Subjects of Feminism: The Production and Practice of Anxiety in a Swedish Activist Community
By Kristian Sandbekk Norsted
ABSTRACT Anxiety is a zeitgeist of our time, but it is nevertheless a phenomenon that arises and unfolds in specific ways among different groups of people. Based on ethnographic fieldwork among various feminist groups and organizations in the capital of Sweden, Stockholm, in 2017 and 2018, my research explores how anxiety manifests among feminist activists.
Many contemporary feminist activists self-identify as intersectional feminists, which indicates their commitment to inclusivity. No longer is feminism generally about women’s relationship to men as a group. Instead, a range of people who may reasonably be recognized as vulnerable in terms of being structurally marginalized are included as the subjects of feminism. These include—but are not limited to—poor people, people of color, transgendered people, people with disabilities, and, to some, nonhuman animals.
By focusing on various salient aspects of contemporary feminist culture, my research explores how feminist activists work to take responsibility for the revolutionary ambitions of feminism without excluding anyone who belong to either of these groups. My thesis deals specifically with (1) the cultivation of safe spaces and separatist groups for women and nonbinary people; (2) the place and role of male feminist activists in the feminist community; (3) some ways in which intersectionality is translated from a scholarly concept into an activist practice; and (4) how individual feminist activists deal with anxiety through a focus on mental health issues. How and why do feminist activists’ collective strategies to be inclusive also generate a social dynamic that render individual feminist activists anxious?
Kristian defended his dissertation on March 5, 2021.