Against Empire (Feminisms, Racism and The West)

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Item Code: NAF862
Author: Zillah Eisenstein
Publisher: Kali for Women
Language: English
Edition: 2004
ISBN: 9788188965052
Pages: 256
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 8.5 inch X 5.5 inch
Weight 330 gm
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Book Description

About the Book


Zillah Eisenstein urges a relook at the fundamental categories through which we perceive our world-historical, political, epistemological, even moral. The sweep of her concerns ranges across the world, challenging the Bush administration's headlong recourse to war that is justified in the name of liberty and democracy. She brings to the fore feminisms other-than-western, and urges the recognition of the flow of ideas and attitudes between the West and other parts of the globe-India, Africa and the Islamic world. Presenting a picture of women's activism across the world, she critiques the relentless march of globalization and the resultant shrinking of democratic possibilities. She throws light on the enormous potential latent in women's activism-a 'polyversal' humanism that spreads greater understanding, gentleness and peace.


About the Author


Zillah Eisenstein is Professor of Politics at Ithaca College, New York. A renowned political activist, she has engaged with feminist theory in North America for the past twenty-five years. Building coalitions across women's differences, her scholarship has ranged across a broad spectrum of concerns: the black/white divide in the USA; the struggles of Serb and Muslim women in Bosnia; the women health workers in Cuba; environmental concerns in Ghana; fundamentalism in Egypt and Afghanistan, the interface between socialism and feminism in the organization of unions and women workers in India. She has tracked the shrinking of liberal democracy and the aggressive spread of imperial, militarist globalization. She has exposed the masculine bias of law and corporatist multiculturalism. Her recent books include: Hatreds: Racialized and Sexualized Conflicts in the 21st Century (1996); Global Obscenities: Patriarchy, Capitalism and the Lure of Cyberfontasy (1998) and ManMade Breast Cancers (2001).




I started writing this book long before September 11, 2001, and its aftermaths in Mghanistan and Iraq. These events have become a part of my story because the historical record demands this. This book would have been crafted and framed differently if these moments had not happened. I have no other justification for some of the particular sites I have chosen than that they have demanded my attention. I hope it will become clear how I think every political moment is informed by a series of befores and alreadys. There are histories to expose in any contemporary moment, be it September 11, 2001, or the US wars of/on 'terror'. This book is about exposing these silenced and misrepresented histories.


If power is to dominate effectively it must not reveal itself fully to others. The seeing and knowing of power is therefore always partial and incomplete. My purpose here is to uncover the relations and histories of power more fully, in order to see and know as much as possible. Ultimately this book is an attempt to see more, to know more about how differences and rich variety are silenced in the authorized narratives of history. My purpose is to move towards a more inclusive viewing of humanity by looking for absences, listening for silences, and imagining beyond my own limits.


This writing takes threads of different established stories and cautiously t?es to sew them together in new form. So there is no one theme that simply summarizes my attempt to envision the polyversal humanity that inhabits truly democratic theory. But at the heart of my discussion is the insistence that the so-called West is as much, fiction as real; as much appropriation as originary; as exclusionary as it is promissory. I also offer the idea that the West and Western feminisms have no monopoly of authorship and that alternative feminisms have long thrived 'elsewhere' in multiple fashion. As well, I sometimes see the misuse of women's rights discourse in imperial form as extraordinarily problematic for women living outside the West. These thoughts set the frame for looking at Black America, India, the Islamic world and Africa in order to see their unique conceptions of inclusive democratic possibility; and at the slave trade as a sexualized economy determined by race. I argue that the sexualized black slave trade was an early form of globalization that still frames power today. These are connected thoughts with no simple narration.


Instead I offer a rethinking of sex, and race, and class in order to rewrite universalized rights for polyvocal needs. I use the human body as my inclusive site for humanity in order to dislocate the West/non-West divide in order to encourage the strength and vision to change ourselves and the world for the better of us all. And my argument unravels in strange ways.


A few caveats before I begin, so to speak. Although there are no simple starts to anything, I start the book with the US wars on Iraq. Language itself has become part of the problem of these wars. I will not use the Bush rhetoric of "war on terrorism" because war itself is terror- filled; because the US creates more terror than it receives; because the word 'terrorism' has become a reactionary tool for mobilizing blind patriotism, smothering dissent, and enforcing silence. This does not mean that I do not think that extremist fanatics create misery for everyone, everywhere, and that I am not committed to ridding the world of this enormous pain.


