Gender and Sovereignty in a Transnational Frame

AHA Session 247
Saturday, January 7, 2017: 1:30 PM-3:00 PM
Room 603 (Colorado Convention Center, Meeting Room Level)
Max Paul Friedman, American University
Max Paul Friedman, American University

Session Abstract

What difference do women and gender make to our understandings of the histories of international relations, sovereignty, and U.S. empire? In this panel, four historians – Genevieve Clutario, Zain Lakhani, Katherine Marino, and Margaret Power – will take different transnational approaches to this question.

These papers collectively trace links between gender and sovereignty among different geographic, spatial, topical, and temporal scales, moving through the Americas and Europe. They explore how different transnational actors from the early to the late 20th century—Puerto Rican nationalists, Filipina princesses, Latin American and U.S. feminists, NGOs, colonial administrators, and representatives of the United Nations—both drew on gendered understandings to make arguments about sovereignty, and utilized sovereignty as ways of making gendered claims. The papers reveal the deep intersections between race, gender, sexuality, and empire, and how these intersections have shaped diverse issues: women’s rights, human rights, immigration, sexual violence, Puerto Rican nationalism, bodily appearance, the politics of respectability, and U.S. colonial practices in the Philippines.

Each presenter will offer perspectives on different geographic and temporal spaces as the loci for the intersections between gender and sovereignty: Katherine Marino explores how claims to sovereignty – “sovereignty of the self” as well as national sovereignty – influenced calls for international women’s rights among U.S. and Latin American feminists engaged in Pan-American organizing in the first half of the twentieth century. Genevieve Clutario examines the racialized and gendered practices of seizing and reclaiming personal and communal sovereignty through the case of Tarhata Kiram, which a Moro chief’s daughter, whom United States colonial agents attempted but ultimately failed to “tame”. Margaret Power explores how two Puerto Rican Nationalists navigated, challenged, and employed gendered notions of politics and men and women’s roles in politics to urge Latin Americans to support Puerto Rican sovereignty in the 1940s and 1950s. Moving into the final decades of the twentieth century, Zain Lakhani’s paper will explore how signatories to the Refugee Convention of 1951 employed sexual protection to reinscribe control over their borders, within expanding definitions of human rights.

These papers show how using gender as an analytic tool can reveal sovereignty to be socially constructed, performative, and rhetorical. They also illuminate the centrality of gender to understanding different forms of U.S. hegemony and hierarchies of global power.

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