Moving from the margins women s activism and social capital
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Moving from the Margins: Women’s Activism and Social Capital. The University of Alabama Women’s Resource Center Elle Shaaban-Magaña Sharmeka Lewis Jessi Hitchins. The Economics of Relationships Game. Exploring the Construct of Social Capital as a Framework. Major Contributors.

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Moving from the Margins: Women’s Activism and Social Capital

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Moving from the Margins: Women’s Activism and Social Capital

The University of Alabama Women’s Resource Center

Elle Shaaban-Magaña

Sharmeka Lewis


The Economics of Relationships Game

Exploring the Construct of Social Capital as a Framework

Major Contributors

propose an understanding of

society based on movement of ‘capital’ through social spaces

Capitals may be accumulated, lost, invested, distributed, and traded

Bourdieu (1986): sociology

Coleman (1988): education

Putnam (1995): politic science

Social Capital Defined

  • The connections and networks an agent may call upon in their effort to achieve a specified goal

    Five key elements: networks, resources, norms, and trust; reciprocity

Forms/Dimensions of Social Capital

  • Bonding-connections between actors in the network focusing on internal ties; focus primarily on the benefits associated within belonging to a specific group or cluster of actors.

  • Bridging-"Refers to cooperative connections with people from different walks of life; refers to the building of connections between heterogeneous groups; these are likely to be more fragile, but more likely also to foster social inclusion." (Schuller, Baron, & Field, 2000)

  • Horizontal-involving people of like status and interests

  • Vertical-involving people of unequal status and complementary interests

Using a Feminist Gaze

Moi (1990): appropriation as a critical assessment of a given theory formation with a view to taking it over & using it for feminists purposes

  • Why is the concept of social capital relevant to the work of women’s activism?

Benefits of Social Capital

  • It facilitates the flow of information from those with access to those with a need to know

  • Social ties may influence those in power positions to behave favorably toward those who are in less desirable positions and who rely on them for help in improving their conditions

  • Those in power positions may serve as social credentials for those seeking entry into those organizations

  • Social relations are expected to reinforce individual’s identity and visibility within a social group or community (Alfred, 2009)

Feminist Critiques of Social Capital Theory

  • Frameworks have treated social capital as gender neutral, universal and not acknowledged power differentials based on gender

  • Social capital frameworks have emphasized consensus building, rather than how to negotiate through difference

    (Franklin, 2005)

Feminist Scholars Understanding Social Capital to Improve Quality of Life for Women

Bruegel (2005) recognizes how social capital can furnish women with a degree of power that enables them to challenge the status quo, through solidaristic social networks. In this way, she argues, the transformative potential of social capital is developed through collective experience: ‘feminist analysis helps to redefine social capital as a part of a system of competing interests and values within a multidimensional space of difference, framed by large inequalities of power’.

Feminist Scholars Understanding Social Capital to Improve Quality of Life for Women

Lister (2005) focuses on feminist citizenship theory which she argues, offers ways of accepting and addressing social divisions and diversity of interests. In contrast to the ‘bonding, bridging and linking’ in social capital theory, through which people are said to build connections and share resources, Lister draws our attention to the work of Nira Yuval-Davis, who uses the image of “rooting” and “shifting” where people ‘remain rooted in their own (multiple) identities and values but at the same time are willing to shift their views in dialogue with those subscribing to other identities and values.’

Unlike social capital theory which is often linked to the idea of social cohesion, a citizenship framework captures conflict and gives space and visibility to disruptive forms of action.

Strategies for Building Social Capital for Community Action

  • Engage in meaningful mentoring

  • Create a physical space where people come together

  • Hold recreational/social events that bring together a diverse group of people

  • Hold events that promote conversation around issues that divide the community

  • Create/engage in support groups that allow participants to build relationships and personal skills

  • Convene a diverse group of individuals committed to building relationships

Moving from the Margins: Women’s Activism & Social Capital

Two Case Studies

Social Capital and Women’s Issues: Critical Questions For Leaders

  • How do we stay true to our ideals of equity and equal participation while connecting to existing power structures?

  • What forms do women’s associations and networks take? How far and in what ways can they form the basis for empowerment and power development?

  • How far and in what ways does men’s social capital serve to reinforce gender subordination?

  • What are the underlying assumptions about gender relations which may serve to reinforce gender subordination at these levels?

  • How far do horizontal linkages between particular groups of women exclude outsiders? The most economically disadvantaged women?

  • How far are vertical linkages between women harmful or exploitative to those most disadvantaged?

  • What are the assumptions underlying the assertion that women are able to freely contribute investments of time, resources, etc.?

  • How far can women’s social capital be used as a resource without depleting it? (Mayoux, 2001)

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