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Gender Entanglements and Neoliberal Imperatives

Panel I-22, 2023 Annual Meeting

On Thursday, November 2 at 3:00 pm

Panel Description
  • With its structural adjustments, development projects, and free-market economies, neoliberalism has had detrimental consequences for the so-called third world. The economic violence that the western capitalist class inflicts on third-world economies is paralleled by the increasing violence against women observed within such countries. In this paper, I explore how neoliberalization intensifies violence against women through patrilocal families where the constant devaluation of women’s labor meets the construction of the moral homo economicus. Turning to a non-western moral context, I focus on increasing violence against women in Islamist neoliberalism and take Turkey — a country that has undergone neoliberalization and reported an escalation in gendered violence — as my observation site. Recent incidents of police violence as the state response to the growing public presence of gender-nonconforming communities in Turkey and the grassroots reports of increasing femicide rates in the country indicate that neoliberalization goes hand-in-hand with the burgeoning gendered violence and culminates in masculinist restoration, a phenomenon that Deniz Kandiyoti identifies as a response to the crises of patriarchy. Masculinist restoration serves as not only a tool that attempts to enable (cishet) men to claim authority over women but also a bridge between neoliberalism and patriarchy that utilizes Islamist morals for capitalist ends. Drawing on Verónica Gago’s feminist economics of extraction, I explore the relationship between the devaluation of women’s labor and the disposability of dissident women’s bodies in what Sayak Valencia calls gore capitalism, a specific kind of neoliberalism where capitalism meets an episteme of violence. I argue that women who refuse to be constrained in patrilocal families provoke masculinist restoration reinforced by the violent conditions of gore capitalism. As neoliberalism in Turkey continues to devalue women’s labor, the bodies of women, translated into neoliberal market economics, become less valuable, too.
  • Morocco’s development strategies are mainly focused on women’s participation in cooperatives as solutions to poverty and gender inequality. However, through detailed analysis of the structure, governance and benefits of 15 wheat cooperatives in Morocco, we find such anti-poverty and efficiency-based approaches alone do little to address women’s subordinate role in the family, society and economy as well as their limited land ownership rates. Further, our findings demonstrate that the impact of COVID- 19 has exacerbated vulnerabilities and gaps in access and incomes resulting in massive losses and disruptions, with most members and especially workers struggling to put food on the table, let alone achieve empowerment, as proposed by Morocco’s emphasis on cooperatives as vehicles to improve women’s lives.
  • This paper examines how notions of victimhood, testimony, and evidence that are central to litigation in the formal justice system figure and are taken up in relation to cases of gender violence in Tunisia in the age of social media as part of broader discussions about the pursuit of justice after the end of the dictatorship. It examines the emergences of and debates over tash-hir, a form of public denouncement enacted through the circulation of photos, videos, and written testimonies on the internet and audiovisual media outlets that identify and allege the incrimination of perpetrators in sexual harassment and violence. I argue that tash-hir operates as an alternative mechanism of justice that in its highly mediatized form reshapes and complicates the process of claims-making simultaneously enabling and limiting the ability of victims to obtain redress and reparations. I furthermore argue that the practice needs to be understood in relation to broader debates about Feminist political horizons, impunity for the powerful, and participatory citizenship under Tunisia’s nascent democratic system and to the global repertoire inspired by the #MeToo movement. My analysis is based on an ethnography among members of the Facebook page of and Feminists leading the #EnaZeda (which means “me too” in Tunisian dialect) movement and 18 months of fieldwork in Tunisia that included observations of legal trainings and interviews with activists, lawyers, judges, psychologists, and government officials. This paper aims to contribute more broadly to a discussion of the possibilities and limits of communication technologies and new media in the Middle East and North Africa (Eickelman and Anderson 2003; Hirschkind 2006) in not only reshaping access to justice but reconfiguring the central notions and processes associated with justice (Clarke 2019), such as truth, accountability, and democracy.
  • For my dissertation project, I am investigating the sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and gender-based violence (GBV) needs of women in Libya. My research questions are: What are the SRH/GBV needs of women aged 15-49 in Libya? What SRH/GBV services are available? And how can these services be improved? My multi-methods qualitative study is taking place in Tripoli, Benghazi, and Sabha and includes in-depth interviews with women and girls of reproductive age, focus group discussions with women and girls stratified by marital status, and semi-structured interviews with key informants. In many regards, my positionalities make me especially well-positioned to undertake this project. I was born and raise in Libya and have experience working on SRH and GBV issues in the humanitarian sector. My native familiarity of local cultural norms and traditions, language fluency, and knowledge of the country’s contex and history is helping me mitigate misunderstandings, discomfort, and taboos surrounding these “sensitive” topics. I am able to lean into my professional experiences and this credibility helps me transcend some of the political and socio-cultural dynamics shaping this field. But I am also aware that being an unmarried, cisgender woman from a deeply gendered community also influences both the way I see the world and the way my interlocutors see me. As a young activist with a relatively large social media presence who is currently a student at Western university, other aspects of my personal and professional history are also subject to scrutiny and influence the way that I am perceived. That I no longer wear a headscarf (hijab) is both a personal decision and an act that has ramifications for my relationships in the field. During this roundtable, I will focus on how the issue of dress, and donning the hijab in particular, impact both fieldwork and other positional dynamics. I will reflect on: 1) My decisions with respect to the hijab and how those of influenced my engagement with interlocutors and my social position as a woman with a family member known as a respected religious figure in Libya; 2) The ways in which my decisions regarding the hijab have been publicly scrutinized across different social media platforms in Libya; and 3) How other comportments have influenced my fieldwork on sexual and reproductive health in Libya. By sharing my own experiences in the field, I will reflect on the considerations involved in the choice of dress among “insiders.”