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Gender, Fundamentalism and Recent Developments in the Middle East

Saturday 30th April 2016, 2–5pm, SOAS

Nazand Begikhani

Media, Gender and Honour: The Cyber Representation of Women in Iraqi Kurdistan

The media have become a powerful set of actors in Iraqi Kurdistan. Media outlets, whether they be the press, TV stations, radio or cyber platforms, have the capacity to both inform and allow for debate and deliberation, which in turn can play an important role in the processes of governance, ideological and cultural formation as well as decision-making. The new information communication technology and cyber media have shaped the lives of women and the interaction between people in Kurdistan. However, through media and cyber representation, women have been facing new challenges with different forms of violence founded on the very basis of the code of honour. The paper is based on field research into media, women and cyber violence conducted with colleagues at the University of Sulaimani’s Gender & Violence Studies Centre between February and September 2015. The paper also includes data collected from previous research projects, notably a two year study into honour-­‐based violence in Iraqi Kurdistan and UK Kurdish Diaspora (2008-2010) conducted by the  University  of Bristol’s Centre for Gender & Violence Research and the University of Roehampton.

Dr. Nazand Begikhani is a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Bristol, Centre for Gender and Violence Research. She has over 20 years’ experience in research, writing, advocacy for human rights and consultancy. In addition to 8 poetry collections as an international poet, some of Nazand’s publications include, Honour-­‐based violence: Experiences and counter strategies in Iraqi Kurdistan and the UK Kurdish diaspora (Ashgate, 2015, co-authored with Gill & Hague); “Honour’-based violence in Kurdish communities” (With Gill & Hague, Women's Studies International Forum. 35(2). pp. 75–85); Circulation of meaning (Ranj Publications, Sulaimani 2008). Nazand addressed, among many conferences, the 1995 Beijing Fourth World Conference on Women, the UN’s meeting with the World March of Women 2000, and Sweden’s International Conference on Honour Killings (2004). She was awarded the Emma Humphreys Memorial Prize for her work on HBV in 2000, the Simone Landry French Feminine Prize for Poetry in 2012 and Kurdistan’s Gender Equality Prize (2015).

Zahra Ali’s political activism in post-invasion Iraq: Muslim feminists, Islamist women and the women between

This presentation is based on my doctoral research on contemporary Iraqi women political activism in which I investigate socio-­‐historically and ethnographically the articulation between gender and issues of nation, state and religion. My analysis of the post-­‐invasion Iraqi context relies mainly on my ethnography of Iraqi women political groups conducted mainly in Baghdad and secondarily in Erbil and Sulaymaniyah (Iraqi Kurdistan) between October 2010 and June 2012 (participant observation, collect of life-­‐stories and semi-­‐structured interviews). I want to present some conceptual insights about the political and social use of Islam by women’s rights activists in Iraq since 2003, and about my own personal and intellectual evolution on the matter throughout the completion of my fieldwork research. I will seek to contextualize and apply an intersectional reading of what is commonly called “Islamic” or “Muslim”, and insist on the importance to ground the analysis of Iraqi women’s rights activism in their material context of deployment and expression. In doing so, I seek to propose a critical intersectional feminist reading of contemporary Islamist and Muslim feminist forms of activism.

Dr Zahra Ali is a sociologist specializing in women and gender studies in relation to Islam and the Middle East and currently a post-­‐doctoral researcher at the University of Chester and a research associate at IFPO-­‐Iraq. Her doctoral research was supervised by Nilufer Göle at EHESS and Nadje Al-Ali at SOAS. Her thesis untitled “Women and Gender in Iraq: between Nation-­‐building and Fragmentation” explores contemporary Iraqi women’s activism through  an  in-depth  ethnography  of post-2003 Iraqi women’s political groups conducted in Baghdad, Erbil and Sulaymaniyah and a socio-­historical  study  of  women’s  social,  economic  and  political  experiences  since  the  formation  of  the Iraqi state. She edited Féminismes Islamiques, first collection on Muslim feminist scholarship published in France (La Fabrique editions, 2012), translated and published in German (Passagen Verlag, 2014). 

