This paper outlines a theoretical framework applicable to the concept of power, with a specific focus on its relevance for the Women’s Empowerment in Muslim Contexts (WEMC) project. Power is here argued to be a driving force behind the exclusion and marginalization of individuals and groups, and is understood to permeate throughout and across people, groups, and societies. In order to discuss the forces impeding and promoting women’s empowerment, Eric Wolf’s discussion of the four modalities of power (1999, 2001) is combined with the three forms of power discussed in John Gaventa’s (2006) three dimensional approach to the study of power, inspired by VeneKlasen and Miller’s (2002) earlier theorizing. The model here proposed emphasizes the ideological and material conditions governing ‘structural power’ and charts its influence on the contexts in which ‘power to’ and ‘power over’ can be exhibited. An integrative example of this model is proposed and is followed by a discussion of Risse and Sikkink’ s (1999) “Five-Phase Spiral Model” of human rights implementation, which illustrates how sustainable structural changes can be achieved.
WEMC Workshop Paper, 24 pp.
Power at work: understanding positionality and gender dynamics in the debates on women’s empowerment