Accepted paper:

Leaving it to chance and producing a feminism of convenience


Monique Kwachou (University of the Free State)

Paper short abstract:

A study on the impact of studying Women and Gender Studies on past/present students found participants unintentionally exhibiting 'negofeminism' resulting from negotiating informational influence and normative influence. Results show need for more applicability/intentionality of African feminisms.

Paper long abstract:

Since their establishment in the 1970's, Women Studies programs have been investigated for their potential impact on students, particularly their capacity to rouse feminist awareness and identity. The majority of studies being American-centric (Musil, 1992; Stakes, Roades, Ross & Ellis, 1994; Stake & Rose, 1994; Buschman & Lenart, 1996; Harris, Melaas & Rodacker, 1999); Jackson, 2000) often report remarkable impact of Women Studies programs in raising Western liberal feminist consciousness. Possibilities of recording similar findings in a more traditional African context and determining the programs capacity to inspire other types of feminism, particularly African feminist thought, have barely been investigated. This paper shall outline a study which explored the potential of the pioneer Women and Gender Studies department in Cameroon to have such influence on its students. The research involved interviewing a group of twelve participants, six graduates and six third-year students of this University of Buea department between April and May 2015. Employing an African feminist theoretical lens, the study analyzed data generated through semi-structured interviews and found that the informational influence of the department's undergraduate program though significant, was compromised by the normative influence of the Cameroonian context in which it is taught. This compromise is witnessed in responses which show the participants' struggle to negotiate between what they have studied and what they have been socialized to believe. In these negotiations participants often demonstrated African Feminist leanings (Nnaemeka, 2004) proving that this program with very little African feminist content unintentionally contributes to producing recognizably African feminists.

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African feminisms today: connections and disruptions