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Abstract

We began this project intending to theorise the respectability politics within the Irish Repeal (pro-choice) movement through the lenses of postcolonial and Black feminism, and through the experiences of members of Pinjra Tod, a movement seeking the right to mobility for Indian women students. Instead, we found ourselves excavating the inextricable links between respectability politics and the representational politics of academic knowledge production (Cruz in Collins-White et al 2015) in relation to Irish Women’s Studies and the racialised politics of representation in the Repeal campaign. Savita Halappanavar, an Indian woman living in Ireland with her husband on a work visa, died tragically in 2012 from septicaemia. This was due to being denied the proper procedures following a miscarriage as a result of an Irish Constitutional Amendment in 1983 deeming abortion illegal in any circumstance. Her death galvanised a turning point in the Irish women’s movement, which led to a national campaign that successfully repealed that Amendment. In fact, she literally became ‘the face’ of the movement -- one that remained racially and intersectionally ‘tone-deaf’ at best, wilfully exclusionary at worst. Our attention thus hovered on this problematique and necessitated a collaborative, dialogic ‘working through’ of these entanglements. This article presents the substance and outcome of a method of ‘pluriversal convocation’ that arose from this process. This method coaxed insights into the ongoing Eurocentricism and respectability politics within white western feminism that undermine praxis by promoting ‘diversification without doing the work of diversity’. And it illuminated the transformative opportunities created by Black feminist and Indian postcolonial practices of ‘wilful connectedness’, which has, in turn, generated a basis on which we are cultivating a decolonising feminist praxis.

Note on the Author

Dyuti Chakravarty is a doctoral student in the School of Sociology, University College Dublin. Her thesis entitled “Break the Cage”: The Politics of Respectability and Desire through a Comparative Study of Women’s Movements for Bodily Autonomy in India and Ireland, explores the transnational dialogues between Indian and Irish feminist scholarships. It promises important and unique innovations through an engagement with the intertwining histories and transnational empirical comparisons of students’ movements for bodily autonomy in both countries.

Alice Feldman lectures in the School of Sociology, University College Dublin. Through experiments at the intersections of aesthetics, epistemologies and pedagogies, she cultivates decolonial praxes to intervene in the global colonial legacies sustaining the necropolitics of the current moment. For two decades she has also worked in research, advisory and volunteer capacities for an array of groups involved in anti-racism, intercultural and integration work. This work gave rise to the MA Race, Migration and Decolonial Studies (www.racemigrationdecolonialstudies.com).

Emma Penney received her PhD from the School of English, Drama and Film Studies, University College Dublin. Her thesis, entitled Class Acts: Working-Class Feminism and the Women's Movement in Ireland, explores the distinctive feminist activism of working-class women's groups throughout the 1980s. It is a collaboration with working-class movement women which creates new articulations of a historically hidden Irish feminism. Her work brings methodologies from working-class studies to bear on Irish Studies and Women’s Studies scholarship where there has been a significant absence of class analysis.

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