Rethinking Women’s Political Agency in Mauritius: An Intersectional Feminist Perspective

Author: Anjalee Dabee

Dabee, Anjalee, 2018 Rethinking Women’s Political Agency in Mauritius: An Intersectional Feminist Perspective, Flinders University, College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences

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Women’s political representation has been traditionally explained in terms of their formal representation. The core assumption has been that descriptive representation generally translates into women’s substantive representation. However, feminist scholars have criticised this approach on a number of grounds, arguing that it limits women’s substantive representation to one category of actors, location and approach to representation which take place only at the level of parliament; and assumes homogeneity of women’s interests. This research expands on this notion and seeks to redefine and expand the ways in which “political representation” has been traditionally conceived in malestream politics by looking at the various actors, sites and ways and methods that inform the different practices of substantive representation through a case study on the island of Mauritius, which also hosts a multi-ethnic society. Through interviews conducted with women at the levels of the State, in State Structures and at community level, the thesis demonstrates that the substantive representation of women does not necessarily require a “critical mass” of women in formal politics- rather, there are a multitude of ways in which women perform their roles as political actors at these different levels to seek to address their practical and strategic needs in light of their intersectionality. The research subsequently argues that agency can be conceptualised through a different perspective that encompasses different modes of representation through non-institutional politics. Furthermore the findings reveal that in order for effective substantive representation and women’s empowerment to take place, there needs to be a non-linear collaborative process of interaction between actors at the State level, in State Structures and at grass-roots levels.

Keywords: Women, Activism, Mauritius, Politics, Representation, Intersectional Feminism

Subject: Women's Studies thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2018
School: College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences
Supervisor: Dr Yvonne Corcoran-Nantes