Feminist Friendships and Third World Solidarity: Bangladesh, South Asia, and Worldmaking in the Late Twentieth Century

Talk by Elora Shehabuddin

Founded in 1984 with the goal of preparing for the third UN Women’s Conference in Nairobi the following year, DAWN (Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era) was the first “South-South” feminist network to challenge the racial and economic privilege inherent in hegemonic “Second Wave” white, western, middle-class feminism. It did so by drawing on the histories and lived experiences of women in the Global South and impoverished women and women of color in the Global North. This paper draws on interviews with and memoirs by some of the South Asian (and other) founding members of the group to offer a history of late-twentieth-century Global South feminist organizations that center personal experience, political solidarity, and friendship across differences.

Elora Shehabuddin is a Professor of Gender & Women’s Studies and Global Studies, Director of Global Studies, and Director of the Chowdhury Center for Bangladesh Studies at UC Berkeley. She received her AB in Social Studies from Harvard University and PhD in Politics from Princeton University. She is the author of Sisters in the Mirror: A History of Muslim Women and the Global Politics of Feminism (University of California Press, 2021), Reshaping the Holy: Democracy, Development, and Muslim Women in Bangladesh (Columbia University Press, 2008), and Empowering Rural Women: The Impact of Grameen Bank in Bangladesh (Grameen Bank, 1992). She co-edited, with Ebru Kongar and Jennifer Olmsted, Gender, and Economics in Muslim Communities: Critical Feminist and Postcolonial Analyses (Routledge, 2018). She is associate editor of the Journal of Bangladesh Studies and the Encyclopedia of Women and Islamic Cultures and serves on the editorial board of a new Cambridge University Press book series titled “Muslim South Asia.” Her book Sisters in the Mirror was selected as a 2022 Choice Outstanding Academic Title by the American Library Association and awarded the 2023 Coomaraswamy Book Prize by the Association for Asian Studies. Her doctoral dissertation received the American Political Science Association’s 2002 Aaron Wildavsky Dissertation Award for best dissertation in Religion and Politics.

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