Review of Joel Cabrita's "The People’s Zion" by Edna Bonhomme

I recently wrote a review for Joel Cabrita’s “The People Zion” which you can find at this link or read below.

Transatlantic Faith Healing

Joel Cabrita’s The People’s Zion: Southern Africa, the United States, and a Transatlantic Faith-Healing Movement is a transnational story about the role new forms of Christianity had in shaping concepts of identity and community among religious believers, as well as the ways racial inequality and segregation transformed in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Cabrita’s story begins in the 1880s during a moment when societies, ideas, and economies were being transformed by rapid advances in communications and transport technology, against a background of increasing industrialization and an acceleration of colonial annexation and imperialism. Religion was not insulated from these trends but influenced the direction they took—while itself being transformed. In turn, new religious ideas and practices—and sometimes, wholly new religious sects—shaped the processes of self-fashioning by which believers made sense of themselves and their spirituality. One hitherto underexamined sect was the Zion Bible movement, which referred to itself as Zionism, though it had no connection to the movement for a Jewish homeland. Cabrita argues that the movement was a new iteration of Christianity’s transnational history from the nineteenth to the twentieth century.

Zion was founded in the late 1800s by the missionary John Alexander Dowie, a transnational evangelical leader whose movement covered the United States and southern Africa. In all of these contexts it found racially and linguistically diverse communities who approached the faith in different ways. Cabrita is attentive to the significance of these dynamics, and the contrasting social contexts in which the sect was implanted. Christianity was a web of ideology and social and cultural practices that was not exported wholesale from place to place but was transported in the bodies and minds of people. As Christian evangelism shifted from northern European and North American contexts to the southern hemisphere, its new adherents remade the faith in their own image in ways that made sense in their own environments. This allows Cabrita to develop an illuminating comparison between the Zionist movement among Americans in Chicago and black and white believers in southern Africa.

At the core of The People’s Zion is an interest in how religions attract new followers and why some are more successful than others in this endeavor. In common with other newly developed Christian sects in the late nineteenth century, the Zion church was a social movement most popular among the working class. Cabrita is especially interested in the Zionists’ use of the rhetoric of colorblindness as a means to unite black and white workers in Johannesburg, as well as their embrace of reformist politics. Concurrently, the movement developed a critique of medical practices, particularly vaccination, developing its own ideas about bodily perfection and forms of healing tied to religious faith. 

The text is not only concerned about the historical legacy of the Zion church but also how it exists today. For Cabrita, “Zion’s remarkable success in southern Africa demonstrates the saliency of Christian evangelicalism for diverse societies undergoing profound social changes—industrialization, urbanization, widespread migration, nativist and colonial racially inflected legislation” (p. 2). As well as seeking to account for the popularity of the Zion church—today approximately 30 to 40 percent of Swazis and 30 percent of South Africans are Zionists, Cabrita also asks how the faith functions in such seemingly different contexts as the American Midwest and the whole of southern Africa.

Cabrita uses a broad but detailed corpus of archival materials spanning from missionary archives in South Africa to the papers of the Zion Historical Society in Illinois. In addition to textual materials, the author included present-day interviews with people in southern Africa and the United States. The sources are enriched by the integration of poetry and print media that concretely link the early Zion movement of the American Midwest and southern Africa. These expansive sources speak not only to the history of the sect but also to the personal stories of members of the community.

Chapter 1 begins with nineteenth century Australia and makes links between the evangelical healing movement in this settler-colonial context and the rise of urban reform. The founder of the Zion Bible movement, John Alexander Dowie, then living in Melbourne, was part of competing networks of nascent independent churches that claimed apostolic prowess. Cabrita illustrates how Dowie’s career in Australia shaped the subsequent trajectory of the Zion church in America. Anti-establishment tendencies in Australia, and its important temperance movement, are among the themes Cabrita explores here. What we gather from this chapter is that Dowie’s rejection and ultimate failure in Australia led to his missionary efforts in North America. While Cabrita describes the circulation of the Zionist movement in three settler-colonial societies—Australia, the United States, and southern Africa—she does not demonstrate how the religious movement relates to settler colonialism.

Chapter 2 explores the successes and failures of Dowie in the United States. After spending two years in California, he left in 1890 for Illinois, where he established the Divine Healing Association. At the time, 80 percent of people in Chicago were foreign-born, with Germans accounting for approximately 30 percent of the population while other Europeans such as Swedes, Poles, Italians, and Lithuanians were also a significant presence. Chicago, which had been home to the Haymarket martyrs, was also a hub of working-class political organizing and Marxist ideology: the population was heavily politicized and unionized. Cabrita’s key intervention in this chapter is to argue that “secular labor movements were not the only forces propagating notions of human fraternity” (p. 61). The reader comes to understand the plurality and contested notions of egalitarianism that were overlapping during this time. Mostly European immigrant workers from various ethnic and linguistic backgrounds attended Dowie’s Zion Tabernacle, and during his sermons, he also catered to African Americans in Chicago by arguing that there was one human race. People of all backgrounds were allowed to attend services and he constructed a church by the name of Zion City and several establishments that he called “healing homes.” He was later fined for maintaining an unlicensed hospital. Integration and healing were key features of the church during its missionary period and are emblematic of other themes to which Cabrita returns repeatedly in this book.

In chapters 3 and 4 Cabrita explores the significance of Zionist egalitarianism in sections that deal with cosmopolitanism and racial exclusivism. The Zion church in South Africa was a contested terrain for English- and Dutch-speaking settlers who were trying to envision themselves as part of a transnational white community. Johannesburg was home to many evangelical Protestant churches that became sites for the promotion of “racial health” and imperial “white South Africanism” (p. 109). In the first part of the twentieth century, the Zion congregation in Johannesburg eschewed racial integration and maintained apartheid. Zionism began to integrate in South Africa once rural black elites began to be drawn to the cosmopolitan project, but such integration did not lead to material equality. While some white South African Zionists were able to visit Chicago in the early twentieth century, black South Africans did not.

After engaging in a thorough history of the social experience of apartheid in South Africa, chapters 5 and 6 articulate the ways that Zion churches emerged within a growing literate black population in other southern African contexts, especially as they increasingly expressed anti-establishment views. The explosion of churches among the urban middle class and unskilled men happened mostly during the interwar period. At the same time, popular healing practices were also linked to religion, and the Zion movement was “a seamless continuation of indigenous healing therapies” (p. 192). While much is written about Zion’s connection to healing, Cabrita misses an opportunity to further explore the dynamism of indigenous medical practices. Chapter 6 also outlines how the reconfiguration of evangelical churches was driven by inter-Southern African migration as a result of labor demands, particularly in mining. The cosmopolitanism of the Zion church, for black South Africans who came from a variety of ethnic and linguistic groups, elided those differences. This was especially true for black migrants to South Africa. However, perceptions about ethnic differences were not completely erased by participation in the church, where ethnic patriots would sometimes make claims to leadership of their compatriots within the church.

