Tubman Talks: “Paradoxes of (Dis)Empowerment in the post colony: Women, Culture and Social Capital in Ghana”

sylvia_bawa picDr.Sylvia Bawa will present “Paradoxes of (Dis)Empowerment in the post colony: Women, Culture and Social Capital in Ghana” on Thursday, February  4, 2016 at the Harriet Tubman Institute from 2:30-4:00 p.m

In postcolonial societies, emancipation and empowerment are often dialectically situated within colonial discourses of oppression and disempowerment. Drawing on primary ethnographic data, I analyse paradoxes in women’s empowerment discourses in postcolonial Ghanaian societies where neoliberal discourses and collectivist-socialist cultural ideals thrive side-by-side. I propose that, beyond a critique of colonially sanctioned modernist understanding of empowerment and liberation, the traditional validation mechanisms for women’s identities ought to be considered crucial avenues for analysing both conceptions and experiences of empowerment. With an example of social capital, gained largely through mothering, I suggest that, because women’s relationships with capital is structured by local socio-cultural and global economic structures and relations, the theorization and application of the concept of empowerment needs to recognize the complicated relationships (with capital) women negotiate on a daily basis.

Brief Bio

Dr. Sylvia Bawa is an Assistant Professor in Sociology at York University. She holds a PhD in Sociology from Queen’s University, Canada and has research interests in postcolonial feminisms, development theory, globalization and human rights. Within a postcolonial African feminist theoretical framework, Dr. Bawa focuses specifically on discourses of culture, women’s rights and empowerment in sub-Saharan Africa by examining the ways in which historical forces and events shape current political, economic, cultural and social circumstances whilst highlighting the particular contradictory and paradoxical outcomes they produce at national, global and local levels. She has published works in Third World Quarterly, the International Journal of Public Administration, Development in Practice and the Canadian Journal of Development Studies.

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