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Gender and Narratives of Political Change Conference

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The 20th anniversary of the EJWS coincides with a highly politicized moment shaped by austerity regimes that accompany various crises, rise of conservative and racist political movements (with significant numbers of women participating in them), grassroots urban movements reclaiming public spaces and challenging the limits of representative politics, neoliberal biopolitics expanding the control of bodies to the genetic and the molecular, and seemingly contradictory changes in gender and sexuality regimes – the expansion of rights for women and non-normative sexualities accompanying hate crimes, sexual violence and new forms of control and repression. On the southern and eastern edges of Europe, women have played a key role in the “revolutions” that have changed authoritarian regimes, and are now facing religious and political backlash. In the case of Syria and Iraq, women’s lives are destroyed or torn by war and sexual violence, turning them into one of the most vulnerable group of refugees in Europe and the Middle East. Challenges of climate change and the increasingly difficult access to water and other resources are adding to women’s vulnerability.

As feminist scholars, we find ourselves faced with some difficult questions. For instance, while the legalization of same-sex marriage in so many states would have been unthinkable only a decade ago, such “normalization” risks intersectional politics and solidarity across class, race, ethnicity and religion. Moreover, terms like “gender equality” and “women’s liberation” have become incorporated by right-wing movements which involve significant mobilization of women. How have feminist activists and scholars dealt with such incorporation? How do we respond to such mobilization (of women, LGBTI individuals, or feminist/queer conceptual tools) for conservative and racist agendas? Are the tools developed by feminist theory and activism through the years adequate to respond to the vast changes taking place in our social and political milieu? Or do we need “new words, new methods” (to paraphrase Virginia Woolf)? Do we see “new words, new methods” coming out of the various grassroots or transnational movements that are emerging?

This conference aims to provide a dynamic forum to discuss the narratives of contemporary political change from a feminist perspective, focusing on two main threads: Understanding the gendering and sexualization of narratives of contemporary political change and analyzing the ways in which feminist and LGBTI movements respond to narratives of political change and/or construct alternative narratives.

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The language of the conference is English. There will be no simultaneous translation.