Chapter 7 returns to themes explored at the beginning of the book, outlining the links between the North American and southern African Zion churches. In both contexts, the Bible School and prophecies were central means of galvanizing the congregations. This was mostly achieved by healing prayers. The chapter goes on to explore how Protestants developed a transnational movement that made claims to human equality. At the same time, transnational connections in evangelical Protestantism emerged and were crystalized during a broader imperial project in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Churches functioned as a site for southern Africans to make sense of sickness, health, and healing. Divine healing, too, was an international phenomenon that did not develop in isolation. As Cabrita argues, the development of ideas of divine healing in the Zionist church was part of a global shift in Christian healing therapies. For southern Africans, medical and religious knowledge were co-constituted, mutually reinforcing each other.  

Divine healing practices existed in awkward tension with other forms of Christian religiosity such as Victorian piety, which tended to call for a passive response to sickness. Divine healing, in contrast, allowed believers to find earnest and direct methods for remedy. These in turn could be connected in the believer’s mind with religious faith, such that personal holiness and disease management were closely interlinked. 

Zionist advocacy of egalitarianism sometimes fell short of what it might have been. Southern African Zionists did not explicitly challenge apartheid. Leaders went so far as to say that apartheid officials were “God’s servants for your [own] good” (p. 12). Their interventions in, or quiescence in the face of, the political apparatus were paradoxical. In addition to the significance of divine healing and the meaning of egalitarianism, a further unifying theme in this book is the idea of reform, at the level of the church’s organization. In southern Africa, congregations were decentralized and factional in their approach, which allowed space for new members to join and be incorporated into a congregation. This meant that in the South African case, black South Africans who were finding the limits of living under apartheid could find an accessible and seemingly multicultural and intercontinental religious movement. That is to say, they were able to make connections with white people from outside of South Africa on the basis of religious affinity.

The book mostly focuses on southern African perspectives and the latter half of the twentieth century, with the cosmopolitan and transnational claims in the endless present. It is not always clear that the Zion church of the late nineteenth century is comparable to that of today. Cabrita’s text explains that when the Zion movement started, it sought to be multiracial; however, by the end of the twentieth century, the congregations in Chicago were mostly white and those in South Africa were mostly black. While the mostly monoracial congregation in South Africa is explained, the same is not true for the case in Chicago.

What one gathers from this work is that egalitarianism had its limits insofar as it was incendiary and conventional. It was not the case that leadership within the Zionist movement reflected the diversity of the communities it had reached. This is an interesting work of an understudied religious movement that makes new connections between southern Africa and the United States and illuminates the relationship between social history and the history of religion.

Citation: Edna Bonhomme. Review of Cabrita, Joel, The

Fighting To Survive: A Panel on Black and Indigenous Liberation by Edna Bonhomme

"The place in which I’ll fit will not exist until I make it”.

-James Baldwin

On 8 October 2019, I co-organized an event for Berlin’s first Anti-colonial Month at be’kech anti-cafe in Wedding, a working class neighborhood in Berlin. This is part of growing concerns about the ways that the legacy of colonialism live on today and the extent that we can foster conversations with people from the Global South. One thing that I learned from curating this event is that the borders that separate do not need to be so fixed or permanent and that there are other ways for us to connect our struggles to survive and thrive. At the same time, we have the power to learn from each other, to grow together, and to win together.

Panelists for “Fighting to Survive”: Helo, Gabiel, Edna, and Melody.

Panelists for “Fighting to Survive”: Helo, Gabiel, Edna, and Melody.



The event featured filmmaker/lecturer/Black Lives Matter activist Melody Howse, Black Brazilian leftist/poet Gabriel Silva, with Portuguese-English translations by Brazilian anti-colonial month organizer Helo Yoshioka. These were activists and scholars who unpacked the ways that various nation-states monitor, regulate, and criminalize people of colour and how these modes of surveillance are tied to legacies of colonialism and slavery in Brazil and Europe. As fascist movements undergo a surge in North America, South America and Europe, Black and indigenous people have been subjected to various forms of state violence, whilst developing new political languages to survive.

While there is no single definition of freedom, the Black American activist Fannie Lou Hamer said:


“If I fall, I'll fall five feet four inches forward in the fight for freedom. I'm not backing off.”

Decolonization in Action by Edna Bonhomme

Last weekend, I launched “Decolonization in Action” a podcast series that I co-created. The podcast interrogates decolonization in the arts, sciences, and beyond. While calls for decolonizing science, education, and museums are becoming more prominent, knowledge practices of western academia and of present-day colonizing nation states remain largely unchanged. In conversation with historians, activists, artists, and curators, this podcast aims to unravel how decolonization is understood, and most importantly to give attention to how decolonization is being practiced today.

Logo designed by  Nina Prader .

Logo designed by Nina Prader.

In our first episode, we interiewed Dr. Noa Ha and Prof. Dr. Tahani Nadim to discuss the relationship between German colonial history and Berlin—the metropole of that colonial past. We focus on Berlin’s street names and the Natural History Museum as spaces of remembrance and resistance. In this episode we ask ourselves, in what ways does colonialism continue to shape Berlin institutions and the city of Berlin itself? You can also find the podcast on Spotify at here.

Special thanks to Gina Grzimek, Stephanie Hood, Anja Krieger, Nina Prader, Dr. Lisa Onaga, Prof. Dr. Dagmar Schäfer, Karin Weninger, and Danyang Zhang.

Also, be sure to check out the following resources in Berlin:

Anticolonial Month in Berlin
Berlin als postkoloniale Stadt kartieren
Berlin Postkolonial
Critical Ethnic Studies Association
Dead Wasps Fly Further, Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin
Initiative Schwarze Menschen in Deutschland Bund e.V.
korientation. Netzwerk für asiatisch-deutsche Perspektiven e.V.
Migrationsrat Berlin e.V.

Universal Healthcare and Privatization by Edna Bonhomme

In recent months, universal healthcare has become a central issue in US democratic debates with some US candidates calling for Medicare for All. In Britain, the future of the National Health Service (NHS) is up for debate with concerns about access and funding in light of Brexit’s forthcoming. While plans are still under negotiation, the Guardian recently published an article highlight that future privatisation would restricted. According to them, section 75 of the Health and Social Care Act 2012 will be removed which would lead to preventing the transfer of Public Contracts Regulations 2015. In recent years, the Health and Social Care Act has been contested.

One site of contention for the NHS is how the program relates to migrants, which in recent years has been linked to surveillance and reporting to the Home Office. The Health and Social Care Act of 2012 made it permissible for the NHS to transfer migration information to the Home Office, with part 5 indicating that the NHS had the right |to advise and provide information to the secretary of state, the NHS commissioning board, Monitor, or local authorities on the experiences of service users. This is particularly relevant because it paved the way for undocumented migrants, Black, and other ethnic minorities to have their data collected and circulated to other branches of the state. After a public outcry, the NHS suspended its program to share information about immigrants to the Home Office.


The NHS should not be a dilapidated relic, that spies on migrants or extends private contracts to corporations. Rather, it should cast itself in the image that it once was, a public service to all.

