DPDF Student Fellowship Competition > DPDF Student Fellowship Competition 2012

Gender Justice in the Era of Human Rights

As the dominant model for making claims against individuals and collectivities (primarily states) in the contemporary world, rights-based frameworks have had significant success in advancing the claims of women and men for political representation and legal protections. Yet other ways of seeking gender justice – such as customary and religious modes of dispute resolution, collective protest, and vigilante justice –have historically functioned and continue to function alongside and sometimes instead of rights-based approaches. These alternative regimes are predicated on distinct ideas of justice, masculinity and femininity, personhood, agency, morality, culture and gendered power, and employ different mechanisms for implementing and enforcing outcomes.  The field of gender justice explores and compares the historical and contemporary content, form, effectiveness and experience of diverse approaches to identifying and rectifying political, economic, social and cultural inequalities between and among men and women across the globe, including “women’s human rights.” 

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Field Directors

Dorothy Hodgson
Professor & Graduate Program Director, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, Anthropology [ bio ]

Dorothy Hodgson is Professor and Chair of the Department of Anthropology at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. Her research encompasses historical and feminist anthropology, cultural politics, colonialism, indigenous rights, and development, among other areas. Her long-term research experience has been in Tanzania, primarily among Maasai pastoralists and agro-pastoralists. Hodgson is the author of Once Intrepid Warriors (Indiana UP, 2004), The Church of Women (Indiana UP, 2005), and most recently Being Maasai, Becoming Indigenous: Postcolonial Politics in a Neoliberal World (Indiana UP, 2011). Her current projects explore changing paradigms of gender justice and collective action among Maasai from the precolonial period to the present and the ethics and politics of ethnographic research. She received her PhD in Anthropology from the University of Michigan.

Pamela Scully
Professor of Women's Studies and African Studies, Emory University, Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies [ bio ]

Pamela Scully is Professor and Chair of the Department of Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Emory University. She holds a joint appointment with the Institute of African Studies. Her research interests focus on comparative women's and gender history, with an emphasis on slavery and emancipation, and, more recently, on the relevance of history and feminist theory to ensuring women's rights in post-conflict societies. Her most recent book is Sara Baartman and the Hottentot Venus: a Ghost Story and a Biography, co-authored with Clifton Crais (Princeton UP, 2009). Other works include Liberating the Family? Gender and British Slave Emancipation in the Rural Western Cape, South Africa, 1823-1853 (Heinemann, 1997), and Gender and Slave Emancipation in the Atlantic World (Duke UP, 2005), a collection co-edited with Diana Paton of the University of Newcastle. Scully is currently researching and writing on development, transitional justice, and sexual violence, with a focus on Liberia. She received her Ph.D. in history from the University of Michigan.


