TRANS Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften 17. Nr. Mai 2010

Sektion 4.1. Feminism and Future
Sektionsleiterin | Section Chair: Monika Shafi (University of Delaware)

Dokumentation | Documentation | Documentation

Section Report 4.1.

Feminism and Future

Monika Shafi (University of Delaware) [BIO]



The purpose of this session which included seven presenters from the United States, India and Germany, many of them leading scholars in their fields, was to probe the role of women and gender within German-speaking literary and cultural contexts and to also explore which shape emancipatory feminist projects could take in the twenty-first century. Specifically, it addressed how feminist theory and practice could understand on a theoretical and political level the situation of women belonging to different religious and ethnic minorities. While its main focus was on German and European contexts, it also included a report on feminism in India in order to draw attention to the global implications of these issues. The session thus called for an interdisciplinary approach which was fully met both though the individual papers as well as through the lively discussion that followed each talk.

The seven papers investigated a broad spectrum of ideas and problems that ranged from Feminist Studies of War and Peace (Elisabeth Krimmer, UC Davis), Feminist Ethics (Michelle Mattson, Rhodes College), Gender and Nation as Feminist Melodrama (Sunka Simon, Swarthmore College), to Transnationalism, Intraeuropean Migration and Gender (Irene Kacandes, Dartmouth College), Parenthood and Emancipation (Helga Kraft, University of Illinois at Chicago) and Selfhood and Domestic Space (Monika Shafi, University of Delaware)(*). In the discussion, presenters and members of the audience tried to identify commonalities, historical links between papers as well as future research questions all geared to challenge entrenched conceptual and political models of gender and power that rely on dichotomous and hierarchical modes of social practices. Three broad concepts emerged from this discussion which I would summarize under the categories “intervention”, “transformation”, and “transnationalism”.

The notion of “intervention” was first discussed with reference to feminist ethics. What would be the guiding principles of such an ethics, how would it differ from other forms of ethics and how could it be applied to political contexts? In which ways do the literary works discussed help us identify principles of feminist ethics? Aspects that featured prominently in the discussion were the role of the body and the manner in which authors focused on caring and nurturing relationships. To what extent would a “care ethics”, an early feminist concept which Professor Mattson discussed in her paper, be applicable to contemporary conditions? While “intervention” most obviously connotes activism, it also applies to the manner in which literary texts play with and subvert traditional genres, literary styles and codes thereby challenging their ideological meaning. Most fascinating in this regard was Professor Krimmer’s argument that war is not be conceived as the opposite of peace but as an integral and constitutional part of social order, a paradox which Elfriede Jelinek exposes in her work.

Since “Transformation” was always paired with “Transnationalism”, I will focus on the latter concept, which has become one of the key areas in contemporary cultural and literary studies. Though sometimes used alongside internationalism, transnationalism differs fundamentally from this earlier concept since it aims to break down borders and barriers and aspires to connect people across social and geographical space. In the context of the session, transnationalism was discussed as a viable concept for theorizing new migrant communities – an example were the Greek-German migrants explored in Professor Kacandes’s paper – because it can account for the dynamic relationships between majority and minority, relationships that when studied using the male migrant community were previously seen in static terms.

In my own talk I analyzed the link between gender identity and domestic space, specifically the role of houses in select German novels. Since houses are both materially and symbolically crucially influencing social perception and self-awareness, I was wondering how women writers belonging to the younger generation represent the house and its rich history. In the ensuing discussion, there was general agreement that more attention needs to be paid to the importance of material culture and that the topic of house and housing warrants further investigation, preferably a future conference session.

Participants and audience agreed in conclusion that the panel Feminism and Future provided for a productive and stimulating exchange. Since all contributions were taken from work in progress, the presenters were particularly appreciative of the feedback



* These are abbreviated titles of the talk. The full titles and abstracts of each talk are available on the KCTOS webpage.

4.1. Feminism and Future

Sektionsgruppen | Section Groups| Groupes de sections

TRANS   Inhalt | Table of Contents | Contenu  17 Nr.

For quotation purposes:
Monika Shafi: Sektionsbericht 4.1. Feminism and Future - In: TRANS. Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften. No. 17/2008. WWW:

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