perspective of consciousness and movement that is, the importance of individuals involved in movements to ensure that they do not replicate the behaviours that produce inequality and injustice highlighting the importance of political education as a critical consciousness raising tool. One can learn from Assata about struggle as internationalism, the importance of connection between oppressed people and knowledge formation in identity politics.
Posted by BBanga
True, Jacqui. 2012. The Political Economy of Violence against Women. Oxford. Oxford University Press.
The World Health Organisation proclaimed that violence against women is a global pandemic. It is generally agreed that in this century violence against women is a critical human rights issue and addressing VAWG is necessary for fundamental change around the world but it requires a level playing field (inclusive of the realities and experiences of black women), equality and justice. The political economy approach suggests that change must be structural in nature addressing inherent inequalities imbedded in policies, institutions and organisational cultures that create the conditions of impunity, tolerance and acceptance of violence against women. The idea of prevention is crucial to the change discourse and especially under current policy initiatives where prevention is both marginalised and minimalised as a VAWG intervention. A key section of the book discusses the absence of women in peace, reconciliation and reconstruction processes around the world while women and children are disproportionately the victims of war and conflict and continue to be so in the post conflict and peace-time transition to stability and peace. What nature of peace emerges where there is systematic exclusion of those voices who are the most directly affected? It goes beyond ‘disaster capitalism’ as referenced and reparations and towards a concept of gendered justice, representation and equality necessitating a global-level restructuring of the way we conceive aid, peace and reconciliation and re-building efforts specifically addressing gender as a key component of all effort. One can learn the importance of a political economy approach addressing inequality as a structural problem and as a transformative and decolonising process where women, black women, migrant women, refugee women, women of first nations, lesbian and bisexual women, women living in conditions of poverty, women in post-conflict and peace building nations, women of the ‘South’ in transitioning and developing economies, among many other groups of women, are included through representation, involvement, in leadership, as policy-makers, justice advocates and seekers, and builders of new economies.
Posted by BBanga
Vogel, Lise. 2013. Marxism and the Oppression of Women. Towards a Unitary Theory. Chicago. Haymarket Books.
Do women form a class? Can the material basis for discrimination against women be addressed if childcare and so-called women’s work is socialised in the public sphere? What labour power does reproduction hold? These are loaded terms in Marxism and for socialist, leftist and radical feminists and agreement can vary as explored in this work. While it is not possible to explore these questions in this space the idea that the problem is not just dualism for example, focusing on sex and class oppression to the exclusion of racial or national oppression. This is important as there is a fallacy of unity and solidarity in feminism and where such a notion exists, the responses to such questions will be inadequate. So what is a Marxist to do?
Further in the text there is a comparison of two concepts: the dual systems perspective where women’s oppression derives from their situation within an autonomous system of sex division of labour and male supremacy contrasted with the social reproduction perspective rooted in women’s differential location within social reproduction and based on material foundations. The latter rests on the notion that women’s oppression is historical not theoretical where the historical legacy is characterised by patriarchy and male domination is institutionalised. Patriarchy grows from tensions in social and economic relationships. However, moving from dual systems thinking, diverse women’s experiences remain excluded as such relationships are impacted by many lived examples of oppression and struggle. What one learns is that there is no (or not yet) a unitary theory as women’s location vis-a-vie materialism – relations of production and reproduction – are complex and multi-layer.
As a black feminist I am compelled to explore the same questions using intersectionality but not for the purpose of a unitary theory, but rather as a politically, historically relevant and gendered approach rooted in praxis, which itself implies multiple systems and experiences. Why would this be an appropriate line of inquiry? Women’s relationships to production and reproduction are shaped by unorganised and informal relationships to the material for example, women in domestic work facing exploitation and sexual oppression where women who are already disenfranchised make-up the majority ‘workforce’ in the sector or the informal economy as a site for migrant and other women with insecure immigration status facing structural inequality prohibiting movement within stratified systems and thus falling outside the organisation of labour. To address such inequality, intersectionality becomes a relevant pursuit.
Posted by BBanga