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Constructing and Challenging Gender Norms

Session XIII-16, 2022 Annual Meeting

On Sunday, December 4 at 1:30 pm

Panel Description
  • Since the 1980s, agriculture and food sector in Turkey has been undergoing an intense process of restructuring which witnessed the transition from a figure of the peasantry under the aegis of the state to farmers producing for the market economy. The rationale behind this transformation stemmed from the original neoliberal critique of state-led interventionist policies in the agricultural sector which resulted in lack of innovation, inefficiencies, over-bureaucratization, and the existence of corruption. Since 1999, the Turkish state has introduced institutional changes to ensure the unhindered internationalization of Turkish agriculture, resulting in increased impoverishment of the rural masses and the abandonment of agriculture by small- and medium-sized households with a concomitant exodus to urban centers. What is not discussed in the growing literature tracing the socio-economic effects of this transformation is the rise of peri-urban spaces in Turkey as alternatives to ongoing neoliberalization of both Turkish economy and Turkish life. For the purposes of this paper, peri-urban areas will refer to transition zones where urban and rural uses of land mix and inform each other. Based on ethnographic fieldwork, interviews and archival research conducted in Seferihisar, Turkey and its peri-urban environs during the summers of 2017-2019, this paper argues that various implementations of the slow city criteria in peri-urban spaces in Seferihisar Turkey provides an alternative way of life and production directly challenging the neoliberalization of both Turkish economy and social life. This is done by showcasing and investing in female entrepreneurship, an all-female owned and operated agricultural cooperative and producers’ markets. Additionally, the peri-urban represents a form of resistance that stands against the fast-paced, corrupt and environmentally unfriendly urbanization in Turkey through embracing slow food, slow living and slow tourism. However, as the paper will show, the benefits of living in these peri-urban spaces are not shared evenly among the occupants, as affinity with local governance affects access to resources and connections. Ironically, these peri-urban spaces face the problem of becoming a part of the neoliberal development narrative instead of an alternative due to the fact that that their rising desirability and worth result in uneven commercial and private development schemes as well as increased tourism and migration.
  • Since the Arab Uprisings, a young generation of female artists has emerged, empowered by the revolutionary spirit, demystifying the many taboos around women and their bodies, while bolstering civil participation. At the crossroads of gender, race, and class, Zainab Fasiki’s 2019 comic book Hshouma. Corps et sexualité au Maroc is a bold endeavor that breaks with the social heteronormative framework and conventional representations around gender, sexual education, and violence towards women. In this presentation, I first look at how, in the context of revolt around the globe, art has become more and more a receptacle of “artivism” (combining art and activism). Second, I examine the comic book’s provocative nature, both in its form and content, challenging the comics genre’s conventions, thus paving the way for alternative narratives. Broadly speaking, I am interested in considering the aesthetic nature of this contentious comic book and how Fasiki negotiates these tensions
  • Although there has been a large body of work that studies the rise of the hijab in Egypt, not many have studied its decline. There has been a growing population of women who have been taking off the hijab, particularly since the January 25 uprising and the profound transformations in power relations since then in the past ten years. My research examines women’s decisions to unveil and the narratives they shared about their decision and how it relates to the social and political transformations that occurred since the uprising. Some commentators attribute the trend to the January 25 uprising itself. That the chance to witness and participate in the January 25 uprising gave them the courage and experience to defy authority and social mores. Others claim unveiling was a symbolic protest in response to Islamists’ rise to power and the short-lived rule of the Brotherhood in 2012. A growing number of scholars who study the effects of the coup and its pro-army propaganda, find that women have internalized Islamophobic messages of the army’s claims to save Egypt (and her women) from the Brotherhood’s imposed face-veils, terrorism, and regression to barbarity. To do this, I conducted 30 interviews from June 2020-January 2021 (via Zoom due to the pandemic) with women who took off the hijab after the uprising. To better how this period could have affected their decisions and transformations related to unveiling, I will focus on the conversations with women that discuss their decisions as being related to the January 25 uprising and the coup. This project does not aim to represent the experiences of all women who have taken off the hijab at this period. Rather, it demonstrates the range of ways that the uprising and the divisive sociopolitical context and turn of events could have affected their journeys with and without the hijab. I will also analyze the narratives and debates related to unveiling on mainstream media and in cultural production, to examine the conflicting narratives that regulate these women’s bodies. Studying women’s unveiling in the aftermath of the past ten years since the uprising provides an opportunity to study how women continue to be disciplined by discourses of patriarchy, Islamism, and secular modern masculinity, while examining how women who unveil constitute themselves and how they express and frame their claims.
