Podcast Tip: Eve Ensler, The Apology

Earlier this summer, Eve Ensler did a long, and profound discussion on WTF with Marc Maron.

Over the course of the 90 minute conversation, Ensler discusses her latest novel, The Apology (2019), as well as toxic masculinity; negotiating trauma; the ways that the victim-perpetrator narrative is constructed (and re-constructed), and how we practice the apology:

We don’t often know what an apology is. I wanted to explore and find out what the words were that I needed to hear. What did I need to experience in order to release? What would it look and sound like? What would its textures be? What were the stories I needed to hear? I was looking for what catalyzes the alchemy of an apology.

The Alchemy of an Apology: Eve Ensler Interviewed by Raluca Albu, BOMB, June 13, 2019

The interview is a visceral experience, and provides a deep understanding of the complexities of violence, trauma, and its aftermath.

For more on The Apology, visit the full interview by Raluca Albu, and/or read an excerpt from the novel at LitHub, here.

Methods: Run-alongs

One for the methods side of the course, Making space on the run: exercising the right to move in Jerusalem, by Dr Una McGahern, provides an insight into the intersection of politics, the body, and contested spaces.

In her study, McGahern draws on the go-along method, which in the case of her study, involved participating in eight ‘run-alongs’ with a running group, two training sessions in East Jerusalem, and the Palestine half-Marathon in Bethlehem.

[Image via: Right to Movement/Signe Vest]

As well as offering a fascinating analysis of running as “an ongoing political claim and exercise [emphasis in original]”, McGahern highlights the opportunity to do methods in an fresh way:

The ability of the researcher to hold a ‘conversational pace’ of running (or not!) allows local runners the opportunity to initiate, or close, conversation with relative ease. The option to accelerate or slow down the pace of running to run on with others or continue alone provided a safe and non-pressurised atmosphere to participate, observe and gauge perceptions while responding to the different needs, moods, preferences and comfort levels of runners, a key ethical benefit of the run-along method.

Una McGahern, 2019. ‘Making space on the run: exercising the right to move in Jerusalem’, Mobilities. p. 8.

For more on the go-along method, see Margarethe Kusenbach’s 2003 article, Street Phenomenology: The Go-Along as Ethnographic Research Tool; on walking, you can read Tim Edensor’s 2010 study, Walking in rhythms: place, regulation, style and the flow of experience, and Jo Vergunst’s Rhythms of Walking: History and Presence in a City Street (2010), and in the context of Palestine, Raja Shehadeh’s Palestinian Walks: Notes on a Vanishing Landscape (2008).

Podcast Tip: Gender, Governance, and Islam

One for Week 8, an excellent podcast discussion with Professor Nadje Al-Ali, (Watson Institute, Brown University), and a regular on our reading list:

In the podcast, Professor Al-Ali talks about her new book, co-edited with Deniz Kandiyoti and Kathryn Spellman Poots, Gender, Islam & Governance (2019), as well as the deeper issues affecting gender and area studies:

If you want to understand the level of authoritarianism or the level of democracy, the politics of gender is not a side issue. It’s central to it. Often, mainstream political scientists, international relations scholars, or even area studies scholars, they think about women and gender issues as a side issue to the big issues of political transition, democracy, authoritarianism.

You don’t need to be an academic to see when you look at what’s been unfolding, especially since 2011 in terms of the various protest movements in the region, that when it comes to women, men, sexuality, this has been actually a central component of challenging previous regimes, but also has been a central component of regimes trying to control their populations. How does a regime try to crack down on a protest movement? By controlling women’s mobility. By sexual harassing women and telling them, ‘your place is not on the street’.

[‘Gender, Governance, and Islam’ with Nadje Al-Ali’, interview by Sarah Baldwin.]

The volume includes a collection of chapters that are relevant to not only Week 8, but Weeks 4, 7, and 9 (and more), including research by Islah Jad, (‘Palestine: Gender in an Imagined Fragmented Sovereignty’), Al-Ali (‘Iraq: Gendering Violence, Sectarianisms and Authoritarianism’), and Afiya Shehrbano Zia (‘Defiance not Subservience: New Directions in the Pakistani Women’s Movement’), among others.

Methods Tip: Positionality and Reflection

Looking to the dissertation, which runs from April to August, this marvellous piece by Sarah Lagot, an MA student in Humanitarianism and Conflict Response at HCRI, provides an excellent example of reflective writing.

In Unbroken Silences – Musings of a Novice Field Researcher, Lagot considers the ways that her multifaceted positionality affects her negotiation of what it means to be an insider and an outsider,

There are many layers to my experience as a novice researcher in post-conflict Northern Uganda. On the one hand, I assume an insider banner. I am a survivor of the LRA war with a lived experience of conflict. Yet, I am never completely able to wear the hat of insider. On the other hand, I am an “outsider” looking in, as a postgraduate student researcher from the University of Manchester.