By the time you are reading this book there will be a new set of moments to understand. Much of what you will read will already be part of the befores. There are no simple beginnings or endings. President Bush declared victory over Iraq on May 1, 2003 and yet the war continues. On August 27, 2003, 'post' -war GI deaths exceeded the number of deaths during the official war.


I am trying to think and see beyond the sites that are put in view. I am writing from the US in summer 2003, where Bush and Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell and Rice, Wolfowitz and Perle are in charge of us. Millions protested against the 2003 war in Iraq, but it began and proceeded despite an active anti-war movement at home and abroad. Supposedly the US intervened in Mghanistan and Iraq to bring freedom and democracy 'elsewhere'. In both these instances women's bodies were key to these war fantasies. In the first, Afghan women were clad in the enforced burqa; in the second US women prisoners of war were symbolized in freely chosen khaki. Yet, these interventions have not brought freedom, nor democracy.


The rest of the world viewed a war that we did not see here. Russell Smith says that "the coverage of this war in the press and on television has been disgusting". 2 Our so-called voluntary military is shrinking so the Marines enforce a 'stop-loss' order and the Army declares an "involuntary extension" on those who might choose to retire." It is disproportionately our working class of color, many of whom are reservists, who fight for the US abroad. This is not just, nor fair, nor democratic. The rich and powerful will become richer and more powerful from this war; and the poor will become poorer.

The US wars of! on 'terror' were in process before the massacre of September 11, 2001. The Gulf War of 1991 never really ended. The wars ani of 'terror' have longstanding agendas with complicated histories. We must remember to remember how the present is structured by its distant and closer past: the slave trade, the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima, the CIA-led coup in Chile against Allende, the war in Afghanistan. Each is layered and silenced into the present.


I start with the aftermath of September 11, 2001 and this is not truly the start. I look to find the befores and alreadys and afters. I work back- wards to the slave trade, and across to Mahatma Gandhi and Aurobindo Ghose and W.E.B. DuBois and Ida B. Wells who tell the stories of resistance, and forward to Afghanistan and Iraq and the next 'elsewhere'. I am in this moment of a "war on terrorism" and see wars of 'terror'. This book, then, goes back and forth between the terror of the West from before and the wars of! on 'terror' now.


We need to remember and keep remembering, as Kenzaburo Oe asks of us, to use shame and humiliation as weapons in the movement against nuclear arms, and militarism, and global imperialism.' Besides remembering I also try to create a memory of the racialized and sexualized sites of women's specificity within these befores and alreadys. And I want to build context for seeing this present moment. Each and every life lost on September 11 was a horrible, horrific loss. And, yet, the AIDS pandemic also that means 2.3 million deaths occurred in 2001 in sub-Saharan Africa which means the deaths of two September 11 s happened each day of that year."


In writing this book I sometimes use my own personal stories as a way of locating myself within the larger parameters of the globe. I feel more keenly than ever that I must try to voice earnestly the privileges and the blinders that go with living in the US as it becomes a more singular dominating global force. Tales of my personal life locate me and expose my limitations simultaneously. The personal begins to tell the political as the local also involves the global. My hope is that each domain elucidates the other.


I interrogate my starting points contextually and then seek to take them into my discussions of Gandhi and Malcolm X. It is significant that I now, again, choose to re-read and remember W. E. B. DuBois and Ida B. Wells in order better to envision struggles for democracy. It is also enormously important that I wonder again about the originary locations of feminisms, and see more variety and complexity than I did two decades ago. My critique is in part of myself as of the West and much of the journey of the book is defined by this personal path. Many of my sites are only understood by seeing my own limitations as part of the story. And, there are also always other sites to visit and uncover.


If I am right in believing that context always matters and is con- straining, then this is a difficult time in which to create openings for seeing more. Neoliberalism has trumped the globe. The Bush administrations have orchestrated the corruption, deceit, and exploitation of ordinary folk by corporate America. Enron, Tyco, World Com., Xerox: all falsify the records of billions of dollars of profits in order to satisfy insatiable greed.


I read in the New York Times of a young boy who is abused and killed in a foster home while the overworked social worker has too many cases to be able to check on him regularly. Later that day I go to the airport and see fifteen federal workers standing around monitoring the new surveillance equipment. I am thinking how wrong this all is: spending money on building a police state while so many other critical human needs are ignored. People are losing jobs, cannot keep or get health insurance, pantries are empty of food long before new deliveries arrive, kindergartens are being closed for lack of funds, and billions are spent on war. Across the globe more than 75 percent of the people are poor, while in 2001,826 million were starving, and millions of children were dying of preventable diseases.


