Cinderella of the south seas? Virtuous victims, empowerment and other fables of development feminism

Kalissa Alexeyeff

The developmental logic underpinning ‘Cinderella projects,’ in which women of the Global South are targeted for interventions intended to tap and expand their unrecognized economic and entrepreneurial potential. This version of ‘development feminism,’ constructs its female objects as both impoverished victim-subjects and as nascent market-oriented actors. Moreover, development feminist discourse, grounded as it is in seemingly universal ideas of women’s oppression, equality and economic participation, generates paradoxical effects in different social contexts. Drawing on ethnographic examples from Polynesia, the paper illustrates how a homogeneous concept of ‘woman’ makes little sense because local gender categories are complexly intersected by age, socio-economic status as well as by hereditary rank. As a result, development feminisms’ gender interventions transform local individual subjectivities in novel and often unexpected ways, producing new forms of inequality while obscuring others.

Research Type(s)
Journal Article
Submitted by Almah Tararia
May 18, 2022
Published in

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