Reparative Archaeology by Edna Bonhomme


I took part in a two-day symposium on reparative archeology with Coven Collective as part of the Forschungamaschine (organized by the Society for Artistic Tesearch and the German Society for Aesthetics).

The workshop interrogates Archives, hierarchies of power in the arts, the politics of care, and imagination. I gave a talk that looked at mapped enslaved narratives, herbal archives, and Black musical joy (Haitian Rafa music). After the talk, we broke out into coven-led workshops on homonationalism and transgender herbal healing. We exercised radical care by collectively making soup joumou, plantains and pikliz. This was a space for co-learning, and creative growth.


Art Museums are too White by Edna Bonhomme


Several days ago, I did an experiment at the Centre Pompidou art gallery in Paris and walked around their main collection and kept walking until I found a painting by a person of color and/or from the Global South. It took me over 15 minutes to find a piece of modern art work that met this criteria. So I decided that if I wanted to see artworks by people of color, I had to go to an institution that celebrated work the creative contribution of people of color/people from the Global South. So I took a trip to the Institut du Monde Arabe and I mostly prioritized the works of Arab women—with a couple of exceptions.

The dichotomy between what is considered art "vs" decorative/craft work within the Western European canon of art history. One thing that should be interrogated is the physical labor of the unnamed people who make art spaces public to begin with. That is, the painters, the installation folks, the people monitoring the space. Outside of that, art and beauty are ubiquitous in communities of color in ALL aspects of our life, not just in gallery walls. We create art when we make our food, when we dress for the day, when we style our hair, we we put on jewelery. As far as I am concerned, the working class Senegalese womxn* dressed up in their attire in Chateau Rouge have more to tell me about fashion and art then some bland all Black attire European. The attention of creating beauty in all aspects of life is how we should think about art (re)production.


Art museums should center the works of people of color and the global south on their own right, not merely be segreating them into institutes that bear their area/ethnic identity. The process of seeking out, absorbing, and promoting these works are an indication that I have to do some learning and unlearning to reorient the canons of art and knowledge. I hope these paintings can be a guide for others as well.

We need to decolonize the canon(s) and stop art museums from being too white.


Learning about Candomblé by Edna Bonhomme


The African diaspora is so saturated with beauty, knowledge and strength and we have so many stories to tell. While in Paris, I learned about Candomblé an Afro-Brazilian religious tradition that was developed by enslaved Africans who originated from West African and were forced to migrate to settler colonial South America. The slaves and their descendants carry the traditions of Yoruba, Fon and other beliefs to honor Oludumaré and the many Orishas among us. She taught us that the practice is abot love, negotiation, collective power, and acceptance. I learned so much but was also struck by the positivity and love that was received by this practice which can be contrasted with the massive stigmatization of Voodoo in Haiti and by non-Haitians.

When a Gabonese friend and I discussed we could not help to think that it boiled down to one thing—Haiti has and will continue to be punished for what they do. As a Haitian person, I find that our African derived practices are not generally celebrated nor are they understood by outsiders. People rarely bother to learn Kreyol and often see Haiti (in the contemporary context) as a site of disease and poverty. But that is plain old wrong. I have been digging deep in my family’s history to challenge the lies I have been told and to unravel them so that I can see the beauty of my African descended cousins who speak Portuguese, Spanish, French, Dutch, etc, as well. Our traditions can be celebrated and taken up as an act of resistance not a subject of shame.

Reimagining Pan-Africanism in Berlin by Edna Bonhomme

Yesterday, I did my best to listen to my African diaspora brethren and elders during the Afrolution 2019 festival in Berlin which was hosted by Each One Teach One (EOTO). This is a Berlin African diaspora literature festival which invites layers of the diaspora to think, write, and convene. This year theme was “Pan Africanism Revisited” which tried to imagine Pan-Africanism beyond the political sphere but as a cultural and social form of practice. Poets, science fiction writers, theorists, toddlers, the elderly, and everyday Black folks gathered to share and learn from each other. Not just on the level of discourse but on level of seeing each other through an emphatic lens. Upon entering various programs of this festival I pushed myself to wonder: What do we members of the African diaspora owe each other? How can we learn each other’s histories? What languages have been gained and lost? What does utopia mean to us?

I could not answer these questions fully and perhaps they never will be answered. However, what I found was a space and a growing community of people who are unlearning and learning the histories that have been withheld from us, the histories that are brutal and shocking and the traumas that are allowed to reign unchecked in European Cities.


I went on a Postcolonial walking tour in the “African quarter” of Berlin which is located in the neighborhood of Wedding hosted by Berlin Postkolonial, a group that is committed to understanding Germany’s colonial past in Africa. About 60 of us went an intellectual and honest journey concerning German colonialism on the African continent. We gathered at the intersection of Afrikanstrasse and Petersallee. Petersallee is a street that was especially controversial since it was named after the German colonialist Carls Peter, who contributed to the slaughter of Africans in the early 20th century. Yet, this tour was not just about the colonial question in Africa but how street names revered German colonialists rather than the African leaders who resisted tyranny.


Colonization did not just happen outside of Europe but it happened and continues to happen in the metropole. The first German concentration camps were enacted on the Herero and Namaqua people beginning in 1905. The German imperial army committed genocide on this Namibian people. The Nazis later used colonial tactics that they exercised on Africans before doing the same on marginalized Europeans (Jews, Romas, Black German, disabled, etc) during the fascist regime. The Postcolonial tour laid out the ways that Colonialism fuels fascism, an argument that Aimé Césaire and Hannah Arendt argued over 60 years ago. The tour allowed strangers to come together and hopefully this knowledge can carry us through Decolonizing our history, or minds, our streets, our communities, and so much more.

The Coffee Talk with Fred Moten, Nnedi Okorafor, and Felwine Sarr entitled “Pan-Africanism Reimagined” provided the ideal entry point to that decolonial process. Moten, Sarr and Okorafor engaged in an intimate conversation that transcended binaries and offering us to abandon the notion of the nation-state on our road to Afrotopia. While we sat in a room stuffed with 200 people, we engaged in an active Pan-Africanism that generates a multisonic and kaleidoscopic orchestra. Moten led us on a philosophical expedition to interrogate our connection to terms such as “freedom” and “slavery” while also indicating that being a revolutionary means committing oneself to rethinking everything.

Fred Moten, Nnedi Okorafo, and Felwine Sarr at EOTO, 15 June 2019. Photo by E. Bonhomme.

Fred Moten, Nnedi Okorafo, and Felwine Sarr at EOTO, 15 June 2019. Photo by E. Bonhomme.

Moten later remarked: “When I am in a room with this many Black people I assume we are talking about revolution.” Taking it one step further, he pondered: “How do we look at things closely and minutely while still surviving?” During our time together at the EOTO space, we discussed radical homelessness, dispossession, New World Blacks, European Blacks, and more. There was very little resolution, rather, it was a beginning and hopefully many sets of conversations where we can see each other in the cosmological brilliance that we possess. What this event showed is that Pan-Africanism is about exchange and hybridity, it is about learning from our layers of pain so we can imagine an Afrotopia with new languages, new methods, and new social relations. We have a world to win when we provide justice to the oppressed.If we want a future that is equitable for everyone racial capitalism needs to go.

