Dissident feminisms, anti-racist politics and artistic interventionist practices

Dissident feminist artistic interventionist positions

Until now I have discussed two main points in this article connected with the title: First, what we understand as dissident feminisms, and second, how dissident feminisms intervene in history in general and the histories of feminism in particular. In what follows I will present a few dissident feminist artistic interventionist positions. The main aim of artistic interventionist strategies is to change the conditions of art, and the social, political, and economic realities at a historical moment in which these art practices take place. These artistic strategies intervene in order to effect social change and produce a demarcation within a certain space and public realm. My thesis is that it is possible to distinguish at least two lines that are in some cases parallel, or in other situations cross each other:

The first line of dissident feminist artistic interventions is marked by those positions that “escape from the academia to flourish in audiovisual production, literary, and performative action spaces” (Preciado 2013: 252).star (*8) As such, the purpose of these queer-feminist projects “would not be so much to liberate women or get legal equality, but the dismantling of the political devices producing differences of class, race, gender and sexuality, thereby creating transfeminism art and action networks for decolonization politics” (Preciado 2013: 252).star (*8) The artists and their interventionist practices in the field of dissident feminisms seen in such a view are those connected with postporn strategies, as Preciado states:

(We) have a history going from the feminist kitsch porn movies of Annie Sprinkle, the docu-fiction by Monika Treut, literary works by Virginie Despentes, Dorothy Allison and Michelle Tea, Alison Bechdel’s lesbian comics, photographs by Del LaGrace Volcano, dyke punk rock concerts by Tribe8, to the Gothic Revival sermons of Lydia Lunch, and the transgender porn science fiction of Shue-Lea Cheang, feminist postporn … aesthetics made of traffic signs and cultural artifacts with the critical redefinition of code standards that traditional feminism considered improper for femininity. Some of the references of this aesthetic and political discourse are queer-horror-porn movies of Bruce La Bruce and Christopher Lee, the distortion of sex shops of Maria Llopis, PostOp or Orgy, queer-Gothic literature, dildos as instruments of tectonic redefinition of the sexed body, trans-sexual vampires and monsters, cyborgs living queer punk, performance in public space as a useful political intervention … Sex was never so crude and gender has never been so cooked. (Preciado 2013: 252)star (*8)

The second line of dissident feminist artistic interventions that I want to propose is associated even more precisely with non-white feminists and activists who work directly with antiracism as well as post-colonial and decolonial positions. I make reference to names cited by Caixeta as critical positions by migrant women and Black women, such as Katharina Oguntoye*1 *(1), May Ayim, FeMigra*2 *(2), Lale Otyakmaz,*3 *(3) and Encarnación Gutiérrez Rodríguez*4 *(4). An important framework of reference for this development is the critique from Women of Color in the U.S. in the 1980s, including Combahee River Collective,*5 *(5) Cherríe L. Moraga, Gloria Anzaldúa,*6 *(6) bell hooks,*7 *(7) and Angela Davis.*8 *(8) And I add to these names María Lugones, Gayatri Spivak,*9 *(9) and Chandra Talpade Mohanty. And last but not least, artists in Austria working in maiz. Autonomous Center of and for Migrant Women in Linz, especially Marissa Lôbo, as well as The Research Group on Black Austrian History and Presence / Pamoja from Vienna and their members Araba Evelyn Johnston-Arthur, Belinda Kazeem, and Njideka Stephanie Iroh, among others.


Anzaldúa, Gloria / Moraga, Cherríe L. (2002): This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color. Berkeley, CA: Third Woman Press.


Lôbo, Marissa (2013): Iron Mask, White Torture: What is Anastacia Keeping Silent? What Does Anastacia See? In: The Editorial Group for Writing Insurgent Genealogies (eds.): Utopia of Alliances, Conditions of Impossibilities and the Vocabulary of Decoloniality. Vienna: Löcker, pp. 269–275. Translated from the German into English by Njideka Stephanie Iroh.


Lugones, M.: Heterosexualism and the Colonial/Modern Gender System. Hypatia 22, no. 1 (Winter 2007), pp. 186–209.


Caixeta, Luzenir (2013): Minoritized Women Effect a Transformation in Feminism. In: The Editorial Group for Writing Insurgent Genealogies (Carolina Agredo, Sheri Avraham, Annalisa Cannito, Miltiadis Gerothanasis, Marina Gržinić, Marissa Lôbo, and Ivana Marjanović) (eds.), Utopia of Alliances, Conditions of Impossibilities and the Vocabulary of Decoloniality. Vienna: Löcker, pp. 145–148. Translated from the German into English by Aileen Derieg.


MacCarroll, Margaret Catherine (2005): May Ayim: A Woman in the Margin of German Society. MA Thesis. Florida State University. Online: http://etd.lib.fsu.edu/theses_1/available/etd-04102005-231408/unrestricted/MaggieC.MacCarrollThesis2Sp05.pdf (last visited: January 10, 2014)


Mohanty, Chandra Talpade (1984): Under Western Eyes: Feminist Scholarship and Colonial Discourses. In: boundary 2, vol. 12/13, Spring–Autumn, pp. 333–358.


