Towards a “Feminism Without Borders”: Olkishoroto and Maasai Women’s Activism in Tanzania

Rachel Hodapp, (she/her)
Graduate Student, Anthropology-Cultural/ Medical Anthropology, UW-Madison

I thank and give credit to anthropologist Dorothy Hodgson for her extensive body of work among Maasai people in northern Tanzania. I am indebted to her for her work on Olkishoroto, and I want to be sure that I give credit where it is due.



In a world shaped by colonial legacies and neoliberal practices, what does effective political action look like? Mohanty’s (2003, 3) “feminism without borders” urges feminists to take up an “antiracist framework, anchored in decolonization and committed to an anti-capitalist critique” to realize socially, and economically just politics rooted in transnational solidarity. In this presentation, I posit that women’s social organizing in Africa are especially well-positioned to further this project for three main reasons: (1) they have long acted against unjust systems (such as patriarchy, heterosexism, colonialism, and capitalism), (2) they organize around notions (such as relational personhoods, collective welfare, political mobilizing, coalition building, and reflective solidarity) that contrast those of colonialist, capitalist, and neoliberalist orthodoxies (such as individualization, isolation, personal ambition and advancement, competition, and dehumanization) and (3) they are not ‘the master’s tool (Lorde 1981). I focus this presentation on Maasai women of northern Tanzania and Olkishoroto–a centuries-old form of social organizing around shared values of motherhood and morality that affect social and structural change.

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