Meditations on Black Love by Edna Bonhomme

Being loved feels like such a radical act because it was never apparent that women who looked like me (short, dark skinned, & assertive) could be the object of sustained desire. Whilst growing up in Miami watching telenovelas or sit coms, darker skinned women like myself were rarely portrayed as romantic interests. If women with my complexion were present, they were side characters, “too aggressive,” or providing care work.

When I used to articulate the ways that society racialized love, I was often told to look inwards and just love myself—with the assumption that this had been provided elsewhere. What was implied was that I should not question or harp over the very system that sidelined me or others like me. It made me realize that rather listen or find offer empathy, my feelings and my experiences were being dismissed.

Although I cannot change all the minds and hearts of a racist world that we have inherited, I am working on building a layer of people who listen to me, who care for me, and who empower me. Perhaps, it is in this radical act of surrounding myself around people who trust me that I can finally begin the work of self preservation and healing. That is, living in a world that can begin to love Black womxn*.
*inclusive of transgender folks/gender non-binary, intersex

The Contested Life of "People of Color" by Edna Bonhomme

Last night, the English language’s presence in Germany was impugned—not for what it offers but for what it represents in leftist and marginalized spaces. I attended an all Black women’s panel on intersectionality and film where the discussion was mostly on healing, liberation, and empowerment. As a member of the audience, I was drawn to how we were immersed into a multilingual space, where we were able to hear people weaving between German and English, similar to how I grew up in Miami shifting between Creole, English, and Spanish. Children of many diasporas swim through a sea of languages in their everyday experience. What sparked the debate about English language was not what was said last night but from the night before. That is to say, one person in the audience described how some people are concerned that the term "people of color" does not have applicability in Germany. Underlying this claim was also a concern that Americans are often dominating and/or colonising leftist spaces and the history of racism in the United States is not the only history to tell. This is not the first time time I have heard this commentary nor will it be the last.

The history of “people of color” dates back to the eighteenth century when French colonists in the Americas (including present-day Haiti, Martinique, and Guadeloupe) referred to multi-heritage people of African ancestry as “gens des couleur.” This term, and many others, were politically charged to classify people with respect to their proximity to whiteness and subsequently freedom. By the mid-twentieth century, “people of color” took on another life. For people involved in anti-racist social justice work, “people of color” was one method of forming solidarity, for some people outside of formalized leftist spaces or the Global South the term was foreign. In a recent article by Nadra Widatalla, she commented on how the term “people of color” erases Black people. How can we understand “people of color” in the German context and why does it matter to have this debate?

In Germany today, some find it irrelevant in a space where some migrant and marginalized communities feel disconnected from each other. The alienation and fragmentation of migrants (or those who are perceived to be migrants) are grave and often occur along linguistic and cultural lines. We all have our stories, our struggles, our methods of survival and when resources and time are scare, solidarity is fleeting. What emerged in the conversation is that that one minority group’s visibility can be read as contributing to another' group’s invisibility. Yet missing from this logic is power. Who has the power to determine which groups are recognized, which histories are acknowledge, and which languages are told.

The English language is politically charged in Berlin, a city that was once divided along a wall and an ideological war. Beyond that, the English language can mean different things depending on who is speaking. For African descended people in the Americas, the English language, the Spanish language, the French language, the Dutch language, and the Portuguese language were imposed onto our ancestors. As was Christianity and European names. As Malcolm X said, “I didn’t land on Plymouth Rock, Plymouth Rock landed on me.” The social and political conditions that led to Black people in the Americas knowing and speaking European languages did not come by choice but through violent measures—something that many of us still live through. So it may appear that a Black American speaking English in Berlin is doing the work of propagating US cultural and linguistic “imperialism” when for many generations, our ancestors were the ones who were dispossessed, displaced, and . When we speak English, it is because we have lost a history. Yet, many of us are reclaiming that history through solidarity. Perhaps the term “people of color” might be fitting to find linkages and connections with others, perhaps not.

English should not be the only language we speak in leftist or marginalized spaces in Berlin—and neither should German be the only language. As Mahmood Mamdani remarked in his London Review of Books Essay on “The African University,” we have a world to win if we speak Arabic, Pashto, Trih, Kreyol, Turkish, Yoruba, and more with each other. European languages are not the monolith and we have a world to win if we also find ourselves sitting in a sea of opacity. What I do know is that more can be done interrogate one’s intention with language, the histories that shape our migration, and the potential to work against a system that continues to classify and divide us.

Lecture on Medical Apartheid, Biomedicine, and Afrofuturism by Edna Bonhomme

Today, I gave a talk for the co-curated exhibition, Scan the Difference on Medical Apartheid, Biomedicine and Afrofuturism. Here is the abstract and highlights from the talk.


Technological tools, albeit drones or spyware, are part and parcel of monitoring and circumscribing people’s everyday actions—including their movements, their thoughts, and their plans. Beyond that, surveillance creates racial subjectivities that are often intertwined with historical and political regimes. Within and beyond the United States Empire, Arab and Black people have been targets of surveillance, though for different reasons, under policing systems and military occupation. How do emergent technologies and surveillance dictate and engender health and illness? To what extent does global apartheid and postcolonial border regimes influence morbidity and mortality for womxn*? What types of medical knowledge gets remembered and whose deaths are worth mourning? In this workshop, we will interrogate cyborgs, therapeutics, and memory through one case study of medical apartheid, one biomedical record, and one Afrofuturist manifesto (as constructed by Dr. Bonhomme). We will work through archival practices and silences and see how they feature into fictive, tangible and narrative structures from a Black radical feminist and anti-colonial alens. This interactive seminar will provide a historical interrogation of surveillance along racial and ethnic lines especially as it is instrumentalized for womxn* and non-elite bodies. We will consider how former Black womxn* slaves, pro-choice activists, Black theorists, poets, filmmakers, and the subaltern created their own medical landscape within the backdrop of technoscience. The power and ethics of knowing is not only shaped by what we have inherited but by what we can create. So, we will consider how science fiction has the possibility of providing voice to womxn* who have lived under tyranny and occupation especially as they delve into constructing egalitarian societies or cosmic battles where engendered and racialized subjects can create their own radical feminist future.

*=the asterisk is meant to include transgender people, gender non-conforming people, and intersex people


Scan the Difference: Gender Surveillance and Bodies (15-21 May 2019), Vienna by Edna Bonhomme


VVKOE: Vereinigung bildender Künstlerinnen Österreichs (VBKÖ)

Maysedergasse 2/28 (4. Stock, Lift)
1010 Wien

Scan the Difference invites you to an interactive, critical seminar and educational training at VBKÖ May 15-21

Everyone is watched, but not everyone is monitored in the same way. Surveillance crops up in many features of life through cameras, the Internet, and cellular phones.

