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Rethinking women, development and empowerment: Toward transnational feminist literacy practices

Chizu Sato, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This dissertation develops an overdeterminist transnational feminist approach to discourse analysis—transnational feminist literacy practices—to interrogate current approaches to women and development and women's empowerment in particular. This methodology builds on transnational feminist and post-development approaches in order to challenge the developmentalism that sustains transnational inequalities. However, both transnational feminist and post-development approaches, despite their persistent critique, share with the mainstream developmentalist approach highly essentialized visions of women and economy that make it difficult to develop alternative strategies to transform transnational inequalities. In order to continue a direct challenge to developmentalism, I first reformulate an approach developed by a transnational feminist Chandra Talpade Mohanty by drawing on overdeterminist theories, namely, anti-essentialist Marxist theory of class, Lacanian psychoanalytic theory and discourse theory. Through the lens provided by this reformulated approach I then identify economic and power essentialisms and other features that harbor transnational inequalities in two different articulations of women, empowerment and development, examine the mechanisms and consequences of these essentialisms and illuminate possibilities, diverse economies and unconscious desire, which are not visible within Foucauldian post-development critiques. By re-articulating empowerment with women and development, this dissertation offers a methodology to construct an alternative transnational feminist political imaginary that may function as a nodal point which will create and sustain conditions of existence for communal transnational feminist praxis on multiple scales and in multiple locations. To outline one dimension of its productivity this dissertation concludes with an exploration of its pedagogical implications for a Northern university context.

Subject Area

Cultural anthropology|Educational sociology|Womens studies

Recommended Citation

Sato, Chizu, "Rethinking women, development and empowerment: Toward transnational feminist literacy practices" (2008). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3336997.