Date of Award

8-1-2015

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Speech Communication

First Advisor

Pineau, Elyse

Abstract

In this study, I argue that theorizing about the lived experiences of Black diasporic subjects, specifically, Sub-Saharan African women living in the U.S., must simultaneously take into account cultural parameters of their home country and host culture. I use the term “Black feminisms” as an umbrella term to advocate for an interdisciplinary approach to Black feminist thought and African feminism as tools for analyzing the lived experiences of Sub-Saharan women in diaspora. Specifically, this dissertation investigates how Sub-Saharan women living in the U.S. define, understand and orient to feminist practices in everyday life and how such processes shape their identities as diasporic subjects. By doing so, it seeks to examine how Black feminisms can operate as a tool for promoting social justice through the analysis of Sub-Saharan women’s identity politics in diasporic contexts. To gain insights on Sub-Saharan women’s understanding and performance of feminisms across cultures, I relied on a combination of ethnographic methods. First, I used a critical-performance ethnographic framework to explore how feminism is understood and deployed by Sub-Saharan women in diasporic contexts. My data were collected via a combination of in-depth qualitative interviews, co-performative fieldwork, and every day interactions. Second, I used autoethnographic narrative to explore my own everyday performances of feminisms as a diasporic Congolese woman moving between Congolese and American cultures. Participants’ lived experiences reveal that diaspora operates as a liminal/third/”in-between” space where Sub-Saharan women have to constantly negotiate gendered practices in everyday life at the borderland of two cultural worldviews: African and American. By immigrating to the U.S., these women are expected to integrate the cultural and social values of their host culture while maintaining the customs, traditions, and beliefs that constitute their African cultural legacy and which continue to shape their identities in their daily life. Consequently, while participants unanimously agreed on the relevance of feminism for improving the living conditions of African women on the continent and elsewhere, they insisted on a feminist agenda resonant with the peculiarities of African culture, yet promoting cultural exchange between African and American cultures. In light of these findings, this dissertation advocates for a hybrid feminist agenda - which I refer to as “Black diasporic feminism”- applicable to the lived experiences of Sub-Saharan women in diasporic contexts.

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