Using methodologies derived from intersectional feminism, Scan the Difference: Gender, Surveillance, and Bodies deviates from the traditional art show. Through a series of lectures, a zine-making workshop, and lecture-performances, the aim is to create awareness and visibility on how bodies have been scanned medically, culturally, and politically. Thinking about the base of Vienna with a universal health care system, it is important to reflect critically on what rights bodies have and how these rights are threatened by the rise of the Right. Over the course of the exhibition, we will explore questions relating to archiving the self in the age of data collection and digitalization. What strategies do we have to own our body, medically and/or politically? What is the difference between “scanning” and “positioning” (You are vs. I am) from a doctor’s exam, a police report to your cultural I.D., verbal, digital or on paper.

The notion of “the scan” is the tension point: scanning the medical, digitized or human body, scanning a page for the digital archive, the algorithm. Who, what and how are you being scanned for society?

With facilitators, Edna Bonhomme, Vanessa Gravenor, Nina Prader, and contributors, critical friends & allies: Power Makes Us Sick, Ariana Dongus, Elke Krasny, Luiza Prado and Hiba Ali.

My Article in The Nation by Edna Bonhomme

You can check out my latest article in The Nation here:


The Disturbing Rise of ‘Femonationalism’

Across Europe, politicians are hijacking feminist language to further right-wing ideologies. 

By Edna Bonhomme

A Muslim woman passes election posters for Marine Le Pen in France, 2017. (AP / Winfried Rothermel)

In the fall of 2018, during an interview with Der Speigel, Nicole Höchst, a member of the nationalist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party claimed that she was concerned about the future of Germany and the protection of women from radical Islamists and migrants. Alice Weidel, a lesbian leader of the party, alleged that increased migration to Germany has resulted in the lack of protection of women and girls. By proclaiming their motivation for gender equality in racist, xenophobic terms, they are catering to a subsection of women—namely, anti-migrant and anti-Islam ethnic Germans—who are willing to join the AfD. Their goal is to build a larger base to advocate proto-natalist policies for ethnic Germans, allege Muslims as a danger for women, and appeal for the increased criminalization of non-German migrants.

“I believe we are the only party in Germany who is really fighting for women’s rights, because we point out we’re in danger of losing the freedoms and rights of women for which we’ve fought for centuries,” she said, referring to state-sanctioned programs for mothers, pay equity, and more public security in Germany.

This strategy of using women’s rights, interventionist natalist policies, and the language of feminism for the purposes of the far right is not uncommon. European liberals, secularists and right-wing politicians have usurped women’s rights and feminism to encroach upon religious freedom, women’s bodies, and migration under a banner that feminist scholar Sara Farris calls “femonationalism.” During the early 2000s, a number of Western European countries introduced measures to simultaneously criminalize migrants or Muslim women. In July 2002, the Italians passed Law No. 177, which required migrants to be fingerprinted and imposed severe sanctions on undocumented migrants. In France, the banning of the headscarf in public schools in 2004 culminated in the government’s wanting Muslim women to embrace France’s principle of laicité (secularism). These legal structures are some of the many iterations of how an ideological formation built on an anti-migrant and anti-Muslim foundation has become more dominant in European politics.

Femonationalism is also a wellspring for white nationalism, with figures such as the feminist Susan Moller Okin claiming that non-Western cultures are more oppressive to women. Unlike Moller Okin, Rita Chin demonstrates that the “crisis of multiculturalism” is not a product of migrants or ethnic minorities being a detriment to Western society; rather, it is a product of perennial 19th century legacies of racial nationalism and static notions of what it means to be European—white, Christian and secular. At the core of these anxieties is what Joan Wallach Scott describes as Western liberal democracies’ perspective through a “racist lens that had justified imperial conquest…[and viewing] mostly Muslim people…not only as different but as inferior.” This has been going on for some time.

As the scholar Gayatri Spivak noted, British colonialists in India justified colonization because they saw themselves “saving brown women from brown men”—which percolates from nationalist and far-right groups in Europe today.

How can we understand these racialized comments in the context of European nationalism? And why is it important to talk about this movement now? At a moment when racist, anti-Semitic, and Islamophobic attacks are on the rise, it’s important to home in on the ways that feminist language gets used to fulfill right-wing populism’s objective of criminalizing migrants, dictating what Muslim women should wear, and deviating from the existing sexist policies in European society.

As this brand of populism has soared in recent years, it has attempted to rebrand itself throughout Europe to appeal to a new generation of voters, notably with Marine Le Pen minimally distancing herself from her father’s campaign by inviting more women and gay people to the Front National party. The rise of far-right parties has generated a litany of self-described feminists who propose nationalist cordoning from Scandinavia to Southern Europe. Adhering to national conservatism, parties such as the Sweden DemocratsSwiss People’s Party, and AfD jettison themselves from centrist parties by championing their burgeoning female members. They hope to do what their predecessors have not: achieve gender parity in their leadership.

European nationalist parties have

developed women’s caucuses. For example, AfD has tried to appeal to women under the leadership of Alice Weidel and Beatrix von Storch with the inauguration of the Frauen in der Alternativ, a working group that aims to increase female voters in their party structure. Some of the members of AfD went so far as to fight for women’s rights through the language of the MeToo movement. Yet they hold many nonwhite women in contempt; their position is entrenched in anti-Islamic rhetoric that then reproduces anti-feminist policies—tied both to productive and social reproductive forces.

AfD leader Dennis Augustin proclaimed Islam “was not compatible with our liberal-democratic constitution” and “Islam is totalitarian.” The party goes even further by claiming that Muslims refuse to integrate, which harps over the ways that Islamic religiosity might be expressed. At the same time, a recent article revealed that party leader Alice Weidel hired an asylum-seeker to clean her home.

European political leaders often make scapegoats of migrant and Muslim women without interrogating the ways that sexism gestates in their own society. As Elisa Banfi has noted, countries such as Switzerland have historically instituted burqa bans “in the name of women’s rights,” even though gender parity in electoral politics has not been fully achieved. While Switzerland operates as a direct democracy today, women make up only 30 percent of its house of representatives and 15 percent of the senate.

Across the continent, instead of addressing the uneven political representation and power of women—a demand that could also be directed at the ongoing global gender gap—legislation has fixated on the apparel of Muslim women. One German court prevented a Muslim teacher from wearing a headscarf, which left her temporarily unemployed and reassigned to another institution for work. In France the anti-hijab discourse is a constantly evolving and mutating obsession. In 2010 the country prohibited the wearing of full-face veils. In 2016 various politicians in France tried to ban Muslim women from wearing swimsuits that covered their entire bodies (popularly known as burkinis).

When European states use legislation to curtail educational access, job opportunities, and leisurely activities of women who decide to wear the hijab, veil, or burka, they prevent these women from having control over their labor and bodily autonomy. Femonationalism thus operates from a place of cynicism, presenting itself as liberating Muslim women while doing the exact opposite. Far-right and feminist politics should not be equated with each other, given that the former aims to have rights for a few, while the latter strives for equality for all. Conservative women are not heirs of feminism; they actively undermine it.

