Exporting Subjects: Globalizing Family Law Progress Through International Human Rights
66 Pages Posted: 2 Dec 2010
Date Written: November 23, 2010
This article examines the global export of domestic U.S. legal projects and strategies in the realm of family law and gender justice to South Asia. While such projects have undoubtedly achieved substantial gains for women in the U.S., there have also been costs. At a remove of two decades, scholars have now begun to theorize those costs and argue that feminism needs to reconsider its commitments to particular projects that have been held central to women’s emancipation. Yet much of these critiques have not reached the transnational women’s movements that are led by U.S. feminist activists and scholars. Relying on Liberal notions of personhood or subjectivity and progress, U.S. transnational feminists continue to export those subjects and projects now being critiqued at home to the Global South. The primary means by which this export occurs is through the conflation of domestic family law with women’s rights as “human rights.” Indeed, international human rights provide a convenient discursive and structural vehicle to achieve this export. However, within local contexts, such Liberal projects are often met with resistance and reshaped in ways that may not make sense to women in the North. Moreover, women in the South have articulated a different set of priorities focused on economic distribution and development that are often ignored by women’s rights activists in the North. This has to do with a general discomfort with economic redistribution inherent in Liberal theory as it has evolved in the U.S., as well as with the more traditional focus on civil and political rights. The aim of the article is to highlight the difficulties of exporting notions of personhood and progress and to argue for a reorientation of transnational feminism in a manner that adopts the priorities of local women in the Global South and not just their elites.
Keywords: Family Law, International Human Rights, Gender, Legal Theory, South Asia
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