Leela Fernandes is a Professor of Women’s Studies and Political Science at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Fernandes specializes in comparative politics, international feminism, and South Asian studies, and previously taught at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, and Oberlin College. She is the author of three books: India’s New Middle Class: Democratic Politics in an Era of Economic Reform (University of Minnesota Press, 2006), Producing Workers: The Politics of Gender, Class, and Culture in the Calcutta Jute Mills (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1997), Transforming Feminist Practice (Aunt Lute Books, 2003), and Transnational Feminism in the United States (NYU Press, 2013). She is also the author of numerous articles and essays on women and labor, class politics, cultural representation, nationalism, and globalization.
To learn more about Leela Fernandes, visit her faculty website.
Non-Violence, Social Justice and the Possibilities of a Spiritualized Feminism
By Leela Fernandes
After years of teaching women's studies courses and seeing the frustration, paralysis and depression of young students who grapple with the hard realities of social activism, Leela Fernandes has written a social critique that examines contemporary feminism and social justice movements. She discusses straightforwardly the problems with social justice organizations, academia and identity politics. She also poses a solution: that individuals—feminists and other social justice activists—create their own non-institutional spiritual base, one that will sustain them through the hard ethical choices needed in contemporary social justice activism.
PRAISE FOR TRANSFORMING FEMINIST PRACTICE
Speaking of political and spiritual transformation in the same breath, she presses for a sacred understanding of our selves both as individuals and as a part of a larger interconnected world…In offering a compelling alternative vision of feminist practice—demanding nothing less that a spiritual revolution—Fernandes has taken the next step. Transforming Feminist Practice is an indispensable book for activistas and thinkers.
—Gloria E. Anzaldúa
Leela Fernandes’ refreshing new book—which argues that spiritual social activism offers a material way to create change—is required reading for all those concerned to create a more just world. In this courageous and timely volume, Fernandes demonstrates how to undermine the misguided dichotomy between the spiritual and the material, and thus provides possibilities for all of us who are politically engaged to imagine alternatives to the current political impasse in which we find ourselves. Brava!
—Kum-Kum Bhavnani, Professor of Sociology and Chair of the Women, Culture and Development Program, UCSB
Courageous...Provocative...Deeply inspiring. Leela Fernandes travels right to the heart of feminism’s most cherished practices with a map of the transformative power of the spiritual at a time when our radical social projects most urgently need it. We cannot afford to ignore this invitational challenge.
—M. Jacqui Alexander