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European Journal of Women's Studies

Identity in Transit : Nomads, Cyborgs and Women
Irene Gedalof European Journal of Women's Studies 2000 7: 337 DOI: 10.1177/135050680000700307 The online version of this article can be found at: http://ejw.sagepub.com/content/7/3/337

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WISE (The European Women'sStudies Association)

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Identity in Transit
Nomads, Cyborgs and Women
Irene Gedalof


This article explores the problems and possibilities of different feminist theoretical models of identity for challenging women’s symbolic and strategic positioning in the discourses and conflicts that produce national, ethnic andracialized community identities. The discussion focuses on two of the most popular alternative models to emerge within white western feminism, the nomad and the cyborg, while also considering some other suggested paradigm shifts emerging from diasporic and postcolonial feminisms. It asks how successfully these feminist alternative models of the self and community identities deal with two key issuesrelating to women’s positioning in prevailing identity discourses – on the one hand, women’s relationship to questions of ‘place’, location and dislocation, and on the other, questions of female embodiment and the ways in which the specifically female body becomes both a symbolic and material target of conflict and contestation in processes of constituting community identities. cyborg

KEY WORDSdisplacement


ethnic conflict







As I began to write this article in April 1999, the first reports of the widespread rape of Kosovo-Albanian women by Serb soldiers in the former Yugoslavia appeared in our newspapers. In one such set of accounts, human rights groups and investigators from the War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague were reporting whatappeared to be a systematic campaign of sexual abuse of ethnic Albanian women by Serbian border guards as they waited to cross into Albania. Women were being picked out as they approached the final crossing point with their families, who were ordered to keep travelling into Albania. The mainly young women were kept for several hours or a day, during which time they were raped, before being releasedto rejoin their families across the border. In other accounts, women were raped by Serb soldiers before being forced onto trains which took them into exile (Off Our Backs, 1999c). Such accounts join a depressingly long and repetitive list of ethnic, religious and racial conflicts played out quite literally on the bodies of
The European Journal of Women’s Studies Copyright © SAGE Publications(London, Thousand Oaks and New Delhi), Vol. 7, 2000: 337–354 [1350-5068(200008)7:3;337–354;013659]

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The European Journal of Women’s Studies 7(3)

women. Similar reports emerged during the 1991–5 conflicts in the former Yugoslavia, including the rape of an estimated 20,000 mainly Muslim women in Bosnia (Simons, 1996). In1998, the civil unrest sparked by the economic crisis in Indonesia led to widespread violence directed at the ethnic Chinese population, including the targeting of ethnic Chinese women for rape and sexual assault (Human Rights Watch, 1999). In one account, an Indonesian woman described how a mob surrounded a house with two Chinese women inside and said that if they did not come out, the house would...
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