Accepted paper:

The Collective Power of Fearless Wisdom: Afro-Descendant Women's Struggles for Rights and Leadership


Faye Harrison (Univ of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign )

Paper short abstract:

Drawing on historical and ethnographic cases from the U.S., Cuba, and Brazil, this paper examines sociopolitical activism and leadership among Afro-descendant women involved in struggles for citizenship and human rights.

Paper long abstract:

Using the Black-led antiracist struggle in the United States as a point of entry, this paper examines the roles that African-descended women have played in the capacity building and leadership of movements for civil rights and human rights in three specific settings in the African Diaspora. Drawing on the theoretical and evidence-based insights of social analysts and cultural critics from across the North/South divide, the paper elucidates the centrality of Afro-descendant women's concrete activism, visions, and knowledge in advancing struggles for i) land, resources, and substantive citizenship in Brazil (Keisha-Khan Perry, Kia Lilly Caldwell, Sueli Carneiro, Beatriz Nascimento); ii) a counter-public space for race- and gender-cognizant debate and cultural production in Cuba (Sujatha Fernandes, Sandra Álvarez, Inés María Martiatu, Yusimí Rodríguez); and iii) a clear shift beyond the boundaries of civil rights to human rights as a more comprehensive framework for grassroots and extra-local politics and transnational networking in the United States, particularly in the deep south with its parallels with the stark disparities and developmental unevenness associated with much of the global south (Loretta Ross, Stanlie James, Faye Harrison). The paper will illuminate the multiple modalities of leadership manifest in Afro-diasporic women's social action and political mobilization over time and space. However, attention will be directed especially to the more socio-centric forms driven by a counter-discourse critical of leadership models marked by individualist, hierarchical, and masculinist power.

panel G04
Local and global emergence of women's leadership in a changing world (IUAES Commission on the Anthropology of Women)