Dissident feminisms, anti-racist politics and artistic interventionist practices

Why are these positions important?

These positions are important as they effectuate direct interventions in mainstream artistic production (coopted by the market and fully branded) as well as in processes of dismantling interlinked capitalism and racism, and Western Occidental knowledge with White hegemonic social and institutional regimes, such as universities, museums, etc.

A very good case of the importance of such work is the life and poetry of May Ayim (1960–1996) who was an Afro-German poet, educator, and activist. Margaret MacCarroll exposes in her MA thesis “May Ayim: A Woman in the Margin of German Society”star (*5) (defended in 2005 at the Florida State University, College of Arts and Sciences, USA) that “Although there is a long history of dark-skinned people living in Germany, this study focuses primarily on the period after World War II and examines concepts of culture, race and ethnicity in order to determine what role these concepts play in the experiences of Afro-Germans like Ayim” (MacCarroll 2005: 3).star (*5) MacCarroll exposes that Ayim’s life was marked by a sense of displacement and not belonging as she tried desperately to find her place in German and African society.

What is important for this position and other dissident positions is that they cannot be contained only in an artistic field but in order to capture their importance and the way they radically intervene in art we have, first of all, to dismantle a standard division of art disciplines and, second, constantly take into consideration a wide social, political, and economic context of art. Therefore, Ayim’s tragic life and powerful art cannot be understood outside the genealogy of racism in Germany that functions as exposed by MacCarroll from “Negerhuren to Mischlingskinder to Afro-Deutsche or Afro-Germans” (MacCarroll 2005: 3).star (*5) and this line of racism that did not vanish but was “just” modified. The same processes can be detected in Austrian society.

If I continue in the line of this logic, then Cherríe L. Moraga is perhaps best known for co-editing, with Gloria Anzaldúa, the anthology „This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color“star (*1) in 1981 (first edition). Her work is important for establishing a context of work for Chicana feminists and other feminists of color, and among scholars working in Chicano Studies and for the foundation for third wave feminism or Third World feminism in the USA.

María Lugones is an Argentinian scholar, philosopher, and feminist, who teaches at Binghamton University in New York. Lugones reworked the term “Colonial Matrix of Power,” coined at the end of the 1990s by the Peruvian theorist Aníbal Quijano who used the term to name the structures of power, control, and hegemony that emerged during colonialism and are reproduced to the present. Quijano talks about gender as biological, but Lugones argues that gender is a social construction.*10 *(10) She coined the concept “Colonial/Modern Gender System” (2007) to talk of the binary gender system as patriarchal and heterosexual organizations of relations. She argues that gender itself is a violent colonial introduction, consistently and contemporarily used to destroy peoples, cosmologies, and communities as the building ground of the “civilized” West. The Spanish colonizers introduced a gender formation system based on “heterosexualism” (a key term for Lugones, as seen in the title of her seminal text from 2007), a system that only accepts opposite-sex attraction, opposite-sex relationships, and excludes homosexuality.

The “oppressive colonial gender arrangements” or “oppressive organizations of life” that remained from colonialism have inherently naturalized a gender dichotomy. This same gender dichotomy is used today as a matrix of power imposed on Africa or on the territory of the former Eastern Europe. This gender system thus stands in opposition to the “civilized” West that is opening and emancipating itself with queer positions, while the East and the Orient are pushed to embrace a colonial/modern gender system built on homophobic and transphobic violent attacks.

Chandra Talpade Mohanty, another prominent voice of dissident feminisms, proposes in her article “Under Western Eyes: Feminist Scholarship and Colonial Discourses” (1984),star (*6) a shift not only on gender, but also on ethnicity, and thus proposing an anti-white-centrism. She develops this shift by making a reference to Theresa De Lauretis proposal to develop an “anti-hetero-centrism.” Mohanty develops a criticism of hegemonic Western scholarship on a large scale in general, and of the colonialism in Western feminist scholarship in particular.


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.

Unfortunately, the pdf-Version is not able to convert some of the special signs. We apologize for that!

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/