My dissertation project involves comparing experiences of international policies on women in two locations: Senegal, West Africa, and Germany.
Now that it's Women's History Month, I want to take some time to investigate the underlying assumptions about the relationships between women across the globe. In January and February, I conducted fieldwork to interview people involved in women's advocacy in Senegal and Germany. The point of my work is to investigate how international policies (texts) are inscribed onto women's bodies in different spaces.
When I brought a draft of my proposal for this project to a national conference, many of the people seated at the roundtable told me I should not focus on Germany, and instead go to France to include postcolonialism as a key feature of my work. I was not convinced.
How is postcolonialism the focus of "top-down" approaches to investigating women's issues? What are some ways as a scholar I can interrogate and dismantle Western Feminist approaches that potentially reify and reinscribe patriarchal values onto black bodies in the Global South? How does the history of women influence the work I'm trying to do?
These questions were important as I interviewed jurists, researchers, and others involved in expanding women's rights in practice. Each time I walked down the streets of Dakar or Berlin, I tried to find links between the women I saw. How has the collective history of women's struggles for autonomy brought us to the current climate?
As I go about my research process, I constantly hope that I am contributing to women's history in a positive way.
[By Angela Murphy]
Angela Murphy is a PhD candidate in the department of English at the University of Kansas.