Sarah K. Bellows-Blakely
Washington University in St. Louis, History
Gender, Childhood, and Contested Rights: Kenya and the History of Globalized Girlhood, 1945 - 1990.
[ project summary ]
Girls' rights have been contested topics in Kenya and across the "developing world." Despite the existence of rich scholarship on controversies surrounding girlhood in colonial Kenya, little work exists showing why girls' social roles were so contested immediately before and after Kenya gained independence from Britain in 1963. During that time, national and international development advocates treated girls' access to education as a staple of national progress, contentious debates occurred over clitordectomy, and parents and politicians worried about the supposedly corrupting influence of city life on their daughters' virtue. In light of such discussions, I propose to explore the meanings of girlhood in Kenya between 1945 and the 1980s against a backdrop of contested visions of individual, national, and international rights. Using a combination of archival and oral sources, I intend to address questions such as: Why have girls in Kenya been singled out as vulnerable victims in need of saving? How did local and globalized attitudes toward gender, childhood, and citizenship influence the meanings of girlhood and politicize girls' status in unique ways? Finally, what links existed between understandings of individual and national development and the socialization of girls into virtuous and prosperous young women?
Julie Andrea Chaparro-Buitrago
University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Anthropology
The Promise of Empowerment: Indigenous Women, Forced Sterilizations, and Agency in Peru
[ project summary ]
In 1995 the Peruvian government launched the Reproductive Health and Family Planning Program, 1996-2000 that aimed at empowering poor women through the defense and enforcement of their reproductive rights. Contrary to this general goal, the program led to the massive sterilization of indigenous and low-income women. While women are the direct 'objects' of these governmental strategies of empowerment, their subjectivity and experience remains noticeably silent. Public policy analyses hardly grasp the layered dimension of women's agency and often present them as defenseless. My research aims at making visible women's 'testimonies' of agency: how do they confront this (patriarchal) strategy of empowerment and maneuver the attempts to control their reproductive lives? How do notions about reproduction, family structure, and parenthood navigate within these state-sponsored sterilizations projects? Theoretically, this project is framed around debates that address the tensions between freedom, reproductive politics, and the state: How did this program, designed to ensure women's reproductive rights and their freedom as actors, become the platform to enforce practices against women's reproductive liberties?
Huibin A. Chew
University of Southern California, American Studies & Ethnicity
The Revolution Will Come Home: Gendered Violence and Transformative Organizing from the Philippines to the U.S.
[ project summary ]
Why is gender a 'wedge issue' for many progressive organizations that promote racial and economic justice in the U.S. – even as certain Global South movements have incorporated gender equity as integral to their broader agendas for radical change? What is challenging, or generative, about making gendered violence visible – for poor people's movements and the communities they organize? Using interdisciplinary oral history, ethnographic, and archival methods, my dissertation will explore the gender politics of community-based organizing around displacement and economic exploitation in Manila, Los Angeles, and New York City since the 1970s. In Manila, I examine how squatter women organized through GABRIELA challenge intimate partner abuse – in tandem with struggles for housing. In Los Angeles, the Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance (KIWA) plans to politicize gender oppression in conjunction with a workplace rights campaign – building on organizational reforms to address its own internal incidents of sexual harassment. In New York City, influenced in part by Philippine social movements, FIERCE mobilizes homeless LGBTQ youth against gentrification, through an intersectional analysis of how class, race, gender, and sexuality impact access to space. I trace links between groups' internal dynamics and political agendas – exploring how a Global South women's movement can inform U.S. community-based organizing.
Cynthia Francica
University of Texas at Austin, Comparative Literature
Ghostly Violence in Women's Literature, Visual Arts and Cinema in the United States and the Southern Cone: A Comparative Study
[ project summary ]
I will conduct a comparative literary and cultural analysis of the works of a group of women writers, filmmakers and installation artists in the US and the Southern Cone from the 1970s' to the present. Positioned within the field of hemispheric studies, my work engages these two traditions in a much needed, thus far postponed and suggestively resisted critical conversation. Reformulating Avery Gordon's 'ghostly matters,' those "echoes…of that which has been lost but is still present among us in the form of …portents" (x), I posit the concept of 'ghostly violence' to enable a hemispheric critical conversation based on literary and artistic works that revolve around gender conflict and negotiate social relations to past and present histories. In what ways do the haunting affects of gender violence re/appear across the languages of literature and visual arts across the Americas? May these ghosts of violence be the missing echoes that must be heard to fully comprehend the work of reparation that lies ahead? I explore the artistic and literary works through close reading, the methodology of literary studies, coupled with localized historical, sociological and cultural analyses. I make use of the framework of queer theory, specifically queer temporalities, and feminism.
Elise Franklin
Boston College, History
