To defend this sunrise : race, place, and Creole women's political subjectivity on the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua




Morris, Courtney Desiree

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This dissertation explores how spatial processes of race shape Afro-Nicaraguan women’s political subjectivity, activist practice, and lived experience by studying their community-based organizing in the Caribbean coastal city of Bluefields, Nicaragua. Specifically, it analyzes the political responses they are developing to address the devastating impacts of neoliberal economic reform, gendered state violence, structural racism and the politics of gender justice that have emerged from their participation in place-based struggles for racial and regional justice. My dissertation research brings together critical race theory, Latin American social movements, African Diasporic feminisms, and the critical interventions of cultural and political geography to study Creole women’s community activism. I suggest that Creole women’s participation in what Harcourt and Escobar (2005) term the “politics of place” reflects the ways in which larger processes of anti-Black racism, gender subordination, and economic inequality have historically been and continue to be articulated through the idiom of place. I demonstrate how the politics of place shapes local, regional, and national histories of race and alterity and informs Creole women’s political practice and vision in ways that differ markedly from the mainstream women’s and feminist movements in Nicaragua. Through their place-based activism and focus on regional struggles that seem to be separate from an explicit feminist politics, Creole women have brought greater attention to the particularly gendered ways in which processes of state violence, structural adjustment, and economic exclusion impact their communities. Their political participation is concentrated around several key areas: urban land conflicts; women’s work in the regional and national economy; and the struggle for racial justice and full citizenship in Nicaragua. Through their participation in these social movements, Afro-Nicaraguan women are gendering and reshaping local and national struggles for racial equality. I argue that this model of community and place-based activism suggests that scholars of Latin American and Caribbean women’s social movements might more fruitfully analyze these movements not by searching for the ideal feminist subject or narrowly defining the terms of feminist politics but rather by understanding how women’s engagement in the politics of place creates space for them to interrogate intersecting processes of racial, gender, and economic subordination.




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