Mobilising the Grounds for Transversal Politics

A Practice of Building Peace Countering the Intersections of Violence

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Political solidarity as Chandra Talpade Mohanty defines is “the recognition of common interest” (Mohanty, 2003, p.7) in order to fight against the symbolic violence of the state. The peace movement, Women in Black, which manifests internationally in response to violence is an example of civil activism for peace. Their predominant aim has been to counter against the issues of military chauvinism, imperial colonization, and religious fundamentalism. It can be stated that the disposition of their politics is to shun asymmetrical power relations to bring peace back into the world that has been ravaged by war politics.

The genesis of this movement can be traced back to 1991 when a group of feminists calling themselves “Žene u Crnom protiv Rata” (Croatian) which means “Women in Black against War” held their first public demonstration. This group is present in countries e.g. the UK, US, Serbia, India, Israel and Austria, where women host a silent vigil against the involvement of their countries in militarism and war. In some places, women offer emotional and psychological support to men who “refuses to fight” (Cockburn, 2008, p.7). Consequently, men, women, and members of the LGBT community fight with equal zeal in order to resist the hegemonic presence of militarism.

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This model of working can be further analysed by viewing it through the lens of “transversal politics”. This is a term first used by Nira Yuval-Davis and was later extended by Cynthia Cockburn in her work on pacifist feminism. Davis describes the term as “a mode of coalition politics” that recognizes the differential positionings of the individuals and uses an interventionist approach in realizing mutual goals without falling into the trap of identity politics (Davis, 1997, p.25). This theory exemplifies how a movement can become transnational in its endeavor to initiate peace. To put it more coherently, it is a campaign “for peace with justice, for international strategies of social and political inclusion and economic equity” (Cockburn, 2007, p.1). Women in Black realizes this common goal by not remaining unilaterally situated but inhabiting different positions. For example, in Israel they fight against the issue of settler colonization, in India they are fighting against the draconian laws like “Armed Special Forces Act”, whereas in London they hold a regular vigil on every Wednesday to resist the UK’s government involvement in military interventions and tactics of war. There is plurality in their spirit and intention yet they have a common dream for global peace.

This democratic working always upholds the value of acknowledging differences in identity by keeping the intersectional approach at the fore. By incorporating the ideas of “constructive logic” and “shared actions” this movement deals with the differences that are usually killed, tortured and erased – for example, “British housing estates, on Irish streets, in Bosnian villages and Palestinian refugee camps” (Cockburn, 2004, p. 5). It is important to point out that Cynthia Cockburn conceptualizes “transversal politics” as a strategy used to attain the peace that involves shifting, standing and radicalizing archaic views. It envisages a place in the future from where past changes can be seen but it also contains a cautious conditional tense for further development: what ‘may have become’ (Davis, 1997, p.27). Women in Black is a well stated exemplification of an attempt to challenge archaic models of warmongering and bloodshed with the hope of “becoming” pluralistic, humanitarian and feminist. By using the charter of concepts like “transversal politics” and transnational solidarity, this movement is earnestly formulating collaborations to resist the coercive presence of militarization which can eventually bring an end to wars and can foster sustainable peace and freedom.

From the above examples, it is well exemplified that local and grassroots initiates have played an indispensable role in breaking the links between masculinity and violence and in combating radical violence more specifically. These initiatives have success due to their power of community action and realistic prevention plans. Because of their local approach and a strong relationship with the community they are able to make allies and address security concerns to external organizations. Therefore, an alliance between the grassroots community and governmental organizations is a strong way to optimize prevention of radical violence by a strategic focus on youth engagement, gender programs and education oriented towards de-radicalization.


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