Webpages: http://www.ifporient.org/zahra-ali  & http://www.chester.ac.uk/departments/trs/staff/dr-zahra-ali

Rouba Mhaissen

Gender and Religious Extremism in Syria: Women lead an ongoing fight to freedom

In 2011, Syrians started a peaceful revolution against the Assad regime that soon escalated into an armed conflict and a war spanning more than five years. Women played and continue playing an instrumental role in the protests, political and civil society work. Throughout the years, extremist groups such as Jabhat al Nusra and ISIS were implicated in the war, controlling areas inside Syria. Along with regime armed forces, those groups have committed human rights violation, and have used systemic violence as a weapon of war especially against women through rape, detentions, tortures, sexual slavery and forced marriage, as well as limits to their movement. This talk examines those themes, and how, despite all this, women still play a vital in Syria's ongoing fight to freedom and dignity.

Dr Rouba Mhaissen is an economist, activist, and development practitioner who works on   development issues in the MENA region, particularly forced migration and the Syrian refugee crisis. She is the founder and director of Sawa Foundation (UK), and Sawa for Development and Aid (Lebanon), both Civil Society Organisations working with Syrian refugees on an integrated approach to development. She has researched and consulted on a range of issues pertaining to education, violence, conflict, gender, household economics, forced migration, and activism, among others. She holds a PhD in Gender and Development from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, and a Masters in International Development from the London School of Economics.

Nadje Al-Ali

Beyond ISIS: Gender based violence, militarism and authoritarianism

This talk will engage with the difficulty of researching and talking about gender -­‐based violence in the Middle East to not fall into the trap of either being an apologetic of structural and systematic forms of discrimination and violence nor engaging in essentialist notions of Muslim/Middle East culture. While discussing the specific characteristic of violence linked to ISIS (daesh), I will present the historical and wider context that has normalised gender-­‐based violence. My contribution will also discuss the Kurdish political movement linked to Turkey and Syria, which constitutes the main resistance to ISIS in the region militarily and ideologically. I will address the movement’s ideological shift to stress gender-­‐based equality as central to the project of radical democracy.

Nadje Al-Ali is Professor of Gender Studies at the Centre for Gender Studies, SOAS, University of London. She has published widely on women and gender in the Middle East as well as transnational migration and diaspora mobilization. Her publications include What kind of Liberation? Women and the Occupation of Iraq (2009, University of California Press, co-­‐authored with Nicola Pratt); Women and War in the Middle East: Transnational Perspectives (Zed Books, 2009, co-­‐edited with Nicola Pratt); Iraqi Women: Untold Stories from 1948 to the Present (2007, Zed Books). Her most recent book (co-­‐edited with Deborah al-­‐Najjar) entitled We are Iraqis: Aesthetics & Politics in a Time of War (Syracuse University Press) won the 2014 Arab-­‐American book prize for non-­‐fiction. Currently, she is working on a research project about the Turkish-­‐Kurdish conflict. Professor Al-­‐Ali is a member of the Feminist Review Collective.

Britishness, Belonging and Borders

Wednesday 11th May 2016, 2 – 4pm, UEL, University Square Stratford

Nira Yuval-Davis

Everyday Bordering as a Contemporary British Political Project of Belonging

In this presentation Nira Yuval-Davis argues that everyday bordering has become a major technology of control of both social diversity and discourses on diversity in the UK, in a way that threatens to undermine the convivial co-existence of pluralist multi-cultural Britain. Drawing on research carried out in London between 2013 and 2015, Nira argues that such tendencies have been developing especially since the drive for securitisation following the events of 9/11 in 2001. However, these developments cannot be understood to be an outcome solely of securitisation, but rather they are part of an autochthonic  political project of belonging, which emerged as a counter narrative to the multiculturalist project dominant during the 1980’s and 90’s. Nira also argues that such political project of belonging needs to be understood via the dialogical lens of situated intersectionality.

