Women from the state socialist countries in Eastern Europe—what used to be called the Second World—once dominated women’s activism at the United Nations, but their contributions have been largely forgotten or deemed insignificant in comparison with those of Western feminists. In this talk, Ghodsee rescues some of this lost history by tracing the activism of Eastern European and African women during the 1975 United Nations International Year of Women and the subsequent Decade for Women (1976-1985). Focusing on case studies of state socialist Bulgaria and nonaligned but socialist-leaning Zambia, Ghodsee examines the feminist networks that developed between the Second and Third Worlds and shows how alliances between socialist women challenged American women’s leadership of the global women’s movement. Drawing on interviews and archival research across three continents, she argues that international ideological competition between capitalism and socialism profoundly shaped the world women inhabit today.
Kristen R. Ghodsee is Professor of Russian and East European Studies and a Member of the Graduate Group in Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania. Her articles and essays have been translated into over twenty-five languages and have appeared in publications such as The New Republic, Ms. Magazine, Le Monde Diplomatique, TAZ, The Washington Post, and The New York Times. She is also the author of ten books, most recently: Second World, Second Sex: Socialist Women's Activism and Global Solidarity during the Cold War (Duke University Press, 2019) and Why Women Have Better Sex Under Socialism: And Other Arguments for Economic Independence (Bold Type Books, 2018 and 2020), which already has fourteen international editions. Her latest book is called Taking Stock of the Shock: Social Impacts of Transition in Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union, co-authored with Mitchell A. Orenstein, with Oxford University Press.
Minja Bujakovic is a first-year Ph.D. researcher at the Department of History and Civilization. In her Ph.D. project titled: Revolutionary Women Transcending Borders: The Communist Women’s International and the Struggle for Women’s Emancipation , she proposes a transnational analysis of the Communist Women’s Movement in the interwar period, mapping its evolution and development over time, through the membership and activism of individual communist women.
Marta Chmielewska is second-year PhD researcher at the Department of History and Civilization interested in labour and gender history, queer theory, and global socialism. Her thesis "Bra Production in Socialist and Postsocialist Small-Town Central Poland: from Cooperation to Competition? explores how the introduction of capitalism influenced transitions in labour organisation, gender order and family lives at the local level.
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