Different women: gender, power, and feminism (or lack of it) in Chechnya and Latvia
(University of Latvia)
Paper short abstract:
This paper explores the variations of feminist discourse in different historical and cultural contexts. Focusing on feminism in Eastern Europe and the lack of public feminist discourse in Chechnya, it discusses the implications of such differences for ethnographic work and feminist activism.
Paper long abstract:
This paper explores the variations of feminist discourse in different historical and cultural contexts. Based on ethnographic fieldwork in two societies with Soviet past, Latvia and Chechnya, it engages with specific issues of Baltic and Eastern European feminisms, as well as the lack of public feminist discourse in Chechnya. While in Chechnya pronounced patterns of gendered structuring of power relations within the extended family and the wider public space can be observed, in Latvia ostensible gender equality may conceal strict understandings of biologically determined women’s role in society as well as images of ‘ideal female’ suffused with sexist attitudes towards women’s looks and behaviour. The paper attempts to examine both the different socio-cultural understandings of women’s roles and statuses in the two societies and the common experiences and legacy, if any, of the Soviet gender policies. It also considers the consequences and implications of common, yet different, historical contexts and discourses for the ethnographic fieldwork and analysis. What kind of feminist activism, if any, can be initiated in the regions where feminist tradition is week or has developed in ways markedly different from feminism in Western Europe and North America?
Feminist activist ethnography and social change