The Decolonization of Feminism: Feminist Theory and Politics in France and Algeria, 1945-1981
[ project summary ]
This dissertation will examine transnational discourses between French and Algerian feminists from 1945 to 1981. It will argue that feminism operated as an important tool for questioning the political and legislative system in their respective countries. This dissertation will also analyze the political and social changes that precipitated and encouraged feminism's growth during that period. Between 1945, when French women earned the vote and 1980, when Socialist François Mitterrand was elected president, women became a major source of political contention and change. Recently enfranchised, they began to seek equal treatment under outmoded laws. This period also witnessed the political, social, and cultural transformation of Algeria from a part of the French empire to its own sovereign nation. Even prior to the start of "second-wave" feminism (1969 in France), women's activism was a common mode of protest used in Algeria and France to critique political and social hypocrisies. Though feminism is historically and contextually conditioned, this dissertation will seek to establish how ideologies about feminism helped foster political change. From the end of the Algerian War in 1962 onward, it will argue feminism became more transnationally connected, when Algerian and French women had similar democratic frameworks to problematize, reform, or revolutionize.
María Belén Hernando Llorens
University of Wisconsin-Madison, Curriculum and Instruction
Imagining Lives in the Global City: Gender Justice and Schooling of Young Immigrant Women
[ project summary ]
Neoliberal debates on education and achievement tend to present women as the winners of globalized economies in the Global North. Simplistic comparative reports presenting “girls” as out-performing “boys” and evidencing the increase in women´s access into higher education seem to have triggered the ostracism of gender justice goals from mainstream educational policy. Nevertheless, schooling in a time of neoliberal globalization is unevenly modulating young women´s lives and social futures on the basis of gender, race/ethnicity, and class. Although for some women education in the global era may be a key for social and economic mobility and liberation, for others still may serve to perpetuate exclusion. The aim of this ethnography is to explore the role that different modes of gender justice play in the process of identity construction of young immigrant women living in the edges of a global city, Madrid. What are the different modes of gender justice operating at their school? When, how, why and by whom are the different modes of gender justice operating in their school mobilized or contested? What are the gendered cultural and pedagogical practices? I draw on youth narrations of contemporary cultural practice (interviews, focus groups, drawings, pictures, and video recordings).
Katherine E.L. Hunt
University of Nebraska, Political Science
The Influence of Domestic Ideologies and International Women's Rights Treaties on Reproductive Policies in South Korea
[ project summary ]
The United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) is a treaty that promotes many liberal women's rights. However, governments may only uphold parts of this treaty depending on what is in the national interest. For example, the South Korean government reports that the implementation of family-friendly policies provides for women's equality in the workplace as in accordance with CEDAW. Yet the NGO Shadow Report claims that the government of South Korea only enforces liberal women's rights that support nationalist goals to increase the birthrate, while avoiding engagement with other women's rights outlined in CEDAW. NGOs in Korea are concerned that the government uses CEDAW as a way to enforce illiberal pronatalist policies under the guise of "gender justice." What is the process through which governments highjack international liberal rights norms to promote policies that are in the interests of nationalist goals? My research contributes to broader conversations pertaining to international laws/treaties, their implications for gender justice in domestic politics, and discussions regarding government responses to low birthrates among advanced industrialized nations. By studying the case of South Korea, further comparisons with East Asian countries and countries facing low birthrates become possible.
Rebecca A. Kruger
Columbia University, Sociomedical Sciences
Fair and Just?: Intersections of Gender, Development, and Rights in an All Women’s Fairtrade Co-operative in Northern Nicaragua
[ project summary ]
Recent research has evidenced that, like many development interventions which have gender justice and women's rights among their stated goals, the fast-growing Fair Trade movement has struggled with how to realize these aims in practice. (Fair Trade USA; Bacon, 2010; Rice, 2010; Lyon, 2008) One response has been the emergence of women's only Fair Trade co-operatives in coffee-growing regions around the globe, particularly in Latin America. In turn, this has marked an increase in the branding of this coffee (i.e. Café Feminino from Peru and Las Hermanas from Nicaragua) as specifically "empowering" for women, in addition to—and above—the Fair Trade promise. Such efforts at specialty marketing women's labor are increasingly viewed as successful and replicable strategies for increasing women's development and rights through "trade not aid." (Gates Foundation) Yet, the economic and social processes through which these women's co-operatives affect their members—and under what circumstances they influence gender equity and rights—is in need of deeper ethnographic understanding. My research explores these intersections of gender, development, and rights through a comparative ethnography of a recently formed, all women's Fair Trade co-operative with an older, mixed gender Fair Trade co-operative in a coffee-growing community in Northern Nicaragua.
Alexandria Ruble
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, History