Far-right-party women have upheld oppressive anti-abortion campaigns. In Germany, Article 218 defines abortion as murder, and Article 219aprohibits health-care providers from advertising that they provide abortion services; these are Nazi-holdover decrees that were recently softened but not eliminated. In Poland, anti-abortion groups have described the morning-after pill an early abortion pill, calling for tighter restrictions on abortions. In Ireland, pro-choice activists organized walkouts to oppose the abortion ban. These accounts are not an anomaly but the standard femonationalist position.

At the core of these positions are European nativist fears that nonwhite European foreigners will replace them—a phenomenon rooted in legal and natalist policies since the early 2000s. Under the Berlusconi regime, the Italian government pioneered the Fondo Nuovi Nati (Fund for Newborns) in 2009 to give subsidized bank loans to new mothers—parents without Italian nationality were initially excluded from those benefits. Poland is giving people money to have more babies, though it is unclear if the universal child benefit can be applied to migrants. However, the Law and Justice Party said it was “weary” that the Muslim migrants would reap these benefits.

On the subject of large families, France’s President Emmanuel Macronalleged that uneducated and African women were having “too many children,” even as the French state has long provided subsidies for French parents who choose to have multiple kids. These legal measures and stereotypes signal that not all forms of reproduction are equal.

The history of feminism is full of traditions that have left some women behind. While Clara Zetkin and Rosa Luxemburg advocated for full suffrage and political participation, German feminist Helene Stöcker’s promoted eugenics for “für Hebung der Rasse,” or to “lift up the [white] race.” In the United States, the eugenics movement during the early and mid-20th century dovetailed with forced sterilization programs—mostly targeting disabled people, women of color, working-poor women, and sex workers. In her seminal text Killing the Black Body, professor Dorothy Roberts provides ample archival evidence for how black women were systematically sterilized in the United States. Yet they were not the only ones. Puerto Rican and Native American women were also sterilized, with beliefs of Aryan racial superiority serving as fodder for these policies.

Even more egregious is the collection of feminists who defended and continue to defend colonialism. More inclusive feminisms such as from the Combahee River collective and postcolonial feminists have stepped in to challenge racism and imperialist imaginations, but feminists in positions of political power across Europe certainly aren’t listening.

Challenging femonationalism is not just a question of moral posturing. Rather, it will mean highlighting the ways in which anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant policies and rhetoric, whether implied or explicit, have provided confidence to the far right.

The growing international feminist tradition can provide a direct challenge. In a slim manifesto by feminist scholars Cinzia Arruzza, Tithi Bhattacharya, and Nancy Fraser, the authors excavate the last several years of political struggle and write, “Standing for all who are exploited, dominated, and oppressed, it aims to become a source of hope for the whole of humanity. That is why we call it a feminism for the 99 percent.”

At the same time, the political test over the coming years is to develop open and transparent demands to challenge Europe’s growing far-right movement. As a new generation of feminists and queers are building a movement that speaks to the concerns of labor, migration, health, and incarceration, feminism will have to explicitly distance itself from nationalism. Because femonationalism has nothing to do with feminism and everything to do with ethnic nationalism.

Happy Birthday Intersectionality! by Edna Bonhomme

Last night, I saw Kimberlé Crenshaw, Black American scholar and founder of Intersectionality as a praxis. The event was initiated by the Center for Intersectional Justice and. sponsored by the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung in Berlin. A pioneer of Critical Race Theory and Legal Studies, Crenshaw eloquently laid out her politics and history in her own words—mostly in response to the haters who misinterpret or twist her sayings. She described the Ritualistic marginalization of Black womxn & Black trans/gender nonconforming people by Black men and white womxn (and so many other groups including white men...). The ways that Black womxn and Black trans/gender non conforming people who suffer are sidelined. This inequality is most apparent through the dual and disproportionately high intersection of sexual violence AND racialized violence that we Black womxn & Black trans/gender non conforming face under white supremacy and patriarchy. I was also struck by her words concerning “Asymmetric solidarity without fidelity.” Why should we Black womxn just wait around while our needs are pushed, when our ideas are dismissed, when we are excluded, when we are not that we are “too angry” or when we are told we are too much? As Crenshaw said, “I won’t ride or die for a politics that will not ride or die for me.” Moreover, Crenshaw appears to be a stellar mentor to her students and former students who were glowing from her charismatic and demi-god maneuvers. She takes care of her Intersectionality tribe and even goes so far as to have a writing month with her community so that they can all collectively #dobetter. Finding the crew of people who value your intellect and commit to building a better world with you can be the air beneath one’s Wings. Finally, Prof. Crenshaw knows how to have fun. As demonstrated last night, Our social movements and communities need more Black orchestras, more dancing, more laughter, and more melanin. While dancing at the Intersectionality after party with Malaika and Kate [two Black womxn friends], I cited Emma Goldman, “if i can’t dance, it is not my revolution 

Some books by K. Crenshaw to consider reading

  • The Race Track: Understanding and Challenging Structural Racism.

  • On Intersectionality: Essential Writings.

  • Words That Wound: Critical Race Theory, Assaultive Speech, and the First Amendment (New Perspectives on Law, Culture, and Society)

Scan the Difference: Gender, Surveillance, and Bodies by Edna Bonhomme


Really excited to be working with Nina Prader and Vanessa Gravenor on our upcoming exhibition, "Scan the Difference: Gender, Surveillance, and Bodies," an interactive, critical seminar and educational training at VBKÖ May 15-21. Using methodologies derived from intersectional feminism, Scan the Difference: Gender, Surveillance, and Bodies (STD) deviates from the traditional art show. Through a series of lectures, a zine-making workshop, and lecture-performances, the aim is to create awareness and visibility on how bodies have been scanned medically, culturally, and politically. Thinking about the base of Vienna with a universal health care system, it is important to reflect critically on what rights bodies have and how these rights are threatened by the rise of the Right. Over the course of the exhibition, we will explore questions relating to archiving the self in the age of data collection and digitalization. What strategies do we have to own our body, medically and/or politically? What is the difference between “scanning” and “positioning” (You are vs. I am) from a doctor’s exam, a police report to your cultural I.D., verbal, digital or on paper.

Check out Vanessa Gravenor's video teaser

Ottoman History Podcast by Edna Bonhomme

Please check out the latest Ottoman History Podcast where I interview Professor Jennifer Derr from the University of California, Santa Cruz.


Abstract: Colonialism and violence are frequently paired in studies of the modern Middle East, but environment and violence are less commonly paired. But in this episode, Jennifer Derr explains the indelible connection between the two in a conversation about her recent monograph The Lived Nile: Environment, Disease, and Material Colonial Economy in Egypt. According to Derr, the transformation of Egypt's economy under British rule was experienced as a form of violence for ordinary Egyptians. "The violence of colonial economy and specifically colonial labor was made manifest on the bodies of laborers." In our conversation, we explore the transformation of the Nile and its environment under colonialism and consider how these transformations changed the nature of disease in the region with damaging consequences for the workers in intimate contact with the new nature of the Nile.

