|Women Encounter Technology: Changing Patterns of Employment in the Third World (UNU, 1995, 356 pages)|
|1. Beyond the politics of difference|
The essays focus mainly, but by no means exclusively, on the third world. Indeed, over the years, the definition of 'different' worlds itself has become somehow elusive and contentious. With the rising economic power of countries such as Japan, it becomes difficult to include all affluent countries even under the oft-used blanket category of western nations. Likewise, the entry of the east European countries into the category of developing nations poses definitional problems. Whether these countries of eastern Europe, previously described as the second world, would now like to be seen as pans of the third is far from clear. Terms such as 'economies in transition' are makeshift jargon, to designate precisely those countries which are uncertain about their status and alliances. In any case, given the hybrid nature of the cultural identity and consciousness of peoples in most societies (Bhaba, 1994), it is prudent to stay clear of an exclusive and binary categorization. The effects of postcolonial migration, and the rise of underprivileged migrant communities in the so-called 'first world', give yet another reason to remember the interconnections between different national economies and regional blocs. In this anthology, the term 'third world' refers simply, and admittedly roughly, to non-affluent communities and nations. In this extended sense it includes the ax-socialist countries of eastern Europe, as well as immigrant groups residing in technologically and economically developed nations.
The anthology does not exclude consideration of the experiences of women from richer countries on strategic grounds. The success and failure of women in having their voices heard in rich countries provide a valuable point of reference for women of the third world. Gender - or the social construction of the role of women - is only one of many factors which determine the impact of information technology on a worker's life; ethnicity, religion, age and class, in some cases, play even greater roles in defining one's position in the world of work.
By highlighting the differences in the interests and needs of different groups of women, the anthology challenges the validity of any monolithic, specifically feminine vision of technology and science. The contributions in this volume, independently of one another, affirm the view that, instead of demanding an essentialist, ahistoric, universal, woman-friendly technology, it will be more rewarding to study, in the context of the current technological revolution, the needs and experiences of groups of women in different societies. Women, even in a single society, do not form a homogeneous group. In their dual role as mothers and workers, however, the majority of women do face certain common difficulties. Women's access to and control over childcare and reproductive technology, understandably, determines their ability to share the benefits of IT. Women's entry into the world of new tech urban employment in turn augments, as the essays highlight, their social power and control over their fertility.