Preciado, Beatriz (2007): Reportaje después del Feminismo. Mujeres en los márgenes [Report after Feminism: Women on the Margins]. In El País, January 13, 2007, http://webs.uvigo.es/pmayobre/textos/varios/despues_del_feminismo.pdf, (last visited: March 8, 2011)


Preciado, Beatriz (2013): Pharmaco-Pornographic CapitalismPostporn Politics and the Decolonization of Sexual Representations. In: The Editorial Group for Writing Insurgent Genealogies (eds.): Utopia of Alliances, Conditions of Impossibilities and the Vocabulary of Decoloniality, Vienna: Löcker, pp. 245–255. Translated from Spanish into English by Marina Gržinić.


Quijano, A. (2000): Coloniality of Power, Eurocentrism, and Latin America. Nepentla: Views From the South 1(3), 2000, pp. 533–580.

Katharina Oguntoye is a historian and has influenced the Afro-German movement; she is a co-editor of the book Showing our Colors (1986)
and is the founding member of the “Initiative of Black People in Germany.”

FeMigra (abbreviation for: “Feminist Migrants”) in Germany is an activist women’s group mostly consisting of members with an academic background or work in the social sector. They are also involved in strong networking activities with other ethnic, migrant, and Jewish women in Germany. FeMigras’ theoretical reflection of how to act politically as feminist migrants is strongly influenced by the reception of post-structuralist, black and post-colonialist authors such as Gayatri Spivak, Nira Yuval-Davis, Adrienne Rich or Angela Davis.

Lale Otyakmaz works at the University of Duisburg-Essen on and with questions of Diversity Management.

Encarnación Gutiérrez Rodríguez works at the Institute of Sociology Justus-Liebig University Gießen (Germany) and is known for the book Decolonizing European Sociology. The book challenges the androcentric, colonial and ethnocentric perspectives eminent in mainstream European sociology. Cf. http://www.ashgate.com/isbn/9780754678724

The Combahee River Collective was a Black feminist Lesbian organization active in Boston (USA)from 1974 to 1980. They are perhaps best known for developing the Combahee River Collective Statement, a key document in the history of contemporary Black feminism and the development of the concepts of identity as used among political organizers and social theorists.

Gloria Anzaldúa (1942–2004) was a scholar of Chicana cultural, feminist, and queer theory. Her most well-known book, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza (1987) is on her life growing up on the Mexican-Texas border and incorporated her lifelong feelings of social and cultural marginalization into her work.

Gloria Jean Watkins (1952), better known by her pen name bell hooks (written without capitals), is an American author, feminist, and social activist. Her writing focuses on the interconnectivity of race, capitalism, and gender and what she describes as their ability to produce and perpetuate systems of oppression and class domination. Primarily through a postmodern perspective, hooks has addressed race, class, and gender in education, art, history, sexuality, mass media and feminism.

Angela Davis (1944) is an American political activist, scholar, Communist, and author. She emerged as a nationally prominent counterculture
activist and radical in the 1960s, as a leader of the Communist Party USA, and had close relations with the Black Panther Party through her involvement in the Civil Rights to abolish the prison-industrial complex. Her research interests are in feminism, African-American studies, critical theory, Marxism, popular music, social consciousness, and the philosophy and history of punishment and prisons. Her membership in the Communist Party led to Ronald Reagan’s request in 1969 to have her barred from teaching at any university in the State of California.

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (1942) is an Indian literary theorist, philosopher, and university professor at Columbia University, where she is a founding member of the school’s Institute for Comparative Literature and Society. Spivak is best known for her contemporary cultural and critical theories to challenge the “legacy of colonialism” and the way readers engage with literature and culture. She often focuses on the cultural texts of those who are marginalized by dominant Western culture: the new immigrant, the working class, women, and other positions of the subaltern. Her best known essay was published in the 1980s with the title “Can the Subaltern Speak?” is considered a founding text of postcolonialism.

The description is taken from the text published online. See http://grzinic-smid.si/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Rear2010tikulacija10111213.pdf (last visited: December 5, 2013).

The references are from Araba Evelyn Johnston-Arthur. She is a social justice activist born and raised in Vienna to a Ghanaian family. Johnston-Arthur, as reported by Kali TV, succesfully co-founded a pan-African movement in Austria, “Pamoja,” which has brought together young Africans in Austria to fight for their rights and against racism in Europe. Published online March 26, 2013, at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sIiXyjOJj9U&feature=youtu.be (last visited, December 5, 2013)

Grada Kilomba’s book Plantation Memories. Episodes of Everyday Racism, (Münster, Germany: UNRAST Verlag, 2008), deconstructs the normality of racism, making visible what is often made invisible; the book is described as essential to anyone interested in Black Studies, Post-colonial Studies, Critical Whiteness Studies, Gender Studies, and Psychoanalysis.

Audre Lorde (1934–1992) was a Caribbean-American writer and civil rights activist. She described herself as “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet” and dedicated both her life and work to confronting and addressing the injustices of racism, sexism, and homophobia.

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Marina Gržinić ( 2014): Dissident feminisms, anti-racist politics and artistic interventionist practices. In: p/art/icipate – Kultur aktiv gestalten # 04 , https://www.p-art-icipate.net/dissident-feminisms-anti-racist-politics-and-artistic-interventionist-practices/