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Communitarian Feminism

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By Maria Del Pilar Villanueva

Communitarian feminism is a revolutionary proposal from native women of Abiayala (the continent often referred to as Latin America) to address the multiple oppressions they have historically faced. Drawing from the ancestral principles of Abya Yala’s indigenous peoples’, it also contends that patriarchy uses colonialism to oppress all people. For communitarian feminists like Julieta Parades, Patriarchy – a term usually referring to a system that ensures the domination of men over women – is actually the “system of all oppressions that lives on the planet and thus, all humanity (men, women, and intersexual persons) as well as nature.” Started by Aymara women and feminists in Bolivia and Mayan women in Guatemala, communitarian feminism argue that patriarchy use colonialism to dominate the bodies of people, land and nature. In such a society, patriarchy makes women the “proletarians of the proletarians’ (workers of the workers), and indigenous women, ‘the colonized Indians of the indigenous people.” Because it does this, it creates the conditions for all other oppressions in society.

Communitarian Feminists on the State

Communitarian feminists call for the ‘decolonisation of the state’, which means the end of the state as we know it. They argue that the state has its origins in administering the oppression of women, and has evolved to oppress the rest of humanity and nature and their positive vision of society is one based on community and, more broadly, society as a “community of communities” (2014, 59-60). Although they believe a plurinational state (a state based on the co-existence of many communities) is a step towards the community of communities, it is not an end in itself, because even progressive states are still based on a macho ideology rooted in patriarchal subordination. Some communitarian feminists also argue that gender oppressions predating the Spanish invasion need to be uprooted and that they are “in permanent resistance and struggle against all forms of patriarchal oppression, whether it be indigenous or Western, that manifests itself against our first body-territory” (2011).

In Bolivia, many communitarian feminists work within the organization Mujeres Creando Comunidad (Women Creating Community) and in the Asambleas del Feminismo Comunitario (Assemblies of Communitarian Feminism). Key figures in the movement include Adriana Guzmán and Julieta Paredes. In Guatemala, one of the leaders of communitarian feminism is the Maya-Xinka activist Lorena Cabnal. Cabnal recounts the origins of communitarian feminism after meeting with Bolivian women and, particularly, after gathering with indigenous women in the mountains of Santa María Xalapán Jalapa (Guatemala) in 2007. In this meeting, Cabnal (2010) explains that women addressed the contradiction within some indigenous groups who fought to defend their lands but remained silent about the sexual violence that indigenous women regularly face. A key argument of Communitarian Feminists is that colonialism created a pact between European and Indigenous men, for patriarchy to dominate, first, the bodies of indigenous women, until eventually it came to consume the bodies of all, including those very men. This not only paved the way for the oppression of men, but also for the domination of land. Because the state, they argue, arose out of this pact after 1492, it can’t be trusted to liberate colonized peoples’.

In their declaration published on October 12, 2011, Day of the Resistance and Dignification of Indigenous Peoples, the Xinka community feminists of the Association of Indigenous Women of Santa María Xalapán asserted: “There is no decolonization without depatriarchalization.” In this phrase, they intertwined the intrinsic link between colonialism and patriarchy as a way of being and living imposed on indigenous peoples, especially the bodies of indigenous women.

The Territory Body 

The terms “territory body” or “body-land” are at the core of the communitarian feminist worldview. For these feminists, the body – particularly that of the indigenous women, — symbolizes all oppression, everywhere. In this sense, oppression is “embodied”, and the body itself becomes the site of struggle. Land and Nature too have bodies, and must be liberated with the liberation of the woman’s body. The body must be recovered by confronting these oppressions, and this is what Julieta Parades calls the “duty to be a feminist.” Indeed, the struggle by women for power over their own bodies, which is really a struggle for land and all of humanity, “becomes a daily and indispensable struggle because the body-territory has been in dispute for millennia by patriarchies to ensure their sustainability from and over women’s bodies” (2010, 22). Communitarian feminism also draws parallels between the exploitation suffered by nature and the bodies of women.


Today, communitarian feminism has expanded across various territories in Abiayala, resonating strongly in academia and among activist groups. Activists like Adriana Guzmán and Lorena Cabnal give talks and seminars as guests in academic and activist spaces quite regularly. Likewise, communitarian feminism continues to resonate among women from many corners of Abiayala, not only indigenous women. Communitarian feminists invite all to join them. “Communitarian feminism” it’s founders have stated, “is the struggle of any woman, at any time in history, anywhere in the world, who fights or rebels against a patriarchy that oppresses her or wants to oppress her” (Guzmán and Paredes 2014, 69). At the forefront of this struggle must be anti-colonial and decolonial feminists.


Dissidence and Communitarian Feminism
Julieta Paredes Carvajal | Comunidad Mujeres Creando Comunidad [Community of Women Creating Community] – Asambleas del Feminismo Comunitario [Assemblies of Communitarian Feminism]


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decolonial centre | Pluto Educational Trust | 2023