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The Questions of Identity and Agency in Feminism without Borders: A Mindful Response


  • Keya Maitra


Chandra Mohanty, in introducing the phrase “feminism without borders,” acknowledges that she is influenced by the image of “doctors without borders” and wants to highlight the multiplicity of voices and viewpoints within the feminist coalition. So the question of agency assumes primary significance here. But answering the question of agency becomes harder once we try to accommodate this multiplicity. Take, for example, the practice of veiling among certain Muslim women. As many third-world feminists have pointed out, although veiling can't simply be perceived as an expression of women's oppression, it can't be perceived as an expression of “free agency” either since what is required for true feminist agency is women's ability to “formulate choices” and not simply to make choices. In this paper I argue that this ability includes two related abilities: first, to develop a perspective of self that acknowledges and accepts its own grounding in its given intersectionalities; second, to realize that its interdependencies and interconnectivities enable a sense of continuity and solidarity that works collaboratively toward consensus without sacrificing or stifling all differences. My main argument is that feminist self-consciousness informed by Buddhist mindfulness gives us opportunities to articulate clearly and to cultivate both of these abilities.