Coining a new vocabulary for gender equality in Pacific economies: community conversations in the Solomon Islands and Fiji (15320)
In an era when development goals are shaped around international declarations and agreements, such as the MDGs, concerns for gender equality in the Pacific have been formalised through the Pacific Leaders Gender Equality Declaration. While such agreements signal the success of a feminist agenda, scholars have pointed out that the ‘gender agenda’ is also problematic. As broad goals are defined international audit cultures require measurement of progress towards those goals. Establishing indicators to achieve this task means establishing a technology of global governance through which nations and regions around the world can be held to account for their progress towards universalist aims of gender equity. Simultaneously, work on the ground to achieve goals of gender equity requires a vernacularisation (Merry 2006): translation ‘downwards’ to tailor agendas informed by universalist conceptions of human rights to local cultural contexts, with the risks of either colonising local cultures or writing radical transformative potential out altogether. We see a parallel move at work in the way Pacific economic empowerment agendas are shaped by modernist visions of capitalist development. Drawing on our research on community based indicators of gender and economy we consider the potential of a starting point that is local/heterogeneous rather than Eurocentric/universalising. We argue that multiple governmentalities are possible and indicators need not be a tool of neoliberal governmentality but can remade for indigenous modes of social transformation. Working in conversation with communities, heterogeneous local experiences can become the foundation for an emancipatory discourse, coining a vocabulary to be translated ‘upwards’ and outwards.