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Sewing Machines for Socialism?

A journal article by Elizabeth Banks | 2021


Banks, Elizabeth (2021) "Sewing Machines for Socialism?: Gifts of Development and Disagreement between the Soviet and Mozambican Women's Committees, 1963–87" Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 41(1): 27–40


This article examines negotiations on aid, scholarship provision, and a hoped-for visit by former cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova, that took place between the Committee for Soviet Women (KSZh) and the Organization for Mozambican Women (OMM) as a lens into Soviet-African interaction in the late twentieth century. Women's organizations offer a unique perspective as women's rights occupied a central place in socialism, conceptions of modernity, and African nationalist organizing. Drawing on archives, interviews, and organizational publications, the article highlights how the symbolic and pragmatic politics of these connections were woven together through the circulation of gifts. At the same time, the article draws attention to fundamental misalignment in the groups' conceptions of gender and in their ambitions for the relationship. Bound by institutional norms, the KSZh consistently offered OMM the same set of items year after year, while OMM women asked for alternative forms of support with higher material and symbolic value because they believed their relationship should be mutually determined and relevant for local conditions.


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