Tuesday, January 01, 2013
A turbulent rebellion posted by Richard Seymour2012, in so many other respects a terrible year, was also in some ways a year of feminist revival. What was new about the sexist outrages of the last year was not that they happened, but that they provoked the type of reaction they did. Not a tidy reaction that ticked every desirable box, and not an unproblematic one in every respect: but one obviously registering a radicalising tendency that only the walking political dead would want to be separated from.
Likewise, what is new about the gang rape and murder of Damina was that it has provoked a tremendous reaction: mass protests and riots, uncontrolled, politically and ideologically multifarious, and militant. Again, there is nothing as yet settled about the nature of these protests. Judging from the press reports, the reactionaries have been there, demanding the death penalty, hypocritically enraged; but significantly the Maoists were also there, alongside many newly radicalised or long simmering layers, demanding justice.
The feminist revival announced by the 'Slutwalks' in the Spring of 2011 has, from its inception, been articulated with the complex popular energies of Occupy and the Middle East revolutions. In India, the protests have been compared to the Arab Spring. I don't claim much insight into the Indian social formation, but I would imagine that the grotesque case that has provoked this rage can't be deducted from the wider context which combines neoliberal misery with what some call 'feudal' forms of oppression.
This is not to diminish the integrity of feminist struggle, which has its specific privileged sites of struggle, its goals and its particular object of analysis (patriarchy or male domination, however construed - more on this in a future post). It is just to say that the patterns of feminist struggle are obviously overdetermined by a multitude of axes of antagonism, by conflicting and contradictory identities, by specific and contested political strategies, and by the conjunctural forms and heterotopic spaces in which social relations are concretised and institutionalised. At any rate, the appearance of concepts like 'intersectionality' adverts to such overdetermination. The strategic consequence of this for socialists seems obvious to me. Today's rebellion against patriarchy is tomorrow's fight against war, next year's fight against spending cuts, this generation's revival of militant class struggle. The idea, still advanced by some, that this fightback leads necessarily to the dead-end of liberal 'identity politics' has to be consigned to the skip.