Event: Sewing Resistance

Between October 10 and May 31, the University of Aberdeen Museums and Special Collections will be hosting an exhibition of Chilean arpilleras, stitched by students on the Spanish and Latin American Studies program at Aberdeen.

During the Women Making History: Mexico and Chile in the Twentieth Century class, the students were guided by Professor Patience Schell (LLMVC) as they made their research-based arpillera, a Chilean fabric mural, while writing a commentary about the process of creating the dolls.

The mural connects with topics that we will be discussing in Weeks 5 and 11, when we reflect on cultural resistance and gender, and the arpilleras provide a significant example of the juxtaposition of art and politics:

Arpilleras emerged as an art form during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990) and usually depict scenes of everyday life, especially for those who were against the dictatorship or perceived to be leftist.

Professor Patience Schell, ‘Research-Based Arpillera‘, 2019.

The exhibition will be held on the ground floor of the Duncan Rice Library; to learn more about the arpilleras, check out Susan Traini‘s 2013 article, ‘Unforgotten to the unforgettable: How Arpilleras contributed to Chilean history informing everyday occupations and social change’; Jhonny Alexander Pacheco Ballén‘s 2018 piece, ‘Las arpilleras de shuba: bordado de arpilleras para tejer la memoria colectiva sobre los espacios’, and Jacqueline Adams‘ 2013 book, Art Against Dictatorship : Making and Exporting Arpilleras Under Pinochet.

Quick Read: The Emotional Labor of Coping

Following yesterday’s post on belonging and the learning environment, the latest issue of Kohl includes an important reflection on the politicization and feminization of emotional labour, both in higher ed and beyond the classroom.

In Neoliberal Consciousness and the Emotional Labor of Coping: A Conversation Between Friends, Amira Elwakil and Nadine El-Nabli discuss the ways that labor is omnipresent (Nadine: “There is even labor involved in being alone”), the ways that emotions are feminized and, thereafter, undervalued, and exhaustion versus productivity.

As the conversation unfolds, Amira and Nadine turn to the possibility of alternative labor structures, and the ways that the current framework can be challenged:

Any attempt to challenge our current labor structures and create alternative ones requires a new way of thinking around how we organize communities and how we distribute care, security, recognition, rights, and duties.

I think it’s crucial to try to find alternative communities of care that are neither based on ideas around the nuclear family nor in the pursuit of creating a new family that is rooted in heteronormative structures. But I haven’t managed to find an answer to what these communities could realistically and sustainably look like.

I find so much value, support, and care in friendships, but even those feel insecure because of the fact that the structures we live in don’t support the sustainability or security of these relationships.

Amira Elwakil and Nadine El-Nabli, Neoliberal Consciousness and the Emotional Labor of Coping: A Conversation Between Friends, Kohl, 5: 2, Summer 2019.

The article is a powerful read, and it touches on the additional dimensions of emotional labour that will emerge in our discussions in Weeks 1, 2, and 3 (and more), including privilege, the “romanticization of emotional labor”, and gender and mental health.

Quick Read: The “Hidden Curriculum”

As part of AllGo‘s new series looking at being fat in college, Meaghan O’Riordan‘s The “Hidden Curriculum” Taught by Desks in College Classrooms (Almost) Everywhere considers the ways that space, fitting in, and the ways that campuses reflect on the needs of plus-size students (or not!) affects our experience as students.

O’Riordan’s post addresses an issue that is relevant to our discussions in Weeks 1 and 9, and highlights the ways that the learning environment can influence feelings of belonging and knowledge exchange:

Sarah M. also felt that the accessible desks, located almost exclusively, in the front of some of her classrooms at Portland State University placed people in the spotlight.

Additionally, she had to register as someone with a disability in order to gain access to this seating, even though she was able-bodied. This required her to get a letter from her doctor saying she is “medically obese” and going through this process was very traumatic for her.

She felt that by asking for an accommodation she was appropriating language not meant for her but, without doing so, she would be without any seating options as the other seats in her classrooms were “tablet arm” style desks that can’t accommodate plus-size students.

Meaghan O’Riordan, ‘The “Hidden Curriculum” Taught by Desks in College Classrooms (Almost) Everywhere’, September 4, 2019

Drawing on 15 interviews, as well as research by D. Breithecker, Kemal Yildirim et al., and Heather A. Brown (among others), the article is a profound reflection on embodiment and space, and a sound starting point to explore discrimination in greater depth.

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.

[source]

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.