chapter  3
11 Pages

Feminism, urban knowledge and the killing of politics


This chapter offers some reflections on the feminist and post-colonial interventions in urban studies, including urban geography, that have guided my efforts to understand the processes of political economy, social movements and violence in northern Mexico, especially in Ciudad Juárez, a sprawling city that abuts the country’s border at El Paso, Texas. A related goal is to present how feminist contributions to urban studies, across multiple disciplines, have challenged the assumptions and forms of knowledge that ignore or disavow the complexities raised by the obvious significance of gender in everyday urban life and governance around the world. The decentering of the European/ northern North American city as the default conceptualization of city life and issues within urban studies is a key part of this challenge, which this volume addresses, and one that informs my own research into the social movements of northern Mexico that have raised global awareness of the nefarious connections binding global capitalism, state-sponsored impunity and misogyny. Such a decentering is vital to any projects, as Kamran Ali and Martina Rieker have written, that “offer new possibilities for alternative, dynamic, and more complex understandings of the contemporary urban in the global south,” or, in other words, where most people on this planet live (Ali and Rieker 2008: 8). Certainly, as the social protests in northern Mexico have shown, the struggles for dignity, for rights to the city, for accountable government, competent judiciaries and public safety are not unique to Mexico, but they cannot be explained from a starting point of modern thought that assumes European or North American situations as normative, with everything else constituted as exception to or outside the norm. Consequently, this decentering seeks not to universalize the experiences of one place or region over others, but rather to broaden and deepen the engagements of scholarship and politics with everyday struggles in the global south, which so often confound the theoretical imaginings of modernist thought and the political possibilities envisioned within it (see, for instance, Gibson-Graham 2006; Staeheli, Kofman and Peake 2004; Pratt 2004).