Gendering Authoritarianism & Resistance: The Significance of Body Politics in the Middle East -- talk with Nadje Al-Ali


Monday, April 29, 2019, 3:00pm to 5:00pm


Plimpton Room, Barker Center 133, 12 Quincy St.

Nadje Al AliThe 2018-19 Gender and Sexuality Seminar Series discusses key debates and new approaches to the theory and study of women, gender and sexuality in the Middle East and Islamic World, and the implications of those on the theory and study of women, gender and sexuality in the Global South. 

This talk will address gender as a central analytical concept in understanding contemporary processes and developments in the Middle East, and ask what feminist scholarship has contributed to our understanding of developments in the region. In this context, it will pay particular attention to protest movements, increasing authoritarianism and sectarian/ethnic politics. Based on ethnographic research in the contexts of Egypt, Iraq, Turkey and Lebanon, Nadje Al-Ali will discuss the significance of body politics and the wider politics of gender as a litmus test for assessing regimes and social contexts. Throughout the discussion, Professor Al-Ali will also critically engage with the question of positionality when researching and writing about gender-related issue in the context of the Middle East. How can we avoid the exceptionalism so frequently attached to the Middle East and challenge ideas of gender-based violence being inherent in local cultures without glossing over various local and regional forms of gender-based violence? 

Nadje Al-Ali has recently left her long-term position at the Centre for Gender Studies at SOAS University of London to join Brown University where she has been appointed Robert Family Professor of International Studies and Professor of Anthropology and Middle East Studies. Her main research interests revolve around feminist activism and gendered mobilization, mainly with reference to Iraq, Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey and the Kurdish political movement. 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), and Secularism, Gender and the State in the Middle East (Cambridge University Press 2000. Her co-edited book 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.

Professor Al-Ali is on the advisory board of kohl: a journal of body and gender research and has been involved in several feminist organizations and campaigns transnationally.

The seminar is co-sponsored by the Committee on Degrees in Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality (WGS), the Science, Religion and Culture Program (SRC), the Mahindra Humanities Center at Harvard, and the Journal of Middle East Women Studies (JMEWS). This year’s seminar inaugurates the residence of JMEWS at Harvard, which extends from May 2018 to May 2022. Questions?