Date of Award

8-5-2015

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Susan Comfort, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

David Downing, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Thomas Slater, Ph.D.

Abstract

This dissertation uses the resistance literature of Mahasweta Devi, Margaret Randall, and Bessie Head along with my own research amongst the Barabaig of Eastern Tanzania and Zapatistas of Chiapas, Mexico to interrogate gendered politics in different geographic locations. By examining gendered politics in the borderlands of India, Nicaragua, Botswana, South Africa, Eastern Tanzania, and the Lacandon Jungle of Southeast Mexico, I demonstrate more fully how capital shapes the reproductive lives of women living in different historical realities and in different regional locations. I apply an interdisciplinary approach to examine how patriarchal impositions and globalizing forces have made the indigenous and subaltern female body and female livelihood a space of hegemonic and political contestation. In so doing, I show how women’s bodies have become increasingly vulnerable to the pressures of patriarchal politics and commercial economies both in the eras of colonization and neoliberal globalization. Throughout the globe, the subaltern reproductive body has become an ideological battlefield of patriarchal control and reification in which women’s bodies fall prey to a host of gendered, racialized and economic forces. In this research I reveal how women engage, negotiate, and resist politicization. I argue that these cultural discourses, situated as they are at the cusp of neoliberalism and the demise of social protections, provide socio-political and historical insight into the struggles and resistance surrounding gender and reproductive politics under both traditional patriarchal structures and global capitalism. In the world of gendered politics and resistance literature, what is missing is the examination of the socio-economic and political impact of reproductive politics on women’s private and public lives; therefore, the central framework employs a materialist feminist theoretical framework to analyze how these discourses draw attention to reproductive politics and offer valuable models for ethnographic listening and ethico-political engagement. Synthesizing literary criticism, anthropology, and legal and social activism, I contribute to the literature about the exploitation of women’s reproductive bodies and livelihoods. I argue inquiries into the global, national, and regional politics of stratified reproduction must be central to any materialist feminist theory on women’s socio-economic and political lives.

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