de genere journal / Small Islands? Transnational Solidarity in Contemporary Literature and Arts
Small Islands?Transnational Solidarity in Contemporary Literature and Arts
Editors for this issue: Rita Monticelli and Lorenzo Mari
While revising her ground-breaking essay titled “Under Western Eyes” (1986) for Feminism Without Borders. Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity (2003), Chandra Talpade Mohanty suggested that, however difficult, the conversation between Euro-American, postcolonial and other feminist traditions still envisions the “practice of solidarity” – rather than of “sisterhood” or other related terms – as a specific, transnational form of “anticapitalist struggle”.
Mohanty’s conception of solidarity rests on Jodi Dean’s work, where solidarity is defined by the request “I ask you to stand by me over and against a third” (Dean 1996, 3). The production of a third perspective also hints at the need to unpack “feminist solidarity” itself, by deconstructing its normative limits – producing, for example, ambivalent cases of “transphobia” within certain feminist perspectives (Namaste 2000, Hayes 2003 et al.) – and opening them up to a more inclusive discussion of gender, queer and LGBTQIA-related issues.
This expansion of the approaches to political solidarity – including feminist, gender, queer and LGBTQIA solidarity – also makes it possible to overcome identity politics. As suggested by Judith Butler, solidarity should not be based on the obliteration of the differences between identities; it should be based, instead, on the “synthesis of a set of conflicts”, or, “a mode of sustaining conflict in politically productive ways, a practice of contestation that demands that these movements articulate their goals under the pressure of each other without therefore exactly becoming each other” (1998, 37). While criticizing Laclau and Mouffe’s “chains of equivalence” (1985), which link different political signifiers together on the same horizontal axis, Butler acknowledges the potential of solidarity to disclose the “self-difference” at the core of each political position.
By acknowledging “self-difference” as a basic tenet, this conception of solidarity also provides the opportunity to open towards a transnational perspective – reproducing the aforementioned conversation between Euro-American, postcolonial and other traditions. This transnational perspective is not meant to eradicate the specificities of national and local debates, but rather to illuminate their constitutive complexity. This might be of help in radically different situations, such as the way in which religious and political conservatism in Italy brand “gender” as “ideology” – obfuscating the internal “self-difference” of gender itself, as well as the possibility of national and transnational gender solidarity. A further example would be the academic debate on sexual harassment leading to Sara Ahmed’s resignation (2016) from Goldsmiths, calling for a revision of theories and practices of solidarity in the national and transnational academic environment.
More specifically, Butler’s call for solidarity as “a mode of sustaining conflict in politically productive ways” directly concerns the field of cultural production and, most of all, literary narratives of solidarity. Here, the representations of transnational encounters – as recently, but not exclusively, promoted by diasporic movements worldwide – often reproduce and/or elaborate on specific forms of (feminist, gender and/or LGBTQIA) solidarity, by anticipating or even contesting theoretical models of political solidarity.
Including very different kinds of texts – ranging from the paradigmant case of Queenie and Hortense in Andrea Levy’s Small Island (2004) to the ambivalent relationship depicted in Crialese’s film Terraferma (2011) – solidarity might be interpreted through Dean and Mohanty’s categories, Judith Butler’s (or, conversely, Laclau and Mouffe’s) theoretical framework, as well as other approaches (Allen 1999, Scholz 2008, Hooker 2009 et al.).
Recent developments in the field have suggested that political solidarity might be conveniently applied to transnational and transcultural scenarios, enhancing, thus, “conviviality” (Gilroy 2004) or “hospitality” (Claviez 2013).
We welcome contributions investigating both the theoretical approaches and the fictional representations of political solidarity in contemporary literature, as well as in other artistic practices, which address the following issues and related topics:
- Feminist, gender and LGBTQIA approaches to political solidarity in fiction
- Solidarity vs. identity politics in the constitution of different political subjectivities
- Feminist solidarity and transphobia
- Feminist, gender and LGBTQIA solidarity in the diaspora
- Solidarity: hospitality and/or conviviality?
Contributions addressing these and other related issues might be related to different literary and artistic traditions.
For submissions and queries please write to us at email@example.com
Deadline for abstract proposals (300 words and short bio): 1 February 2017
Articles will be due on 10 May 2017
For submission guidelines and further info please check our submissions page.
Suggested Reading List
Ahmed, Sara. 2016. “Resignation”. Feministkilljoy (blog), 30 May 2016. https://feministkilljoys.com/2016/05/30/resignation/
Allen, Amy. 1999. The Power of Feminist Theory: Domination, Resistance, Solidarity. Boulder: Westview Press.
Butler, Judith. 1998 . “Merely Cultural.” New Left Review, 227: 33-44.
Claviez, Thomas. 2013. The Conditions of Hospitality. Ethics, Politics and Aesthetics on the Threshold of the Possible. New York: Fordham University Press.
Dean, Jodi. 1996. Solidarity of Strangers. Feminism after Identity Politics. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Gilroy, Paul. 2004. After Empire: Melancholia or Convivial Culture? London/New York: Routledge.
Hayes, Cressida J. 2003. “Feminist Solidarity after Queer Theory: The Case of Transgender.” Signs, 28.4: 1093-1120.
Hooker, Juliet. 2009. Race and the Politics of Solidarity. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Laclau, Ernesto and Chantal Mouffe. 1985. Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: Towards a Radical Democratic Politics. New York/London: Verso.
Mohanty, Chandra Talpade. 1986. “Under Western Eyes. Feminist Scholarship and Colonial Discourses.” Boundary 2, 12.3: 333-358.
Mohanty, Chandra Talpade. 2003. Feminism Without Borders. Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity. Durham: Duke University Press.
Namaste, Vivian. 2000. Invisible Lives. The Erasure of Transsexual and Transgendered People. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Scholz, Sally. 2008. Political Solidarity. Philadelphia: Penn State University Press.