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The Ninth Annual David Morrison Lecture in International Development

Has Feminism Gone Astray?
The Struggle for Substantive Equality in a Neoliberal Age

Shahra Razavi
Chief of Research & Data
UN Women

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

7:30 p.m.

Market Hall, 140 Charlotte Street

In recent years, critical feminist thinkers have been raising serious concerns about the "dangerous liaisons" between feminism and neoliberalism. These critiques provide important insights into feminism's recent currents, and bed fellows, as it has gone from being a critical voice on the margins, to a visible element in mainstream socioeconomic development. This institutionalization of feminist ideas across a wide range of organizations (whether state, bilateral or multilateral) has contributed to its fragmentation and distortion, as it has sought to find a better "fit" with disparate organizational goals and cultures into which it has been assimilated. In the process there has been a filtering out of certain critical elements - most evident in the discourses and practices around "women's economic empowerment". After elaborating in concrete terms how this neoliberalization has happened, the presentation will dwell on a number of concurrent developments that point to vibrant spaces of resistance and politics, including the ways in which neoliberalism itself has had to change the response to feminism, and more importantly, the role that human rights thinking has played in reviving an interest in structural inequalities, including those of gender, as a counter-vailing force against "roll-out" neoliberalism.

About Shahra Razavi

Dr. Shahra Razavi joined UN Women in 2013, after ten years as research coordinator at the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD). 


Dr. Razavi specializes in the gender dimensions of social development, with a particular focus on livelihoods and social policies. She began her collaboration with UNRISD in February 1993, when she joined the Institute to work on a new research initiative to explore the gender dimensions of economic policy. She led the Institute’s research projects on gender, including Gender, Poverty and Well-Being; Agrarian Change, Gender and Land RightsGlobalization, Export-Oriented Employment for Women and Social Policy; and work on Gender Justice, Development and Rights which was carried out as part of the Institute's contribution to the Beijing Plus 5 Review Process (2000). She coordinated the preparation of the UNRISD flagship report, Gender Equality: Striving for Justice in an Unequal World (2005). Her most recent research projects have been on The Political and Social Economy of Care, and Religion, Politics and Gender Equality

Prior to joining UNRISD, Shahra was working on her D.Phil. thesis at St. Antony's College (Oxford University). Her thesis explored the gender dimensions of agricultural commercialization in southeastern Iran, where she carried out field research in 1988. She obtained her D.Phil. in December 1992.

Dr. Razavi is currently serving on the editorial boards Journal of Peasant Studies, Global Social Policy, and Development in Practice. She is also a member of Scientific Committee of Comparative Research Programme on Poverty (CROP); the International Advisory Committee of the Social Protection Programme, Women in Informal Economy Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO); and International Member of Selection Committee, King Baudouin Foundation.