  • Increase in Female Entrepreneurs is a half-century-long trend in Saudi Arabia. While only 400 women registered to the Chamber of Commerce in the early 1960s, it is estimated that the number of women registered to it reached over 12,000 in 2017. What motivated Saudi women to start business? And how it impacted gender order in the society and family? This study aims at 1) investigating socio-economic background that encouraged women to launch business, 2) exploring the relationship among female entrepreneurs, women’s influence in spending and consumption, and 3) answering unsettled questions of how increased female entrepreneurship in Saudi Arabia destabilises the gender order in the public and private spheres. The research method for this study involves a combination of primary and secondary data. The primary data includes the author’s interviews of Saudi women with emphasis on those who engage in business. By combining the author’s survey, government statistics and reports as well as secondary data, the study attempts to understand the gender order and institutionalised entrepreneurship-consumption relationship. Tentative results of this ongoing research found out multifaceted factors of motivating women to launch business. 1) Under what is called ‘entrepreneurial state capitalism’ [Gray 2018], commercial infrastructure in urban space became highly feminized. 2) Due to advancement of female education that progressed to outnumber male counterparts in tertiary education, educated women have become more influential in family and individual spending that shifted patterns of consumption in the society. 3) Nonetheless, male breadwinner model is persistent where women take minimal responsibility for sustenance. It ensures that women have a larger capacity to save for purchase. The new women-led consumption patterns offer opportunities for women to launch women-oriented businesses. 4) Lack of employment opportunities further encouraged women to engage in businesses. The paper leads to conclusions by referring to Deniz Kandiyoti’s [1988] claims of patriarchal bargaining. Kandiyoti’s patriarchal bargaining implies that women strategically take the optimal decisions within modern patriarchy, which indicates that they consciously avoided working outside when the cash economy was established. However, this study takes into consideration a highly consumerised society, where the cash economy is considered as a basic premise. Gray, Matthew 2018 “Rentierism’s Siblings: On the Linkages between Rents, Neopatrimonialism, and Entrepreneurial State Capitalism in the Persian Gulf Monarchies”, Journal of Arabian Studies, 8, pp. 29-45. Kandiyoti, Deniz 1988 “Bargaining with Patriarchy”, Gender and Society, 2 (3), pp. 274- 290.
  • Silent Screams in Maghreb Cinema: Depictions of Abortion in the films The Silences of the Palace (1994) and Razzia (2017) Abstract: Pop-cultural messaging and coding of abortion begins with the release of the silent film Where Are My Children? in 1916. Films depicting pregnancy terminations were unquestioned locales for political and religious ideologies. In recent years, with the rise of reproductive health and rights discourses, visual representations of abortion have been critiqued for their reductionist pro-life and pro-choice binary, particularly, in the cinema of the United States. These critiques attempt to depoliticize abortion to allow new micro and macro narratives to materialize. As a result of revisionist reproductive health methods of analyses, abortion narratives, presently, encompass gender struggles, power structures, class discourse, biopolitics, medical racism and eugenics. In the case of North Africa and the Middle East, conversations around abortion are still stuck within the rhetoric of religion, morality, and purity culture. Comprehensive examinations of abortion depictions in Maghreb cinema, specifically, mirror colonial, nationalist, political, socio-historical, patriarchal, racial, gender and class struggles. The Tunisian film The Silences of the Palace (1994) and the Moroccan film Razzia (2017) bear the trappings of these intersecting oppressive systems where women’s bodies are controlled and colonized. Introduced as subplots, the stories of abortion in these two films divulge a sense of agency and empowerment, which is rarely seen in Arab cinema. Drawing on studies of filmic reproductive agency (Minarich) and on the possibilities of widening reproductive health grounds in the Arab world (El Feki), these visual representations necessitate exploration to further dilate on the discourse on abortion. Key words: reproductive rights, abortion, colonialism, Maghreb cinema
  • This paper will examine the manner in which actor Soad Hosny is framed and portrayed on-screen, and – by consequence – off-screen in contemporary Egyptian culture. Specifically, this paper will address a critical phenomenon: the majority of Hosny’s roles, and certainly the ones for which she is better known, are roles where Hosny is ‘framed’ on-screen, as an ‘image’: an entity to be viewed. Hosny, dubbed the ‘Cinderella of the Silver Screen’ by her public, is often portrayed and constructed as an object in her films: an object which is framed and presented as one especially crafted for visual consumption, not just by audiences without the film but – critically – by consuming audiences within the frame, plot and matrix of the film itself. After making a case for the construction of Hosny as on-screen ‘image’, the paper will venture beyond Hosny’s on-screen representations to consider her after-lives (and more specifically, the afterlives of her ‘image’) off-screen. As well as considering the proliferation and circulation of fetishized images of Hosny on items ranging from house-hold wares (coasters, cushions), to wall-art, to contemporary fashion items, the paper will conclude by posing – and attempting to answer – the following question: why is the nation obsessed with Hosny, and more primarily, with Hosny as an image – a visual commodity – up until the present day? As a theoretical starting point, this paper will be engaging with Richard Dyer’s seminal theories on the construction and commodification of the ‘star’ – particularly, with regards to the construction of the ‘star’ as image. In addition, this paper will draw on theoretical frameworks of studying visual and material culture vis-à-vis gender studies. Specifically, the paper will pay particular attention to the aesthetic and sociopolitical forces at work, in constructing a volatile version of ‘femininity’: a kind of ‘femininity’ which is idolized, sanctioned and sanctified, but only within the confines of an image – whether this image be projected on the silver screen, or transferred unto a coffee-cup. This will, in turn, lead us to consider the negotiation, and transformation, of the social and ideological place of ‘women’ – and women stars and entertainers, in particular – across the decades in which Hosny was active: an issue famously tackled by Hosny herself, through her iconic role in Khali Balak min Zuzu! (Watch out for Zuzu!, 1971).