Upcoming Talk: Gender. Class. Crisis. Perspektiven und Fragen feministisch-intersektionaler Klassenpolitik by Edna Bonhomme

I'll be speaking on a panel tomorrow in an East German village about Black Feminism. The talk is entitled: "»Ain’t I a Woman*? Schwarze feministische Kritik, De-Kolonisierung des Feminismus und Kapitalismuskritik.” The Spring Academy is sponsored by BdWi and the Rosa Luxemburg Foundaiton in Werftpfuhl from Friday, March 29 until Sunday, 31 March.


We want to discuss left alternatives to challenge neo-fascist and far right politics by turning to feminist or women led movements such as women's strikes, #MeToo, "Ni Una Menos", Black lives matter many of which are directed against multiple violent relationships, they are politically plural and have a heterogeneous social base. 

We will collectively discuss intersectional forms of politics and organization, struggles for social reproduction and against racism, queer / trans * feminist, intersectional perspectives on precarity and class. Hopefully we can create the seeds to develop a politics of solidarity that is multiethnic, multiracial and grounded int eh working class.

Conference details are here: and

FB details here:

Deutschland und " Femonationalismus" by Edna Bonhomme


Die Geschichte des deutschen Feminismus ist eine durchwachsene Geschichte, da sie von unterschiedlichen und widersprüchlichen feministischen Traditionen durchzogen ist. Es wurden aber einige Frauen* zurückgelassen. Im frühen 20. Jahrhundert plädierten sozialistische Feministinnen wie Clara Zetkin und Rosa Luxemburg für das vollständige Wahlrecht und die politische Beteiligung von der Arbeiterklasse und Migrantinnen, währenddessen aber die deutsche Feministin Helene Stöcker die Eugenik für „für Hebung der Rasse“ verehrte obwohl sie sich in der Natur unterschieden hatte. Der Feminismus im heutigen Deutschland beschäftigt sich auch mit unterschiedlichen Perspektiven und Versionen des Feminismus.[1] Auf der einen Seite hat der Aufstieg der Parteien eine neue Art von Feministin hervorgebracht. Die Gelehrte Sara Farris bezeichnet diese Entwicklung als Femonationalismust. Das heißt, selbstbeschriebene „Feministinnen“, die den Nationalismus befürworten und Menschen mit Migrationshindergrund feindlich behandeln. Im Gegensatz gibt es auch einen anderen Feminismus. Initiativen wie Frauen* Streik bieten eine andere Art von Feminismus, der hofft, die giftigen Elemente des elitären und bürgerlichen Feminismus zu reparieren.

In den frühen 2000er Jahren war der Femonationalismus vor allem in benachbarten europäischen Ländern wie Frankreich, Italien und den Niederlanden zu beobachten. Die Ideologie hat jedoch einen stärkeren Ansturm in der Wahlpolitik in Deutschland erlebt. Die Alternative für Deutschland Partei (AfD) hat versucht, Frauen unter der Leitung von Alice Weidel und Beatrix von Storch sowie die Entwicklung von Frauen in der Alternativ (FridA) anzusprechen. Die Arbeitsgruppe möchte ihre weibliche Führungsrolle für weibliche AfD Wählerinnen in der EU stärken. Einige Mitglieder der AfD setzten  sich für die Rechte der Frauen ein, und zwarmit der die Sprache der "Me Too" -Bewegung. Ihre politische Position ist jedoch in einer anti-islamischen Rhetorik verankert, die dann eine anti-feministische Politik reproduziert – verbunden (Mutterschaft) mit rechten Ideen zu produktiven und sozialen Fortpflanzung in der Gesellschaft.

Wie wird Femonationalismus im deutschen Kontext artikuliert und umgesetzt? Eine Möglichkeit, den Femnonationalismus in Deutschland zu verstehen, besteht darin, die wechselnde Skala von Produktion und sozialer Reproduktion zu beobachten. In Deutschland hat der Femonationalismus die Arbeitsbedingungen im Land beeinflusst. Zum Beispiel hat ein Berliner Gericht eine muslimische Lehrerin daran gehindert, ein Kopftuch zu tragen, wodurch der Lehrer vorübergehend arbeitslos wurde und einer anderen Institution zur Arbeit zugewiesen wurde. Femnonationalisten wollen, dass muslimische Praktiken im öffentlichen Raum verurteilt werden und muslimische Frauen in ihrer Handlungsfreiheit entmächtigt werden. Dies ist ein entscheidender Gegensatz, weil Feminismus definiert sich wenn es um Frauen geht, die Kontrolle überihre Arbeit und körperliche Autonomie zu bewahren, und keine rechtlichen Strukturen oder Einschränkungen werden verwendet, um das Verhalten und die Zusammensetzung von Frauen zu bestimmen - unabhängig von ihrer Religion.

Eine andere Dimension des “Femonatonalismus” hängt mit der sozialen Reproduktion zusammen. Auch rechtsextreme Parteifrauen haben sich gegen Abtreibungsrechte ausgesprochen und unterstützen Artikel 218 und Artikel 219a  in der deutschen Verfassung. Diese nationalsozialistischen deutschen Dekrete definieren Abtreibung als Mord und verbieten Ärzten die Werbung für Abtreibungen in Deutschland. Die Polarisierung zwischen Anti-Choice- und Pro-Choice-Aktivisten überschneidet sich in der Geschichte der öffentlichen Gesundheit und der Medizin. Feministinnen, die für Abtreibung sind, haben eine Bewegung entwickelt, in der Frauen und queere Menschen weltweit dafür kämpfen, Kontrolle und Autonomie über ihren Körper zu haben.

Der Frauen * Streik am 8. März formulierte ein Internationalist Alliance-Kontingent, das sich hauptsächlich aus Frauen*, Transgender Menschen  und Intersexuellen zusammensetzte, eine neue Form des Feminismus, die das Gefängnisungerechtigkeitssystem herausforderte. Etwa tausend Menschen versammelten sich außerhalb der Justizvollzugsanstalt für Frauen* Berlin, dem Frauengefängnis im ehemaligen Ostberlin. Diese Aktion war ein Versuch, solidarisch mit inhaftierten Frauen zu sein, die zum Teil wegen der Inhaftierung wegen Selbstverteidigung vor geschlechtsspezifischer Gewalt waren. Darüber hinaus artikulierte der internationale Block von Protestierenden ihre Wut mit einem Global Scream, der die verinnerlichte Frustration der Demonstranten festhielt, aber auch die kollektive Stimme von Frauen sichtbar machte.