Eric Woods and Helen Kim

Unresolved Empire: Art, Identity and the Meaning of Britain’s Imperial Past

In this paper, Eric Woods and Helen Kim undertake a cultural analysis of Tate Britain’s recent exhibit, Artist and Empire: Facing Britain’s Imperial Past. To bring to light the multiple layers of affect and meaning that are imbricated in the exhibition, they draw on ethnographic interviews with curators and visitors, published reviews, and a close reading of the exhibition itself. Their analysis reveals a set of troubling findings regarding the status of British national identity and the significance of its imperial past, whose urgent implications reach far beyond the walls of the museum. In sum, they find that empire continues to be an unresolved, ambivalent and yet deeply felt issue in Britain today, which we analogise as a collective trauma simmering below the surface of contemporary social life. To conclude, they discuss how the exhibitions of this kind might better provide a locus for reconciliation.

Gargi Bhattacharyya

Disentitlement and the shifting boundaries of national belonging

This paper considers recent debates about the post-political and the emergence of anti-politics in order to revisit understandings of national belonging. The paper includes a review of ideas of disentitlement and of the impact of such processes of expropriation and expulsion on lived experiences of national belonging. Overall, Gargi Bhattacharyya argues that the performance of ethnic or cultural belonging is no longer (and perhaps never was) enough  to ensure inclusion in the terms of everyday nationhood and it is in the light of these multiple exclusions that we should understand highly theatricalised claims of alternative nationhood.

Histories of anti-Semitism

Monday 14th March 2016, 4 - 6pm, UEL, Docklands Campus

The Theology of Semitism

A significant body of scholarship has been published over the last few years that emphasises the Christian theological basis of late modern European ideas about Jews. Ivan Kalmar and Gil Anidjar, in particular, have arrived at this point as part of their wider critiques of the notion of a post-Enlightenment secular Europe. Central to their analyses has been their interest in the European pairing of Jews and Muslims. In this paper, I will build on this work by exploring the genealogy and life-story of the trinity of the Semite, the Semitic, and Semitism. I will argue that, contrary to most writing on the subject, the Semitic frame was shaped by traditions of Christian thought, which, crucially, holds answers for us regarding the tensions at the heart of the European pairing of Jews and Muslims, and why Semitism disappeared so suddenly from European thought in the middle of the twentieth century.  

Dr James Renton is Reader in History at Edge Hill University, and Honorary Senior Research Associate in the Department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies at UCL. He is the author of The Zionist Masquerade: The Birth of the Anglo-Zionist Alliance, 1914-1918 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), and co-editor with Ben Gidley of Antisemitism and Islamophobia in Europe: A Shared Story? (Palgrave Macmillan, forthcoming).

Antisemitism and the linguistic turn

It is well known that the term antisemitism was used in Germany in the 1870s and1880s by a movement of people who believed Jewish emancipation had been a great error. The movement imagined itself to be engaged in a war between German and Jewish interests. But what happened to the term antisemitism when it was taken up by Jews and their friends and when it travelled beyond Germany? This paper will explore the changing meanings of the term in antisemitism as it developed in Britain from the 1880s to the present. It will argue that these changes point to an epochal shift in Jewish history. 

David Feldman is Director of the Pears Institute for the study of Antisemitism and also a Professor of History at Birkbeck. His research centres on the Jews, immigrants and mobilities in British society, culture and politics. He is the author of Englishmen and Jews: Social Relations and Political culture, 1840-1914 (1994) and the co-editor of a number of volumes including Paths of Integration: Migrants in Western Europe, 1880-2004 (2006), Post-War Reconstruction in Europe. International Perspectives, 1945-49 (2011), Structures and Transformations in Modern British History (2011) and Blood: Uniting and Dividing (2015)

The Racialisation of Class Politics in the Russian Revolution: a case study of the so-called 'Jewish Question'

The Bolsheviks came to power in 1917 with the promise of building a world free of class exploitation and other forms of oppression and domination. In the very moment of revolution, however, these sentiments were put to the test as a devastating wave of anti-Jewish violence broke out across the western borderlands of the former Russian empire. The pogroms posed fundamental questions of Marxist theory and practice, particularly since they revealed the nature and extent of working class attachments to antisemitic representations of Jewishness. This paper seeks to offer a theoretically informed historical understanding of the remarkable capacity for class politics to become racialised in revolutionary Russia. It does so by mobilising the concept of ‘elective affinity’ and by situating its empirical findings within a wider discussion of the sociology of race and class.

