Carolyn J. Eichner

Aug 10, 2022

Feminism's Empire

Cornell University Press 2022

Feminism's Empire (Cornell UP, 2022) investigates the complex relationships between imperialisms and feminisms in the late nineteenth century and demonstrates the challenge of conceptualizing "pro-imperialist" and "anti-imperialist" as binary positions. By intellectually and spatially tracing the era's first French feminists' engagement with empire, Carolyn J. Eichner explores how feminists opposed—yet employed—approaches to empire in writing, speaking, and publishing. In differing ways, they ultimately tied forms of imperialism to gender liberation. Among the era's first anti-imperialists, French feminists were enmeshed in the hierarchies and epistemologies of empire. They likened their gender-based marginalization to imperialist oppressions. Imperialism and colonialism's gendered and sexualized racial hierarchies established categories of inclusion and exclusion that rested in both universalism and ideas of "nature" that presented colonized people with theoretical, yet impossible, paths to integration. Feminists faced similar barriers to full incorporation due to the gendered contradictions inherent in universalism. The system presumed citizenship to be male and thus positioned women as outsiders. Feminism's Empire connects this critical struggle to hierarchical power shifts in racial and national status that created uneasy linkages between French feminists and imperial authorities.

Dr. Carolyn J. Eichner about is a Professor of History and Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. Feminism’s Empire is her third book. Surmounting the Barricades: Women in the Paris Commune came out in 2004 and The Paris Commune: A Brief History came out in 2022. Surmounting the Barricades: Women in the Paris Commune was published in French as Franchir les barricades: les femmes dans la Commune de Paris (Éditions de la Sorbonne, 2020). Translated by Bastien Craipain, it was a finalist for the Prix Augustin Thierry in 2021, an award from the city of Paris for a historical study concerning the period between Antiquity and the late 19th century. In 2022-2023 she will be a Fulbright Research scholar in France and will be in residence at the Camargo Foundation in Cassis.

Michael G. Vann is a professor of world history at California State University, Sacramento. A specialist in imperialism and the Cold War in Southeast Asia, he is the author of The Great Hanoi Rat Hunt: Empires, Disease, and Modernity in French Colonial Vietnam (Oxford University Press, 2018). When he’s not reading or talking about new books with smart people, Mike can be found surfing in Santa Cruz, California.

Listen to more episodes on:

Your Host

Michael Vann

Michael G. Vann is a professor of world history at California State University, Sacramento. A specialist in imperialism and the Cold War in Southeast Asia, he is the author of The Great Hanoi Rat Hunt: Empires, Disease, and Modernity in French Colonial Vietnam (Oxford University Press, 2018). When he’s not reading or talking about new books with smart people, Mike can be found surfing in Santa Cruz, California.

Learn More