Feminismus, der in Solidaritätskampagnen - innerhalb und außerhalb des Bundestags - verwurzelt ist, kann eine direkte Herausforderung für den Femonationalismus darstellen. Zugleich besteht der politische Test in den kommenden Jahren darin, offene und transparente Forderungen zu entwickeln, um die wachsende rechtsextreme Bewegung Deutschlands, diebeständige Fremdenfeindlichkeit in Europa, die Angriffe auf die Umwelt und die geschlechtsspezifischen Aspekte der Welt und Wirtschaftskrise in Frage zu stellen. Da eine neue Generation von Feministinnen und Queers eine Bewegung aufbaut, die sich mit den Anliegen Arbeit, Migration, Gesundheit und Inhaftierung befasst, muss dieser Feminismus mit übergreifenden, kompromisslosen und nuancierten Initiativen rechnen, die einen inklusiven Feminismus formulieren können.

[1] Helene Stöcker: Das Werden der sexuellen Reform seit hundert Jahren, in: Hedwig Dohm u. a. (Hg.): Ehe? Zur Reform der sexuellen Moral. Berlin 1905, S. 36–58. It must be noted that she fled from Nazi Germany and was in opposition to anti-Semitic policies.

Frauen* Streik in Germany by Edna Bonhomme

Edna Bonhomme

Frauen* Streik in Germany

“All women, whatever be their position, should demand political equality as a means of a freer life, and one calculated to yield rich blessings to society.”

-Clara Zetkin


Over 100 years after German socialist Clar aZetkin proposed an International Woman’s Day (IWD) at the International Conference for Socialist Women, over 25,000 people demonstrated for Frauen* Streik in Berlin, Germany. Women at the turn of the nineteenth century and women living in the twenty-first century, organised themselves through various strike actions on the 8th of March for simple demands--to live in a world where they can be more free. This year marked the first time that March 8th was a public holiday in Berlin and the political acuity of the events reverberated from daybreak strike actions for health workers to nightfall solidarity parties throughout the city.

Thousands of transgender, intersex people, gender non-binary individuals, and womxn also marched throughout German cities such as  Leipzig, Hamburg, and Göttingen. The wave of activities speaks volumes to the growing economic and social frustrations that women of various backgrounds have been facing in Germany and internationally. Protestors linked the day’s activities to their struggle for abortion rights, their opposition to gender based violence, and their conflicts at the workplace.  When asked why she was participating in 8th of march demonstrations, Ruth a thirty-three year old hostel worker responded, “I think my boss is a sexist.” In Germany, political equality are driving forces and the increased participation of migrants and people of colour proclaiming, “no one is illegal” has also politicized the character and composition of IWD opening up room to challenging European and North American imperialism.


Leading up to 8th of March, feminists and queer activists throughout Germany formed a national network and two national conferences (in Göttingen and Berlin) planting the seeds for a new international feminist movement. These initiatives were part of an effort to deepen and integrate the autonomous leftist, pro-choice, and anti-racist networks into a growing feminist movement. The radical character of IWD was not unique to Germany but was  part of a thriving international women’s strike movement in several dozen countries including Argentina, Chile, Ireland, Mexico, Spain, and the United States. Not only were people pointing to the productive capacities of womxn’s labour, IWD activists sought to make links to ongoing strike campaigns, environmental initiatives, and immigration issues in Germany.

The strike actions were preceded by a set of events earlier that week, mostly concerning fair wages and precarity in Germany. For one, women editors at neues Deutschland, a leftist German newspaper, went on strike on 7 March leaving blank columns to show the power of their labour. Moreover, this action not only highlighted the wage disparity between men and women in journalism, i.e., which is approximately 21%, but it also called for comprehensive transparency of salary for permanent and freelance journalists.

Abortion rights has also featured into pre-IWD actions with 200 pro-choice activists gathering outside the Ministry of  Public Health to oppose Article 218 and article 219a on 7 March. These Nazi-holdover German decrees define abortion as murder and prohibit physicians from advertising abortions in Germany. The day before International women’s day 300 activities gathered outside of the Ministry of Public Health outside calling to end these oppressive policies. The basis of the resurgent movement weg 218/219a echos what women and queer people have been fighting for globally, to have control and autonomy over their bodies.

Strike actions were not merely symbolic but they were articulated by a number of workers who are embedded in current labour struggles in Germany. At 6am, Frauen* Strike activists showed their support for physical therapists who have been leading at 4 week strike at Charité, the largest public health institution in Berlin. As one health worker from that campaign indicated, “when women stop working, the world stands still.” Childcare workers who went on strike earlier in 2019 also gathered at noon for a 400 person strong sit-in at Robert Koch Platz in Berlin. Katrina, a thirty one year old kindergarten teacher spoke about their strike why how their were fighting for justice for “parents, students, and teachers.” The campaign continues because they have initiated a campaign for fair wages for cleaners at her workplace.  


Moreover, an Internationalist Alliance contingent of mostly women, transgender, and intersex people gathered outside of Justizvollzugsanstalt für Frauen Berlin, the women’s prison in the the former East Berlin. This action was an effort to be in solidarity with incarcerated women, who were, in part, because of the imprisoned because of self-defense from gender based violence.  The international block of protestors further articulated their rage with a Global Scream which captured the internalized frustration of the demonstrators but it also allowed the collective voice of women were made bare. Activists also made sure to honour the socialist-feminist foremothers who helped to shaped early twentieth century feminism. For example, members of the Die Linke (Left Party) placed a rose for Clara Zetkin.

The actions on 8 March gestured towards the feminist history and the feminist futures. Hundreds of teenagers who were part of Fridays for Future, a global student led initiative that wants to make governments accountable to the climate protection, as outlined by the 2015 Paris agreements. It is no accident that these climate justice teach-ins and strike actions are led by young women who see the fight for the environment as a feminist issue.

Solidarity was a central feature of the Berlin IWD action and the assortment of strategies expresses the vivacity of the new feminist movement in Germany. At the same time, the political test over the coming years is to broaden the demands so as to challenge Germany’s growing far right movement, the ongoing xenophobia in Europe, and to address the gendered aspect of the global economic crisis. As a new generation of feminists and queers are building a movement that speaks to the concerns of labour, migration, health, and incarceration this feminism will have to reckon with intersectional, unapologetic and nuanced initiatives that can reformulate a feminism for the 99%.

Note: Frauen*-the asterik is used to include women, transgender people, intersex people, and gender non-conforming people

If Beale Street Could Talk by Edna Bonhomme

I finally watched Barry Jenkins “If Beale Street Could Talk” & all I can say is that it was a powerful film that showed the range of possibilities of Black life in the United States. The film found a way to bring Baldwin’s novel to life & echo the injustices of racism today while also showing our physical beauty and emotional capacity. I cried at various points during the film because of the elegant portrayals of Black love interwoven with depictions of Black dispossession. James Baldwin's masterpiece--as adapted by Jenkins--was an entry point for me escaping into another world, one that was both familiar and distant which then provided the fodder for me to let go of the weight I've been carrying. As I watched the film, I gave myself permission to let my tears flow after months of not being able to cry. At the same time, I am enamoured by love's omnipresence--familial and romantic. Love flows through the characters so seamlessly, trickling through their inner and outer core. We see it in their eyes, their smiles, and their commitment to each other. When we are confronted with Baldwin, we can take our masks off.