Brendan McGeever is currently an Early Career Research Fellow at the Pears Institute for the study of Antisemitism. His work focuses on racism, antisemitism and anti-racism. His PhD, completed in 2015 at the University of Glasgow, offers a historical sociology of the Bolshevik response to antisemitism in the Russian Revolution. Brendan is currently preparing this work for book publication. In April 2016 he will take up the position of Lecturer in the Sociology of Racialisation and Antisemitism in the Department for Psychosocial Studies at Birkbeck.

Everyday Bordering and the Undermining of Multi-Ethnic Britain

'Everyday Borders' film screening and discussion

Monday 14th March 2016, 7 - 9pm, London School of Economics

18 years after the Runnymede Trust set up The Commission for the Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain, chaired by Lord Bhikhu Parekh, immigration legislation is increasingly outsourcing border-guard roles to ordinary citizens extending the UK border further into everyday life. A recent example are the  ‘Right to Rent‘ checks, introduced in the 2014 Immigration Act and compulsory in England since the 1st  of February 2016 under which private landlords are obliged to check the identities and immigration status of any adult living in their properties. If they fail to do so they face fines and if the 2015 Immigration Bill becomes law, imprisonment. Similar requirements for employers, bank workers, health workers and education institutions to carry out immigration related checks and monitoring as part of their everyday work, are threatening the ‘vibrant multicultural society, at ease with its rich diversity’ that the Parekh Report hoped Britain would become.

There will be a screening of the film ‘Everyday Borders’ (dir Orson Nava), followed by a panel discussion.

Speakers:

Lord Bhikhu Parekh: Chair of The Commission for the Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain and author of the Parekh Report

Omar Khan:  Director, Runnymede Trust

Pragna Patel: Director, Southall Black Sisters

Professor Nira Yuval-Davis: Director, Centre for research on Migration, Refugees and Belonging at UEL

Chair: Dr Suki Ali, Department of Sociology, LSE

The Immigration Bills and 'Everyday Bordering'

Tuesday 26th January 2016, 6 - 8pm, House of Commons

Baroness Sally Hamwee, Liberal Democrats, House of Lord, member of the Joint Committee on Human Rights

Lucy Jones,  UK Programme Manager, Doctors of the World

Stuart  C. McDonald, MP for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East,  Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Immigration, Asylum and Border Control).

Rachel Robinson, Policy Officer, Liberty

Before the panel discussion, we shall show the film 'Everyday Borders’ which is based on our research findings and was produced in co-operation with Migrants Rights Network (MRN), Refugee and Migrant Forum for Essex and London (RAMFEL) and Southall Black Sisters (SBS). The experts who took part in the film will also attend the meeting and take part in the discussion.

While there have been public debates on some aspects of the immigration bills, we believe that the issues raised in this meeting have been relatively neglected till now in spite of their major importance to issues of civil liberties and community cohesion. Below you’ll find a link to a short article that one of us published recently in The Independent, which draws attention to some of these issues. We hope that following the meeting, we can mobilize cross-party support and with your help, much more public attention.

A press release following the event can be viewed here.

The Role of Rights Activism, Academia and Performing Arts Practices: A conversation (UEL/Nine Lives Symposium)

Monday 25th January 2016, 3 - 9pm, Arcola Theatre

The University of East London (UEL) invites you to a symposium which focuses on examining the roles and impacts of academia, rights activism and theatre practices. Bringing together students, researchers, artists and representatives of local advocacy community, the symposium will critically explore the areas of education in this congregation with the aim of raising awareness on experiences of migration, belonging, gender and identity issues. It is hoped that these discussions will open a dialogue for further projects of civic engagement between UEL’s scholarships with activists’ community and arts practitioners in the UK.  

This event will build on the existing partnership between UEL’s School of Social Sciences and Nine Lives Production (Leeds Studio & West Yorkshire Playhouse) through the ongoing evaluation of Nine Lives Theatre tour across the UK. The event will finish with a Live Performance of Nine Lives, a powerful play that raises awareness on the experiences of asylum seekers in the UK especially on the LGBT issues.

