A Heavy Word: Discourses on Albanian Sworn Virgins

This paper takes up the portrayal of burrnesha in media, where they are usually referred to as sworn virgins. Specifically, this paper utilizes news clips and informational videos accessible on YouTube in order to better understand the interplay of power dynamics between the West and Albania. The majority of these videos constitute a dominant discourse, aligned with most of the literature, that presents the custom of burrnesha as curious and anachronistic. This paper divides the pattern of Western engagement into four sub-themes: knowing, judging, finding, and dying. These themes are evident in the unequal power relations that allow the Western journalists to discover burrnesha, define them, and critique not only them, but Albanians and the Balkans more broadly. Indeed, the videos suggest that this practice is dying out on its own as the Balkans attempt to join modernity. The burrnesha themselves are understood as forced into a male role that punishes the breaking of the oath of celibacy by death. However, the burrnesha, when interviewed, form a counter-narrative by complicating the rigid picture put forth in the literature and media. While they show nuance in their respective motivations, all show satisfaction with their lives. Finally, this paper reflects upon the interplay of the Western gaze, and the ways in which Albanian media interacts with its own people. I argue that most Albanian media distances itself from the burrnesha in order to make claims of being civilized vis-à-vis the straggling burrnesha who remain an anomaly to progress.

“Racism” versus “Intersectionality”? Significations of Interwoven Oppressions in Greek LGBTQ+ Discourses

This paper seeks to make “racism” strange, by exploring its invocation in the sociolinguistic context of LGBTQI+ activism in Greece, where it is used in ways that may be jarring to anglophone readers. In my ongoing research on the conceptualisation of interwoven oppressions in Greek social movement contexts, I have been interested in understanding how the widespread use of the term “racism” as a superordinate category to reference forms of oppression not only based on “race,” “ethnicity,” and “citizenship” (e.g., racism, nationalism, xenophobia) but also those based on gender, gender identity, and sexuality (e.g., sexism, transphobia, and homophobia) relates to the increased adoption of “intersectionality” in movement discourses. In ordinary parlance, this commonplace usage of “racism” as an “umbrella term” nevertheless retains its etymological link to “race,” while its scope is extended to other regimes of superiority/inferiority or privilege/oppression. If intersectionality presupposes that oppressions are ontologically multiple and analytically separable, the use of “racism” as an umbrella concept seems to point in the other direction, implying that all forms of oppression originate from a common source, have a similar ontological basis, or generate privilege for the same social agents who deploy similar tactics vis-à-vis oppressed groups. My research examines how intersectionality – widely understood as a multi-axial theory of oppression, which contends that power relations are multiple, distinct, and irreducible to one another, yet converge simultaneously in the experiences of multiply oppressed social groups – relates to the use of “racism” as a struggle concept in Greek, but also in other languages commonly used in Greece, such as Albanian (racizmi) and Arabic (eunsuria).In this paper, I examine how these two vocabularies – of racism and intersectionality – are operative in movement discourses, but also how they shape and are shaped by activists’ perceptions, analyses, and theories of oppression.

Black Feminist Statement

In 1977, the Combahee River Collective, a radical Black feminist group, published the "Black Feminist Statement", which had a great influence on the formation of feminist, left, and socialist thought. The "Black Feminist Statement" has appeared in the context of hitherto crucial discussions about the homogeneity of the feminist movement, disregard of racism and xenophobia, as well as the problematic issues of white liberal feminism. The Statement questioned such universal categories as "woman" and "global sisterhood." Speaking out against capitalism, hetero-patriarchy, racism, and liberal individualism, the activists of the Combahee River Collective sought to find new forms of collective imagination, public space, radical queer politics, and freedom. In the post-Soviet context, this Statement remains mostly unknown. We think that the Statement articulates important theorizing, which, although produced in the geographical west, provides examples of radical feminist imagination and resistance. The translation of the Statement into Russian can create a space for comprehension of transformative radical solidarities, as well as for reflection on the relations between post-Soviet feminist practices and racial, colonial, and imperial formations. The Combahee River Collective emphasizes the importance of centering the marginal experiences of people of color, whose bodies and identities are a constant target of attacks, neglect, and systematic violence, as well as a major resource exploited under the global capitalist regime.

Keywords: racism, anti-racist feminism, Black feminism, intersectionality, socialism.

Read the complete translation in Russian.

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