Further Reading: Feminism in the MENA/Kurdistan

As we near the start of the semester, A Reflection of Kurdish Women on Revolutionary Feminism(s) and Solidarity in the MENA | Kurdistan, by Elif Genc, Gülay Kilicaslan, and Berivan Kutlay Sarikaya, re/draws our attention to the ways that feminism is diverse, and within that diversity is room for further conversations and (at times) negotiation.

The value of this article is its focus on the spaces for discussion and the possibilities for different feminisms to coexist, and on a deeper level, which feminism/s, when, and how they shift with time.

Sonja Hamad, ‘Kurdish Spring’, in Jin – Jiyan – Azadi: Women, Life, Freedom.

Written after the 2019 annual MESA (Middle East Studies Association) Meeting in New Orleans, where the authors had attended the meeting, ‘Feminist Conversation on Current Uprisings in the Middle East’, the piece highlights the significance of space, as well as marginalization, silencing, and the ways that violence emerges between these:

Kurds, particularly Kurdish women, have been marginalized and silenced in various ways and layers due to their particular position: they are subjected to intersecting forms of violence as colonized subjects under four nation-states in the MENA. These colonial subjectivities have permeated the consciousness and social relations of the feminist collectives in the MENA in their everyday politics.

As Kurdish women activist-academics, we consider that these colonial subjectivities must be problematized and decolonized in feminist conversations that see themselves as progressive. The milieu for this prefigurative feminist politics can only be fostered if the hierarchical power relations, embodied in these colonial subjectivities, are acknowledged and unpacked in feminist praxis in the MENA. 

Elif Genc, Gülay Kilicaslan, Berivan Kutlay Sarikaya, 2019. ‘A Reflection of Kurdish Women on Revolutionary Feminism(s) and Solidarity in the MENA | Kurdistan’, Kohl, 5: 3.

Looking to our conversations this semester, the article is an important piece to reflect on in weeks 1, 2, and 4, and should be read alongside its fellow articles on feminist revolutions in this edition of Kohl.

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.

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.

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.