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The Geopolitics of Women’s Rights in the Middle East

The Geopolitics of Women’s Rights in the Middle East

Date(s) - 04/19/2021
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

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Free USD
Contact Person:
Dr. Ebtihal Mahadeen

University of Edinburgh

Online Event

About this Event

The department of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Edinburgh is delighted to host Dr. Nicola Pratt in this talk, part of our Spring 2021 research seminars. The seminar is open to all and FREE.

Please reserve your FREE ticket and details of the Zoom event will be emailed to you directly on the day of the event.

For any questions please contact the seminar organiser, Dr. Ebtihal Mahadeen:

Abstract: This paper is based on a chapter of my recently published book, Embodying Geopolitics: Generations of Women’s Activism in Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon (University of California Press, 2020). The book explores the ways in which the legacies of colonialism and ongoing neocolonialism shape the politics of gender and sexuality, with consequences for women’s activism and its effects. Drawing on more than 100 interviews with women activists of different generations, it foregrounds their personal narratives as situated and embodied knowledge about Middle East politics.

This paper explores a geopolitics of women’s rights through a case study of women’s rights activism in the wake of the 2011 Arab uprisings. Rather than viewing gender inequality as a stubborn residue of culture, I contend that it is performative of cultural difference that serves to produce a “sovereignty effect” (Roxanne Doty 1996a: 124) for Middle East states, whose sovereignty is otherwise continuously undermined as a result of their subordinate position within the international state system. The paper considers the ways in which women’s rights demands have posed a challenge to the exercise and organization of geopolitical power, or what Edward Said termed ‘the struggle over geography’ – a struggle ‘not only about soldiers and cannons but also about ideas, about forms, about images and imaginings’ (1993: 7). Viewing women’s rights as integral to the imagining and performance of state sovereignty enables us to understand why regimes may or may not support demands for women’s rights reforms in the Middle East and North Africa region.

Speaker’s bio: Nicola Pratt is Associate Professor (Reader) in the Politics and International Studies Department at the University of Warwick, UK, and Vice President of the British Society for Middle Eastern Studies (BRISMES). She teaches and researches on the international politics of the Middle East, with a particular interest in feminist and decolonial approaches and a focus on ‘politics from below.’ She has written and co-edited a number of books on women and gender in the Middle East. Her most recent monograph, entitled, Embodying Geopolitics: Generations of Women’s Activism in Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon, was published by University of California Press in fall 2020. She has also written extensively on Egyptian ‘politics-from-below’ and is currently co-authoring a book on popular culture and the contested meanings of the 2011 Egyptian revolution; which is also the subject of a multimedia, digital archive that she co-curated:

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