, Volume 61, Issue 4, pp 309-333
Date: 08 Dec 2009

Feminism, intellectuals and the formation of micro-publics in postcommunist Ukraine

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Abstract

This article broadens understanding of the role that East European intellectuals have played in building foundations for democratic institutions and practices over the past two decades. Drawing on Habermas’ writings on the public sphere, we use interviews conducted with founders of women’s and gender studies centers, professional women’s NGOs and Internet forums to examine the establishment of new micro-contexts for civic engagement and critical debate in Ukraine. Three main types of indigenous feminist micro-public are identified: academic, professional and virtual. Through an analysis of these micro-publics as well as the works of writer Oksana Zabuzhko, we explore the articulation and legitimation of a “national feminist” standpoint that draws upon feminism to criticize populist understandings of national history and civic belonging. We contribute to studies of democratization and transition by suggesting how small groups of critical intellectuals (locally called “tusovky”) acted as microfoundations of civil society. By supporting local engagement with Western critical theory, these small groups helped to create a new infrastructure for engaging intellectuals in the pluralization and diversification of public life.