The Bush 2003 tax cut proposal continued this neoliberal agenda: downsize all governmental responsibility except for war-making. Mean- while 32 percent of the tax cut benefits will go to society's richest 1 percent. Most families' tax decrease will be less than 0 while those families averaging over million a year will get tax breaks of about 80,000. Eight million people, mostly low-income taxpayers, will r receive no benefit at all from the tax revision.


A class war is being waged in the US while all eyes look abroad. This war is not new to the US or the needs of global capitalism. The 1980 presidential election of Ronald Reagan authorized the windfall for the upper class. Since this time, neoconservative/neoliberal, Republicans and Democrats alike, have allowed an assault on the gains made by the civil rights and women's movements in the US. This neoliberal war, fought against the role of publicly responsible government, has success- fully dismantled the social-welfare state and put in its place a security- military complex better suited for empire building.


The US is a battlefield of sorts, with affirmative action, abortion rights, discrimination law all under severe attack. Instead of challenging the racist divisions of labor and class privilege, President Bush uses Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice to represent a diversity that equalizes the multiple forms of discrimination, prejudice and exclusion that are found in multiracial and pluricultural societies It will be no surprise, as my story unfolds, that the greatest struggles of resistance are located with antiracist feminisms against empire. It is these feminisms - historical and contemporary - that remain silenced and invisible to much of the world.


As I write, the remilitarized US state is proceeding with new abandon towards unilateral empire. The downsizing and restructuring of the US economy through the 1980s and 1990s has now been accompanied by a restructuring of the CIA, FBI, and Pentagon into a centralized Department of Homeland Security, headed by Tom Ridge. The Department has a budget of billion and employs 170,000. This new security nation-state monitors and conducts surveillance in the name of democracy. But many have become too accustomed to what Slavoj Zizek calls sanitized and unreal lives. People wish to believe that the malignant qualities of life can be removed from their content: coffee without caffeine, cream without fat, beer without alcohol, war without casual- ties, democracy without its messiness and freedoms."


I have written this book, which is messy, in order to move beyond the constraints of US imperial global policy. It is my humble contribution to the struggle to see and know more in order to resist domination and create a healthy, peaceful, justice-filled world.











Unilateral Empire:



The United Nations of America



Global Capital and Empire



The Wars of Ion 'Terror'



The Gulf Wars , 1991, 1998, 2003



Humanizing Militarism



Bush's Crusades



Thinking to See:



Secrets, Silences, and 'Befores'



My Local Beginnings



Colonized Bodies and Seeing



On Western Universalism



About Thinking



Creating Comas and Sameness



Deterritorializing the View



Cannibalizing the 'Other'



Discovering Difference in the Imperial Gaze



AIDS and People's Humanity



Humanizing Humanity:



Secrets of the Universal



Abstract Universals and Their Exclusions



Truths and Reconciliation



The Silences of Whiteness



Specifying Abstracted Gender



Polyversal Humanity



Starting Again, Now



Remixing It, Again, Now



Fictions of the West:



Their De-racing and De-sexing



Fictionalizing Civilization and Modernity



Patriarchal Colonialism and Its 'Others'



North America and Slavery



Science Fictions and Racialized Slavery



Imperial Democracy and the Slave Trade



The Sexualizing of Enslaved Women



Colonialism and Difference:



The 'Othering' of Alternative Democracies



Polyversal Universals



Gandhi's Democratic Visioning



Totality and Alternative Universalisms



Diversity in Democratic Unity



Complex Oneness and One More Bengali



Non-Western Westerners:



The Difference Color Makes



Slavery, Racism, and Globalism



DuBois and the Color Line from Africa



Sexual Silences and Black Lynching



African Polyversalism



War, Globalization, and Humanity



Revisioning Separatism and Enlarging Humanity



The Silencing of Racialized Gender



The World Conference Against Racism



Building Resistance and Hope



Feminisms and Afghan Women:



Before and After September 11



On Global Misogyny



Whose Rights? And for Which Women?



Afghan Women and Their Feminism



Feminisms' Dialogues



On Antiracist Feminisrns



Feminisms from Elsewheres:



Seeing PolyversaI Humanity



What Is in a Name?



Modernity and Feminisms



Universalizing Polyversalism



Africana Womanisms and Their Black Feminist Meanings



Feminisms in Islam(s)



Ms World and the West in Nigeria



Relocating Polyversal Feminisms






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