Body politics in development: competing world views

Presenter/s: Dr Wendy Harcourt, Erasmus University, The Netherlands

Event type: Public lecture

Event date: Thursday, 7 May 2015 - 2:30pm to 4:00pm

Event venue: Hedley Bull Seminar Room 3, ANU

Abstract: The lecture will reflect on over twenty years of engagement in body politics in development exploring the deep contradictions and unease around embodied experiences (the actual experience of pain, pleasure,  sexuality, birth, health and disease) that profoundly inform yet lie barely visible below the surface of gender and development policy and planning. The lecture will look at my engagement as an advocate, writer and now teacher in the strategies and practices around sexual and reproductive rights and health, gender based violence, maternal health, sexuality and technologies around the body. The lecture will bring out how body politics has operated in gender and development, creating, breaking and challenging the silences around the body. I present body politics in development as critical to dominant hegemonic social, economic and political ways of defining the other in development. The lecture looks at how the body is inserted into official development discourse and forms an integral part of it through numerous normalizing, racialising and essentialising technologies and processes. I chart not only the official but also the unofficial narratives, running parallel to the mainstream development discourse, that counter and displace understandings of 'bodies that are other' as feminist movements reclaim the body as a subject of political power and contestation in development. I also speak of the struggle to speak/ write/ and act with an authentic voice that acknowledges my own positioning in this debate, aware of the difference in my own embodied experience and the countless people whose struggle in body politics is life determining.

Speaker's bio: Dr Wendy Harcourt is Associate Professor in Critical Development and Feminist Studies at the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) of Erasmus University, The Netherlands. Her research interests include: critical development theory, feminist political ecology, body politics and transnational feminist movements. She was editor of the journal Development from 1989-2011 and is editor of 10 scholarly books. Her monograph: 'Body Politics in Development: Critical Debates in Gender and Development' (Zed Books, 2009), received the 2010 ‘Feminist Women Studies Association Book Prize.’ She is currently series editor of Palgrave Gender, Development and Social Change book series.

Contact: Zuleika Arashiro

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