Abstract

This article was written on the basis of interviews with 22 Afro-Brazilian activist women. It uses research on their trajectories to show how, as political subjects, they have used inequalities based on class, race, gender, and sexuality as instruments for the construction of an identity as activists in Black women’s movements and for building the movement as a place for protagonism and for experiences that successfully challenge the powers that be. Furthermore, the article explores Brazilian feminist discourse, as it is recreated through the specific demands of Black women. The concept of feminism was first appropriated on Brazilian soil by educated white middle-class women who, in the process, built a particular history in which poor and Black women found little room to express their needs. Black women have been developing a critique of this appropriation since the initial debates on this issue began in the 1970s and 1980s. They have pointed to the inadequacy of a certain feminism that is based on European and U.S. theories and which starts from the experiences of white women to interpret those of Black women, thereby neglecting the determinants of class and race. On the other hand, the elements that are mobilized to provide a basis for the critique of white feminism make it hard for Black women activists to work more closely with white feminists in a unified movement. Nonetheless, the premises of a conception that promotes the emancipation of women are shared, appropriated, and reworked in order to understand Black women’s reality. Thus, Brazilian Black women have built their political autonomy—that is, their ability to read and interpret reality—coming up with their own version of feminist thought based on the concrete and historical experiences of Black women, as they run counter to the established order and are nourished by a Black African cosmovision or point of view, constitutive of Afro-Brazilian civilizational values. The latter elements form the basis for their thought, supplying thematic content and an epistemological perspective that promote a politics for decolonizing knowledge. This signifies methodological detachment from dominant perspectives, enabling them to examine history from the point of view of Afro-Brazilian women, who have historically been excluded from what has been referred to as “hegemonic knowledge.”

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Additional Information

ISSN
1547-8424
Print ISSN
1536-6936
Pages
pp. 1-29
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-07
Open Access
No
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