“Equal but not the Same”: Debates and Policies on Gender Equality in East and West Germany, 1945-1965
[ project summary ]
My dissertation, "Equal but not the Same": Debates and Policies on Gender Equality in East and West Germany, 1945-1965," will compare the controversy over gender equality and related attempts to implement policies that fostered more gender justice in East and West German society in the first two decades after 1945. The Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) from May 1949 guaranteed equal rights of men and women, but the meaning of gender equality remained highly contested among politicians, the media, and society. The Basic Law required the implementation of gender equality in all areas of the legal system, a demand that was highly disputed and only slowly realized. Similarly, the constitution of the German Democratic Republic (GDR), ratified in October 1949, established that men and women were equal. The East German Parliament also passed legislation that demanded gender equality, but in reality, women in the communist GDR, too, were not equal to men. I am especially interested in the role of different groups of women in partisan and nonparty women's organizations in these struggles for gender equality and justice on both sides of the Iron Curtain in Cold War East and West Germany.
Jasmine Leah Samara
Harvard University, Anthropology
The Politics of “Choice” in Greece: Debating Islamic Law, Women’s Options, and European Obligations
[ project summary ]
Greece's policy of allowing Muslims in Thrace to choose between Islamic law or Greek civil law for family law matters presents a revealing site to explore the politics of human rights in Europe. Human rights advocates assert that this system violates the rights of Muslim women, who are not free to exercise genuine choice and must be empowered by eliminating the Islamic law option. Through ethnographic research and interviews, I examine: 1) How do activists, scholars, and officials engage the concept of "choice" - what data or representations are relied on to assess its existence (or absence) for Muslim women? How do activists navigate potential contradictions within strategies, for example where generalized representations of Muslim men as denying choice could conflict with their own anti-discrimination work? 2) What role do Greek Muslims (e.g. religious authorities, women providing testimonials) play in this debate? How are forms of authoritative knowledge on "Muslim" experience(s) produced and circulated? 3) How is language regarding European obligations deployed, and what local and international power dynamics does this suggest? This understudied case can contribute to the anthropology of human rights, advocacy and expertise, and illuminate contested policymaking processes affecting European Muslims, particularly involving notions of "choice".
Emily Springer
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, Sociology
Frontiers of Quantification – (Un)Intended Consequences of ‘Women’s Empowerment’ Metrics in the new Green Revolution for Africa
[ project summary ]
My dissertation explores the frontiers of Strathernian (2001) 'audit cultures' by examining the quantification of 'women's empowerment' through agricultural development project evaluation. Recent initiatives have positioned small-holder women farmers as the solution to food insecurity and poverty. Under neoliberalism, development institutions embraced a culture of quantification and measurement ('auditing'), which seeks to measure 'women's empowerment' and mandates data disaggregation by sex. Theories of audit and quantification suggest different conceptualizations of gender justice are present, yet marginalized and delegitimized in the face of metrics. This research interrogates quantified forms of women's human rights as agentic phenomena with unknown consequences on women's lives while exposing alternative modes of gender justice that may be well-positioned to promote locally-sustainable 'women's empowerment.' Through a multi-sited ethnography, inspired by Smithean institutional ethnography, this research will explore three questions using the case of gendered agricultural development projects in Morogoro region, Tanzania. First, how are women's human rights being quantified, measured, and prioritized in the new 'Green Revolution for Africa'? Second, how is 'women's empowerment' envisioned by farming communities? Third, how is this evaluation culture altering perceptions of 'progress' with respect to 'women's empowerment'?
Ruth E. Velasquez Estrada
University of Texas at Austin, Anthropology
Grassroots Peacemaking: The Paradox of Reconciliation in El Salvador
[ project summary ]
My dissertation research examines post-conflict "grassroots peacemaking" efforts among ex-combatants of El Salvador's 1980-1992 civil war. While previous scholarship on transitional justice understands their practices as "reconciliation," my initial research demonstrates that many ex-combatants reject this term. This is not a rejection of the concept of "reconciliation," per se, but rather a critique of the official, state-led reconciliation process and its accompanying discourse. In this context, my research explores ex-combatants' coexistence practices and focuses on the following questions: What social conditions support "grassroots peacemaking"? What role do these efforts play within contemporary social conflicts? How do gender dynamics affect the notions of justice embedded in these processes? Examining these questions will help me address the overarching paradox of why ex-combatants engaged in reconciliatory practices refuse to label their relationships as reconciliation, and consequently what their efforts reveal about power relations and desires for peace and justice in the postwar era. My methodology includes participant observation and ethnography in San Salvador. I will conduct data analysis on historical and legislative texts, and on the open-ended interviews with ex-combatants, government officials, and human rights organizations. Employing "activist research" methodology, I will discuss my work with informants and incorporate their suggestions throughout the process.