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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Protective Invisibilities


In investigating the tensions between visibility and invisibility, each of the presenters on the Productive Invisibilities panel took up related arguments regarding the politics of subjectivity, representation, and hegemonic discourse. One of the most salient connections among panelists was their congruent interrogation of the way in which feminist analytical and theoretical demands for intersectionality and differentiated inclusion get homogenized and rearticulated in hegemonic discourse. For example, Evangeline Heiliger questioned the way in which the profound atrocities related to the HIV and AIDS epidemic become commodified by international nongovernmental organizations through the production of ‘ethical consumerism.” Kolleen Duley investigated the way in which feminist demands for gender responsiveness in California’s women’s prisons have been taken up by the state and by feminist actors in order to expand the prison industrial complex and to legitimize the racism of the criminal justice system. Similarly, Nisha Kommatta examined lesbian women in Kerala, India in order to complicate the ‘globalization’ of queer discourses that demand visibility. And finally, Nicole Wilmms investigated the way in which the visibility of Japanese American basketball players upsets hegemonic representations of Asian people as “weak and feminine.” While each paper reflected varying epistemological and methodological trajectories, panelists were able to disrupt and challenge popular notions of visibility, ultimately suggesting that visibility is an uneven, contestable, and differentiated process that need not be embraced unilaterally throughout feminist praxis.

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