Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




John S. Burdick

Second Advisor

Chandra T. Mohanty


Agency, Colombia, Political Anthropology, Social Movements, Transnational Feminism, Violence

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences


This dissertation presents a political ethnography of the dynamics of feminist activism among organized mujeres populares –working-class and rural women– in the province of Antioquia, Colombia, and sheds light on the development of political agency and transformation of subjectivity. The study investigates how feminist frameworks enable grassroots women to combat the simultaneous effects of violence, poverty, and trauma by analyzing the processes of collaboration between grassroots and professional feminist organizations and the effects of political violence in their communities. Drawing on political anthropology and transnational feminist scholarship, the dissertation examines these processes against the backdrop of a regional hegemonic project rooted in colonial history. It identifies how ethno-racial, class, and gender legacies permeate the lives and subjectivities of groups’ members and professional activists in both acknowledged and unacknowledged ways. Using women’s narratives and everyday observations, this research explores how the linked traumas of violence, poverty, and exclusion haunt women’s lives and organizations, expressing themselves in the form of internal disputes, competition, and gossip. The study argues that, alongside readily identifiable positive changes, gossip represents a covert form of agency and resistant consciousness to multiple forms of oppression. This project elucidates how liberal feminist frameworks both enable and curb new forms of agency and the transformative potential of grassroots feminism to overcome structural violence and achieve social change.


Open Access