New Research on the Middle East

Monday 14th December 2015, 4 – 6pm, UEL, Docklands Campus

Giulia Daniele, CMRB, UEL

Women, Reconciliation and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: The Road Not Yet Taken

My talk is founded on the theoretical analysis and the fieldwork evaluation reported on in my Ph.D. dissertation, which has been published by Routledge in the form of a book entitled Women, Reconciliation and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: The Road Not Yet Taken. One of the main objectives of my research has been to analyse the most significant Palestinian and Israeli women’s political initiatives that have been influenced by and, in the majority of cases, prevented by obstacles associated with the Israeli military occupation in the last decade.

Despite the majority of women’s political proposals and actions have been relegated to the margins of the mainstream arena, a few of them have succeeded in finding alternative politics and approaches that have assisted them in their commitment to the struggle to end the Israeli military occupation. In such a framework, the academic salience of my study is the provision of an additional contribution to the current debate on the process of making Palestinian and Israeli women activists more visible, and the importance of this process as being one of the most meaningful ways in which to open up areas of enquiry around relevant prospects for a fair resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Giulia Daniele is currently Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Centro de Estudos Internacionais (CEI) of the Instituto Universitário de Lisboa (ISCTE-IUL) and Visiting Research Fellow at the Centre for Research on Migration, Refugees and Belonging (CMRB) of the University of East London (UEL). After obtaining her Bachelor Degree in International Studies (2005) and Master’s Degree in International Relations and Human Rights (2007) at the University of Torino, she completed her Ph.D. in Politics, Human Rights and Sustainability under a co-tutelle agreement between the University of Exeter and Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies in April 2012.

Since 2005 she has conducted fieldwork researches in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Israel and Tunisia. She also acquired useful experience with her involvement in the International Election Observation Mission for the Palestinian elections in January 2006, in the international cooperation project called EPIC (European, Palestinian and Israeli Cities for Health and Social Partnership) sponsored by the World Health Organization in December 2006, and when she was a research intern at the Office of the Vice President of the European Parliament in Brussels in Autumn 2008.

Her main research interests broadly cover the following fields: Middle East politics (focusing on Palestine/Israel), women’s political activism in the Middle East and North Africa, social movements, gender and feminist studies, conflict resolution and ethno-national narratives. Her first book is entitled Women, Reconciliation and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: The Road Not Yet Taken (Routledge, 2014).

Sharri Plonski, SOAS

New Borders – Carving a Palestinian Space into the Mixed City of Jaffa-Tel Aviv

Acts of subversive cartography have become a common practice of Palestinian-citizen resistances inside Israel. Intertwined as part of the dialectic, if asymmetrical, relationship that exists between ‘power’ and ‘resistance’, they act as a window both into the apparatuses employed to colonise Palestinian space inside Israel and the insurgent practices different communities have articulated in response. This encounter – between Zionist erasures and the struggle to root and re-entrench Palestinian space – produces the particular story, the particular space, in which both are housed, the lines and borders of which are articulated and disrupted through unique spatial relations. In this talk, we will explore the everyday and catalytic resistances that re-map, re-sign and reclaim Palestinian space in Jaffa-Tel Aviv. Through an exploration of a spectrum of practices, we investigate how power is activated, disarticulated and reshaped through struggle that is both present and absent from Israeli-Zionist productions of space; and how struggle is articulated and mediated by the same conditions.

Dr. Sharri Plonski earned her PhD from the Department of Development Studies, at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, where she is currently a postdoctoral associate. She also works as an associate lecturer at Brunel University, where she teaches a course on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Her thesis will be published in 2016 as part of the new SOAS Palestine Studies Book Series with I.B. Taurus as the Struggle for Space: Ordinary and Extraordinary Resistances by Palestinian citizens of an Israeli-Jewish State.

