Making Transnational Feminism
Rural Women, NGO Activists, and Northern Donors in Brazil
Routledge – 2009 – 256 pages
Series: Perspectives on Gender
This ethnographic study examines the transnational relations among feminist movements at the end of the twentieth century, exploring two differently situated women’s organizations in the Northeast Brazilian state of Pernambuco.
The conventional narrative of globalization tells the story of inexorable forces beyond the capacity of individuals to mute or transcend. But this study tells a different story, one of social actors purposefully weaving cross-border relationships. From this vantage point, global social forces are not immaculately conceived. Instead, they are constituted by human actors with their own interests and identities, located in particular social contexts.
Making Transnational Feminism takes what some have called "global civil society" as its object, moving beyond both dire predictions and euphoric celebrations to understand how transnational political relationships are constructed and sustained across social and geographical divides. It also provides a compelling case study for use in advanced undergraduate and graduate courses in globalization, gender studies, and social movements.
"Making Transnational Feminism (Thayer, 2010) is a great illustration of the processes that lead to organizational movements, and it is a book that is appropriate for students, educators, feminists, nongovernmental organization (NGO) workers, and others who are generally interested in transnational social movements. It is most useful for people like me who are new to this field, and who want to gain a deeper understanding of how the theoretical bases of transnational feminism are implemented in activist movements."
—The Weekly Qualitative Report
"…this is a rich, interesting and well-crafted study. It is extremely readable, accessible to students, and a critical resource for for scholars of Latin American social movements, transnational feminisms, global civil society, and the transnational networks of non-governmental organizations. It will be of interest to students across the disciplines of anthropology, sociology, politics, geography and women’s studies."
—The Canadian Journal of Sociology, Vol. 35, No. 2, 2010
"Millie Thayer, in her innovative and accessible Making Transnational Feminism, illuminates the complex dynamics of transnational feminist relations, rooting her analysis in close observation of the interactions among northeastern Brazilian rural women workers, urban professional feminists, and feminists and funders from the global North. In this clear and compassionate work, Thayer takes what she terms the “ant’s eye view” (7) to see the impact of transnational discourses and resources on women’s and feminist activism in the global South. Relying on a decade’s worth of field research, Thayer offers a nuanced understanding of the power of transnational flows, examining their impacts on overlapping counterpublics based in part on class and geographic location. Thayer unfolds her multilayered analysis of original ethnography through a design that she deftly crafts from chapter to chapter, clearly indicating to the reader where she is and where she is going."—Signs, Vol 36, no. 4, Elisabeth Jay Friedman, University of San Francisco, USA
1. Introduction: Re-Reading Globalization from Northeast Brazil 2. Traveling Feminisms: From Embodied Women to Gendered Citizenship 3. The Leverage of the Local: Political Negotiations in a Global Sphere 4. Feminists and Funding: Plays of Power in a Social Movement Market 5. Conclusion: Defending the Endangered Public. Methodological Appendix: Transnational Feminism as Field – Power, Solidarity and the Researcher
Millie Thayer (2004 Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley) is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Massachusetts where she teaches graduate classes in field research methods, social movements, and undergraduate classes in race, class, gender, and ethnicity. Her research work is in cross-border feminist relationships, Latin American women's movements, and the social movement/international funding agency nexus. Her articles have appeared in the Journals Ethnography and Social Problems and in books published by University of California Press and Cornell University Press.