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Decolonial Feminist Praxis: The Question of Voice and Community

RoundTable I-2, sponsored byAssociation for Middle Eastern Women's Studies, 2023 Annual Meeting

On Thursday, November 2 at 3:00 pm

RoundTable Description
Over the past years, new and emerging Middle Easter gender scholars have reached out to scholars working in and on the Middle East region. This newly established sense of community serves to identify sites of engagement for intellectual, political, and professional work. After organizing various programmatic opportunities, one salient theme has emerged from discussions. Namely, there is a need to foster a decolonial feminist praxis to building community within and outside the academy. To further academic commitment to supporting global voices, this roundtable discussion will engage the following on the question of voice and community: Base-build a community of scholars, activists, and practitioners working in the field and engage in conversation with local, regional, and international graduate students
  • In this roundtable presentation, I will highlight practices that support decolonial feminist praxis to building a scholarship and knowledge production community. Based on personal experiences, mentorship programs, and non-academic knowledge production space-building projects, I will share the ways we can not only create decolonial knowledge but that the process itself can begin to shift power and structural inequality dynamics inherent in academic institutions and inherited pedagogies. These conversations are essential to preparing graduate students to their contribution to societal change and to possibly careers outside of academia.
  • I will present findings from a conversation held at AMEWS' Conference 2022 in Beirut. This conversation emerged from a workshop with a similar title to this roundtable. In it we asked the audience: (1) What are the evolving professional needs of graduate students as they matriculate in their work? and (2) What network of support, mentorship, and opportunities are needed to cultivate a future decolonial feminist epistemology and pedagogy in the MENA? After presenting the findings from the perspectives of scholars, students, and activists working in/on the region I will redirect the conversation to the audience in the room.
  • Over the past year, the AMEWS Graduate Student Committee (GSC) has worked to increase graduate students' awareness of AMEWS, reach out to and foster a sense of community with students working in/on the Middle East region, and identify sites of engagement for our work intellectually, politically, and professionally. We have consistently observed the need for graduate students to foster a decolonial feminist praxis to build community within and outside the academy in connection with graduate student networks and communities embedded in the Middle East region. We found AMEWS’ conference a prime opportunity to do so. The purpose of this roundtable was to engage attendees on the question of voice and community, our goal was to: 1.) Provide an opportunity to report on some of the insights and observations the committee has made in the past year; 2.) Base-build a community of scholars, activists, and practitioners working in the field; and 3.) Engage in conversation with local, regional, and international graduate students. The roundtable was designed through the world cafe method to create an open non-hierarchical safe space where participants started off the session with collectively grounding ourselves in the purpose of a decolonial critical discussion. In this roundtable presentation, I highlight the potential role of collaborative organizing and collective grounding methods in (re)imagining academic and non-academic feminist spaces, practices and epistemologies.
  • In summer 2022, the Association for Middle East Women’s Studies (AMEWS) met in Beirut; this was its first conference held in the Middle East. I take this event as the starting point for my presentation to reflect on my experience as a “local” participant in this initiative. I will share the effects of compounded crises on academic research in Beirut and articulate the structural and daily challenges for an emergent historian of the Arab world living and conducting research in their home-country, especially in relation to institutional resources and funding opportunities. I will then invite participants to think and discuss collectively how a decolonial feminist praxis can effectively help overcome such obstacles and empower emergent scholars to cultivate and share “homegrown” knowledge. My concluding notes will bring back the conversation to the role played by associations such as AMEWS, MESA, and others, in rethinking the “local-global” dichotomy of knowledge production.