Invited Speaker: Serene J. Khader (CUNY and Brooklyn College)
Empowerment Without Individualism: Rethinking Feminist Poverty Reduction Strategies
Anti-poverty interventions that fail to empower women are often criticized for being too individualistic. Yet some of these interventions are also criticized for failing to distinguish the needs and capabilities of women from those of others in their communities. I argue that a feminist stance toward anti-poverty interventions must distinguish four forms of individualism: agency individualism, distributive individualism, responsibility individualism, and entitlement individualism. Of these, only entitlement individualism bears a plausible conceptual connection to the idea of women’s empowerment. Yet many development theories, including prevailing versions of the capability approach, erroneously assume that the other forms of individualism as though they promote women’s empowerment and gender justice.
Serene J. Khader holds the Jay Newman Chair in Philosophy of Culture at Brooklyn College and is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Women's and Gender Studies at the CUNY Graduate Center.
Her work on adaptive preferences, including her first book Adaptive Preferences and Women’s Empowerment (Oxford University Press 2011), develops an approach to responding to choices made by oppressed and deprived people that perpetuate their own oppression and deprivation. Her second book, Decolonizing Universalism, Transnational Feminist Ethics (under contract with Oxford University Press), concerns the normative commitments required for cross-border feminist solidarity.