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Abstract

The first self-declared Nigerian feminist organization was founded under the name of Women in Nigeria (WIN) at a meeting in Zaria in May 1982. WIN was a left-wing movement including women and men. This article seeks to shed light on knowledge production in the field of feminism and gender studies in Nigeria, focusing on WIN’s texts and discourses. Approaching knowledge production from the perspective of social history, my analysis examines the biographical trajectories of the association’s activists, the ways in which their journeys influenced the use of global knowledge and the production of “situated knowledges”, and how intellectual work operated together with the social and ideological struggles of the time. I examine the multilateral, and indeed unequal, knowledge circulations between the Global North and the Global South as well as the logic of coproduction and reinvention of frameworks for globalized theories at the local level, all happening during a period (the 1980s) marked by the progressive globalization of the social sciences. This reflection begins by looking at the context in which the association emerged, its members, and the debates that led to its creation in Nigeria. It then goes on to explore how the association’s activists used the concept of gender. It presented a challenge at a time when the differences between gender and sex were still not taken for granted. The final section examines the ways in which WIN members articulated a pioneering rhetoric surrounding the need to study the intermingling of various power relations to understand women’s oppression in the country and create a more complex approach to gender-based analysis. The article illustrates how WIN managed to establish itself as a concrete site for knowledge production in the fields of gender studies and feminism, formulating an innovative and locally situated feminist epistemology. The example it sets serves as an invitation to decenter the Global North as the primary perspective regarding knowledge production in gender studies and feminist epistemologies and, conversely, to pay attention to feminist theory formulated by activist and academic circles based in the Global South.

Note on the Author

Dr in History, postdoctoral researcher at the Centre of Social History (CHS) in Paris/Fondation des Treilles, and a research associate with the African Worlds Institute (IMAF) in Paris and the IFRA-Nigeria in Ibadan.

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