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Sexuality, rights and development: Peruvian feminist connections

Williams, Carolyn (2009) Sexuality, rights and development: Peruvian feminist connections. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This thesis is a study of the ways in which the concept of sexuality changes in meaning over time and as it travels through different Peruvian feminist discursive fields and sites of action. Although academic research on Latin American feminists' politics of sexuality has been very limited to date, their own documents reveal a notable absence of debates on same-sex sexuality within the field of sexual and reproductive rights. Moreover, when same-sex sexuality is incorporated into discourse, conceptualized as lesbian rights, it does not refer to low-income women. This paradox is mirrored in feminist connections with British international development agencies. Combining multisited ethnography with a variety of qualitative research methods, I examine the effects of the shifting meanings and normative assumptions in the deployment of 'sexuality' by key Peruvian feminist individuals and organizations in their work at local, national, regional and global levels. In this thesis I show that feminist discourse on sexual rights is implicitly heteronormative with reference to women in Lima's low-income settlements and related national policy advocacy. This limitation is influenced by and reinforces the discursive and funding pressures emanating from international development agencies. Meanwhile, the same feminist actors' national and regional public policy advocacy on lesbian rights and non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation does not connect sexuality with, class, ethnic or national differences and inequalities. The consequence is the construction of a normative middle class, modern, global, urban lesbian subject in Peru that is considered of little relevance by UK-based international development agencies. At regional and global levels, feminist discourse on sexual and reproductive rights has very recently incorporated ythe notions of 'sexual and gender diversity', thus incorporating questions of same-sex sexuality. However, differences of social class, race, ethnicity and geo-political location remain unexamined. I argue that in future feminist cultural politics, the pre-theoretical commitments and normative assumptions of sexuality and related rights-based concepts, deployed in different discursive fields and sites of action, need be theorized on the basis of women's knowledge from different economic, ethnic, racial and national contexts.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2009 Carolyn Williams
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Sets: Departments > Gender Institute
Collections > LSE History of Thought theses
Supervisor: Moore, Henrietta

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