The Politics of Possibility: Migrant Feminist Ethics in Madrid Spain

Mills, Aidyn, Anthropology - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Handler, Richard, Department of Anthropology, University of Virginia
Mentore, George, Department of Anthropology, University of Virginia
Makarova, Ekaterina, Department of Sociology, University of Virginia

This dissertation explores migrant feminist activities in Madrid, Spain. I specifically explore their political activism as a form of ethical practice, and as political strivings for the possibility of change.

First, I explore migrant women’s activist efforts as feminist ethical practices of care. With the contemporary discourse of “crisis” pervading the Spanish imagination and political rhetoric, migrant women’s experiences of everyday, structural violence are bracketed and minimized vis-à-vis the more eventful and provocative experiences of Spanish suffering. I argue that with these women’s politics of ethicality, they seek to bring visibility to experiences of suffering that are dismissed as “normal” and normative according to a neoliberal logic that rationalizes and moralizes life in economic terms.

Second, I explore these women’s political activism with an emphasis on possibility. I invert common epistemological assumptions that prioritize actuality and treat possibility as a mere peripheral antecedent of actuality. Instead, I emphasize possibility as a primordial experience in and of itself and from which actuality unfolds. With this inversion of conventional epistemology, I am able to explore the full depth and nuances of these women’s grassroots efforts, which are otherwise dismissed as improbable, unconventional or utopic. Rather than focus on causality, reasons and outcomes, as is done in much of the social movement literature with respect to political strivings for change, I focus on emergence, particularities and possibilities. By shifting our analytical position from a fixed anticipation of the actual to an open exploration of the possible, the story is no longer a strict evaluation of the feasibility of one’s political project and the efficacy of one’s strategies, but rather becomes about the experience of possibility itself, as told and lived by those who imagine and cultivate it.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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