Feminism in Azerbaijan: Gender, Community and Nation-Building
This chapter addresses the question of whether there are any real feminists in Azerbaijan. Research on women in post-Soviet Azerbaijan highlights the contradictory nature of gender politics in this secular/Muslim society, while mostly steering clear of the term ‘feminism.’ This mirrors a tendency in society as a whole, including the women’s advocacy sector to relegate feminist viewpoints to the margins. Nevertheless, since the 1990s, some Azerbaijani women have been claiming the term for themselves and seeking to apply its concepts and theories to the local context. This trend is advancing with the global spread of information technologies and the coming of age of the post-Soviet generation. This chapter looks at the phenomenon of Azerbaijani feminism from two angles. First, it considers how critical feminist discourses offer alternative forms of protest in the tightly-controlled sphere of public dissent. Second, it explores the conciliatory aspect of feminist activism and its efforts to pre-empt social conflict and polarization. Taken together, this suggests the existence of an alternative political community at the grassroots level, which can be distinguished from the NGO sphere occupied by women professionals. This disparate network is unlikely to lead to a full-blown social movement. However, the transformation of everyday gender politics provides an important insight into some of the social changes affecting Azerbaijan.
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