National Conference on Reconciliation, Multiculturalism,Immigration and Human Rights

Ms Amrita Dasvarma
Project Officer, YWCA Adelaide, University of Adelaide

Beyond Colonialism: Feminist Futures of Non-Western Women

As a young woman of Indian background actively involved in feminist campaigns through the nineties, I observed almost dispassionately the constant and sometimes repetitive intergenerational debates between seventies feminists icons and today's young feminists, which unfortunately had been partly diminished to the chiding of mothers and the icy mutiny of daughters. I felt part of the debate but not quite, just on the periphery.

Seen but unseen, I wore uncomfortably the clothing of the younger feminist, but furtively tugged and smoothed the garments. Having lived one third of my life in Australia, I was almost immune to the colour, to the Anglo overtones of what I was wearing which didn't quite match my black hair and brown skin: the outfit hadn't really been designed with me in mind. Somehow the Anglo clothes became a standard: add skin colour, add ethnicity, add cultural background, and suddenly anything not Anglo, any colour that was not white, was othered. White was neutral, the norm.

This paper will focus on the situation of young migrant women growing up as part of an ethnic minority in a country such as Australia, and their daily interactions with Western feminism, where the roots of feminism are inextricably bound with the roots of imperialism. Through anecdotal and academic analyses, this paper will identify how young migrant women must forge their own feminist identities and feminist futures.

Amrita Dasvarma's longest occupation has been as a student of law and women's studies. She has also held positions as the President of her campus Students' Association, Women's Officer for the National Union of Students, and Australian NGO Coordinator for the Beijing + 5 UN Conference. She is committed to women's human rights issues and to good food.

Presentation Type
30 min paper

University of Technology, Sydney, 1-2 December 2000

Papers & Workshops