Eylem Atakav, University of East Anglia

'Until Every Child is Safe’: Representing ‘Legitimised’ Abuse and Child Brides on Screen

According to the UNICEF report entitled ‘Ending Child Marriage: Progress and Prospects’ (2013), there are 700 million women who were married as children, and 280 million girls are at risk of becoming child brides. In Turkey, according to the reports written by feminist organisations 1 in 3 marriages there is a child. These figures are alarming and signal the need for further and urgent research in the field. Working on a documentary film on ‘child brides’ in Turkey is my first exposure to filmmaking, therefore it poses challenges to me as an academic, who focuses on theories around feminism and media rather than filmmaking practice.

In this paper, I will critically reflect upon and share the findings of my research into the representation of child brides in the media, with the aim of answering a key question: what kind of a visual language is used in the Turkish media in the depiction of girls as brides? I argue that on screen portrayals of married girls are presented as individualised stories of victims, and they reinforce a focus on tradition and religion rather than identify issues inherent in the law, politics and society.

In linking theory and practice, I will also present an account of the methodological issues around representation in the production of my documentary on ‘child brides’ in Turkey. The film explores what happens after child marriage by focusing on the stories of four women and making their experiences visible, in an attempt to contribute to and advance debates around this significant, complex and emotionally charged human rights issue which has often been discursively silenced.

Eylem Atakav is Senior Lecturer in Film and Television Studies at the University of East Anglia where she teaches courses on women and film; women, Islam and media; and Middle Eastern cinemas. She is the author of Women and Turkish Cinema: Gender Politics, Cultural Identity and Representation (Routledge, 2012) and editor of Directory of World Cinema: Turkey (Intellect, 2013). Her academic interests are on Middle Eastern film and television; representation of 'honour' crimes in the media, and transnational women's cinema.

Borderscapes: Borders and Bordering in Contemporary Europe (EUBORDERSCAPES Policy & Impact Conference)

10 - 12th November 2015, UEL, Docklands Campus

EUBORDERSCAPES is an international research project funded through the EU’s FP7 Programme. Since 2013, the project has explored conceptual change in relation to the fundamental social, economic, cultural and geopolitical transformations that have taken place in relation to borders and bordering in and around the EU in the past three decades. This is large-scale project with a consortium that includes 22 partner institutions from 17 different states, incorporating several non-EU countries.

As an EU funded project, EUBORDERSCAPES has a strong policy orientation. The purpose of this conference is to disseminate the major research findings of the project to EU and other European policy-makers, activist groups, academics and other interested parties whilst at the same time providing a space for engaged discussion on the themes arising from the project. Various leading representatives of these groups will be speaking at the conference on a range of topics that include: The Reconfiguration of Post Soviet Borders and Conceptual Change; Borders and Critical Geographies of Neighbourhoods; Post Colonial Bordering and Euro-African Borderscapes and Borders, Intersectionality and the Everyday. There will also be a film festival that exhibits films based on ethnographic work conducted by different project partners, drama-based workshops exploring the conference themes and guided walks around London’s borderscapes.

Gender, Fundamentalism and the 'Prevent Agenda'

Saturday 17th October 2015, 2 – 5pm, SOAS, University of London

This seminar will look at various issues raised by the 'Prevent agenda' in relation to gender and fundamentalism. The speakers are: Tehmina Kazi (British Muslims for Secular Democracy), Irene Zempi (Nottingham Trent University), Aisha Phoenix (Goldsmiths) Rahila Gupta (Southall Black Sisters).

CMRB Annual General Meeting 2015, followed by 'Lesvos, the European island in the crossroads of two major humanitarian crises' with Erene Kaptani

Monday 28th September 2015, 3 - 6pm, UEL, Docklands Campus

After the regular CMRB AGM Erene Kaptani will talk on the following issues:

On Lesvos, both the survival of the ‘locals’ and ‘refugees’ depends on decisions made in European Institutions. Refugees are currently arriving on the island at a time when an unprecedented process of underdevelopment is occurs in at the hands of these institutions. In this presentation, the speaker, who has been involved since 2009 with refugees arriving to her hometown, reflects on the way refugee arrivals are managed by the different statutory and non statutory European bodies. This presentation envisages creating an understanding and a discussion on what the social and political changes between Greece and Europe have been in the past five months and how these continue to affect the management and monitoring of refugees. It aims to encourage a discussion of the trends formed, by both European institutions and society, regarding their humanitarian and social welfare responses.