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date: 04 December 2020

(p. 727) Equality, Citizenship, and Nation

Processes of globalization, migration, and multilevel governance brought major challenges to feminist theories and activism. Migration and globalization reinforced questions about the universal character of the feminist project. Equality was increasingly considered a white Western women’s cause that was imposed on women of non-Western cultures—in Judith Squires’s words, particularity masquerading as universalism. Models of equality and citizenship and women’s identity were challenged to come to terms with intersectionality and difference particularly with regard to women of non-Western and nonliberal and illiberal cultures. The debate about equality versus difference that marked feminist thinking about equality, citizenship, and identity was further complicated by the feminism versus multiculturalism puzzle, as epitomized by Susan Moller Okin’s critical question, Is multiculturalism bad for women? Intersectionality imposed yet another layer of complexity on to the feminist thinking about equality, citizenship, and identity, again heightening the salience of acknowledging diversity.

In addition to the renegotiation of equality with diversity within the nation-state, processes like globalization, Europeanization, and multilevel (p. 728) governance also encouraged feminist scholarship to move beyond the state and to develop postnational notions of citizenship and to deal with nonnational arenas. Nation and citizenship are powerful concepts that construct (and are constructed by) gender. While some postcolonial theory rejects the constructive power of nations and proclaims a cosmopolitan citizenship, other scholars still see these as powerful constructions that secure the biological and cultural reproduction of the nation and the stability of states by distributing civil rights and duties. Issues of security and the protection of the nation in times of war and conflict (militarization) are tightly interwoven into these. However, women are not only passive subjects of the construction of nations and citizenship but also participate actively in nationalist and postnationalist struggles and in (re)defining citizenship and security. As nations and states are constantly evolving, the gendered inclusion and exclusion of women in the nation and the citizenry are central foci of gender and politics scholars.

The five chapters in this section map the old and new debates and the puzzles surrounding equality, citizenship, identity, nations, and security. They provide some signposts through the impasses and tensions created by diversity and intersectionality. Indeed, they give suggestions about how to avoid cultural relativism and hold onto feminist moral judgments regarding equality and fairness while accepting that cultures are hybrid and also how to continue gendering citizenship models while accepting that—in Birte Siim’s words—vocabularies of citizenship are shaped by spaces and places. Moreover, there is a remarkable coherence in the solutions and third ways proposed in these chapters. Equality, citizenship, identity, nations, and security are recognized as unfinished projects that need inclusive dialogue and deliberation, which establishes strong links with processes of participation and representation. Only a contextualized, contingent, situated approach, as opposed to a dogmatic theoretical stance, can meet the ambitious expectation to do all and do it at the same time, that is, to take diversity and intersectionality seriously and at the same time address subnational, national, and transnational arenas. Taken together, these chapters appear to move away from grand theories about equality, citizenship, identity, nations, and security—except, of course, unless the new grand theory is accepted as being procedural in nature, which is a retreat to the process of determining equality and citizenship and away from universal theoretical claims about their substance.

The key contributions of the feminist scholarship presented in this section to political science concern, first, revealing the gendered nature and implications of these universal and neutral values and concepts. Feminist critical scholarship, for instance, showed that liberal notions of equality resulted in inequality and that classic citizenship, multicultural, nation building, and national security models and notions were tailored to male citizens and were gender-blind. Second, the solutions to deal with the complexity of identities and values in the multicultural and postnational era proposed by gender and politics scholars have added value that travels beyond gendered analyses and feminist concerns.

(p. 729) The first essay, “Universalism and Equality,” by Judith Squires, explores the theoretical and normative contents of the concept of equality. It covers the feminist debates on equality as sameness and difference and as socioeconomic redistribution, cultural recognition, and political representation. The essay also discusses the shift toward diverse groups and multiple equality considerations, and the implications of the feminism versus multiculturalism debate for equality as a universal value. Squires then points to the dangers of the emergence of the concept of multiple equality strands and intersectionality—whereby equality for one group can conflict with and erode equality of other strands—but at the same time asserts that they provide an important theoretical resource with which to negotiate the debates between feminism and multiculturalism. Principles about (gender) equality need to be arrived at through inclusive deliberative processes based on specific and contextual knowledge. This can be seen as a middle way between idealistic theory on equality that increasingly loses legitimacy and an ethical relativism.

The second essay, “Citizenship,” by Birte Siim, deals with the dual challenge posed by globalization, migration, and multilevel governance to renegotiate citizenship within and beyond the nation state. It describes the classic national citizenship models, the differentiation in citizenship rights in multicultural societies, and the extension of rights as defined by recent citizenship scholarship. Next the chapter analyzes the gendering of citizenship, describing how the equality versus difference debate gave rise to alternative citizenship models and how the renegotiation of equality with diversity within citizenship models foregrounded contextual approaches and deliberative perspectives. The chapter discusses citizenship in a global age where global governance and cosmopolitanism begged postnational and multilevel citizenship models. In that respect, attention is paid to European integration and to the politics of human rights and the implications gendering these, examining, for instance, global care chains, a moral cosmopolitanism that stresses women’s rights as human rights, and the role of the European Union (EU) in fostering equality.

The third essay, “Multiculturalism and Identity,” by Baukje Prins and Sawitri Saharso, discusses liberal and critical multiculturalism and the gender dilemmas between universalism and relativism and questions regarding the subject and individual autonomy they pose. The chapter extensively engages with the multiculturalism versus feminism debate, discussing four liberal answers to the question about how to deal with the universalism–relativism issue and the problem of individual autonomy. The authors point to the significant contributions of feminists to critical multiculturalism with regard to the importance given to standpoints and intersections, hegemonic discourses constructing identities and counterhegemonic discourses, and how diversity is experienced and lived in the flesh. A third position, both within the liberal and the critical discourse of multiculturalism, is also elaborated, stressing contextual reasoning and understanding of liberal and cultural values and narrative identity.

(p. 730) The fourth chapter, “Gender, Nations, and Nationalisms,” by Suruchi Thapar-Björkert, presents an overview of the evolution of the scholarship on nation and nationalism and provides an explanation for the gender blindness of this literature. It then presents and discusses the key feminist contributions on women and the nation and women’s integration in the project of modern nationhood. These review sections are followed by two substantive discussions of the interrelatedness of gendered and national identities at the symbolic level and the politicization of women’s lives within the private as well as the public sphere. In nationalist discourses women have been the symbols of nationalist culture, but the discourse of the nation is also implicated in particular elaborations of masculinity. Drawing on the Indian case, the chapters further asserts that women not only have been co-opted in nationalist agendas but also have used nationalism to strategically carve political spaces and recognition in the postcolonial context. Finally, the chapter explores the linkage between nationalism, religion, and violence on behalf of the nations and reflects on the recent new Arab Nationalism.

The final chapter of this section, “Security, Militarization, and Conflict,” by Lene Hansen, follows the chapter on nationalism as issues of security were traditionally defined as national security. The first part of the chapter, however, discusses how what is seen as a security issues was broadened and also gendered by framing gender issues as important to the survival of the community. The chapter gives an account of how states and international institutions have, over recent decades, moved to acknowledge gendered security problems. This involves a number of cases, for example in terms of the more traditional security sector, to look at how women are involved in conflicts, as combatants as well as peace activists; how women are made gendered targets, especially through the adoption of mass rape as a weapon of war; but also how the international community has moved to prosecute war time rape as a crime against humanity. The chapter also discusses the view of women as peaceful subjects and masculinity in relation to security.