This duality posed problems in my interactions with interviewees. Some interviewees were initially hesitant to share information as they assumed I was just a chaperone for the research group. They only divulged information upon confirmation of my student status through repeated showcase of my student identity card. Some also treated me with suspicion especially when I asked questions about male survivors of wartime sexual violence.

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Lagot’s piece demonstrates the power and importance of critical reflection during the data-gathering process, as well as journaling, the emotional impact of fieldwork, and how this can be addressed in conjunction with the broader methodological literature.

Reading: Lebanon’s militarized masculinity, by Joey Ayoub

One for Week 5 (or Week 2), Joey Ayoub’s Lebanon’s militarized masculinity provides a comprehensive and insightful reflection on masculinities, gender, and sexuality in Lebanon.

Through the piece, Ayoub considers the ways that masculinity has unfolded since the Lebanese Civil War, as well as the questions that surround the study of Lebanese masculinity, including:

Does ‘Lebanese’ include only those lucky enough to get the difficult-to-obtain citizenship, itself often a sectarian calculation? Do studies exclude, for example, Syrian and Palestinian refugee men who have been in Lebanon for several years? What about those who are half-Lebanese, half-Palestinian, or those who have a non-Lebanese father and a Lebanese mother, and therefore don’t have the citizenship? Does the topic pre-suppose a cis and heterosexual subject? 

[Source]

Working as both a primer for the nuances of post-war society and a profound consideration of race, LGBTQ+ rights, socio-economic issues, gender equality, and the Kafala (sponsorship) system, the article also offers paths to research the topic further, via the works of Fatima Sbaity Kassem, Najib Hourani, and Sune Haugbolle.

For more pieces by Ayoub, follow his blog, Hummus for Thought, here.

CfP: Women and Gender Studies in the Middle East

This time a call for papers, for submission towards the Association for Middle East Women’s Studies (AMEWS) inaugural conference, Women and Gender Studies in the Middle East, which will be held in Beirut in March 2021.

The thematic focus is broad, and submissions are welcomed from fields such as politics, economics, history, sexualities, culture, arts, and digital humanities, among others.

The deadline for abstracts is October 30, 2019, and submissions must be 250 words, follow the template outlined in the call, and include a reflection on “why you believe this is a pressing topic”.

For more on AMEWS, and their publication, the Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies, visit their latest issue, Generations, here.

CfA: Feminist Studies Mentorship Programme

Here’s an innovative initiative organised by the Centre for Transnational Development and Collaboration, under which one year of mentorship will be provided by the co-founders and co-directors of the CTDC, Dr Nour Abu-Assab and Dr Nof Nasser-Eddin.

The call’s themes cover a range of areas, including, among others:

  • Decoloniality and Decolonising Methods
  • Feminist Knowledge Production
  • Feminist Methodologies
  • Gender Performances, Masculinities and Femininities
  • Refugeehood Migration and Displacement
  • Feminist Political Theory and Governance
  • Minorities and Marginalised Communities

The Mentorship lasts one year, and is aimed at researchers affiliated with academic institutions, as well as independent scholars and those working in civil society organisations.

For more information on the Centre and the Programme, visit the call, here.

Deadline for applications: July 31, 2019.

Event of Note: Queer Feminisms Writing Workshop

Kohl, a feminist journal with a focus on gender and sexuality in West Asia, South West Asia, and North Africa, has opened its call for applications towards its 2019 Queer Feminisms Writing Workshop.

The workshop will be held over five days between November 29 and December 3 in Lebanon, and will work towards their June 2020 issue.

During the workshop, participants will reflect on how queer feminisms have been conceptualised and experienced in Arabic-speaking societies, both in and beyond the region. Framing the discourse will be questions such as,

What are queer feminisms? How do we theorize them away from western/white articulations? How have queer politics that are intersectional taken root and manifested in our movements’ praxis? What are the queer feminist fault lines we encounter? What political projects are we envisioning and want to see materialize, and what mechanisms do we put in place for ourselves and each other?

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The deadline for applications is August 11; for more details on the submission and eligibility, visit their call, here.

Gender and Drone Warfare

One for the bookshelf, Gender and Drone Warfare: A Hauntological Perspective by Lindsay C. Clark (2019), draws on interviews with British reaper drone crews to gauge how killing with drones complicates how we understand masculinity and femininity during wars.

In particular, her work considers how,

As their role does not include physical risk, drone crews have been critiqued for failing to meet the masculine requirements necessary to be considered ‘warriors’ and have been derided for feminising war. However, this book argues that drone warfare, and the experiences of the crews, exceeds the traditional masculine/feminine binary and suggests a new approach to explore this issue.

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For more on gender and drone warfare, Martine Heijthuyzen’s ‘Gendering Drone Warfare‘ provides a quick read at the Centre for Feminist Foreign Policy (CFFP), and Cerelia Athanassiou’s 2012 article, ”Gutsy’ Decisions and Passive Processes: The Warrior Decision-Maker after the Global War on Terror’ looks at the context of masculinity and the re-emergence of the GWOT ‘war machine’.