Soap, Jeans, and Feminist Futures: “Corporate Social Responsibility” and Women’s Empowerment

Elisabeth Prügl

April 6, 2015

Campus Center, Room 2545, UMass Boston

Over the last few years there has been a proliferation of women’s empowerment projects run by transnational consumer products companies, typically in partnership with public development actors. In this talk Elisabeth Prügl will argue that these projects are part of a broader process of neoliberalizing feminism. Under the label of ‘corporate social responsibility’ companies such as Unilever and Levi-Strauss invest in women in their supply and marketing chains, seeking to empower them within a neoliberal rationality of government, and finding benefits for both the women and the companies. Rather than dismissing such efforts as the cooptation of feminism, Prügl will propose that it is necessary to examine, in concrete contexts, the way in which select feminist movement ideas are being integrated into neoliberal rationales and logics, and to ask what is lost in the process and what is perhaps gained.

Elisabeth Prügl is Professor of International Relations at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva where she directs the Institute’s Programme on Gender and Global Change. Her research focuses on gender politics in global governance, in particular in the areas of labor, agriculture and development. Recent publications include Transforming Masculine Rule (Michigan 2011), “If Lehman Brothers had Been Lehman Sisters ...” International Political Sociology (March 2012), and Feminist Strategies in International Governance, co-edited with Gülay Caglar and Susanne Zwingel (Routledge 2013). She is spending the 2014/15 academic year as a Fellow at the Women and Public Policy Program of the Harvard Kennedy School, and as a Senior Fellow with the Consortium on Gender, Security and Human Rights.

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