activist-mothers maybe, sisters surely? Black British feminism, absence and transformation

Research paper by Joan Anim-Addo

Indexed on: 14 Nov '14Published on: 14 Nov '14Published in: Feminist Review


This article, drawing on selected feminist magazines of the 1980s, particularly Feminist Arts News (FAN) and GEN, offers a textual ‘braiding’ of narratives to re-present a history of Black British feminism. I attempt to chart a history of Black British feminist inheritance while proposing the politics of (other)mothering as a politics of potential, pluralistic and democratic community building, where Black thought and everyday living carry a primary and participant role. The personal—mothering our children—is the political, affording a nurturing of alterity through a politics of care that is fundamentally antiracist and antisexist. I attempt to show how Black feminist thought can significantly contribute to democracy in the present and how Black British history and thought, as fundamentally antiracist and anticolonial, can generate a reinvention much needed in the present of a shared British history. I argue for feminist intervention premised upon a politics of care, addressing through activist mothering the urgency of Black absence from prestigious institutions. Such debilitating absence in Britain inhibits the development of scholarship, distorts feminist history and seriously concerns potential Black feminists. From diverse texts, I develop a genealogical narrative supplemented through memory work. This ‘gathering and re-using’ privileges Black women’s theorising as a crucial component of the methodological métissage, which includes auto-theorising to develop ideas of resemblance in relation to Black British feminism and feminist kinship. The resultant ‘braiding’, I suggest after Lionnet, questions the absence of intersubjective spaces for reflection on Black British feminist praxis, indicating a direction for British feminists of all complexions. Attentive to the 1980s as historical context while invoking the maternal, I consider what is required to engage generationally, counterwrite the academy and pursue a dynamic process of transformation within a transnational feminism that challenges Black British absence from academic knowledge production, while nurturing its presence.