The Arab Spring for Women? Gender, Representation, and Middle East Politics in 2011

CIS Seminar Series

Laura Sjoberg from University of Florida looks at the Arab Spring through gendered lenses – asking what questions about gender (and sex and race and culture) are necessary to particular scholarly, media, and pop culture representations of the events of the Spring of 2011, both projected outwards from the "Arab world" and projected onto it. 

The discussant for this talk is Laurie Brand, Robert Grandford Wright Professor of International Relations, USC. 

Abstract: 

A number of news articles, news programs, and pundits have described the “Arab Spring” as an "Arab Spring for Women" - praising a wave of gender liberation coming with the sense of political redress that seems to be coming in waves across the “Arab world.” Gender equality has been a significant issue in the social movements of the “Arab Spring,” both in their advocacy and in their composition. As women demonstrators took to the streets and women reporters accounted for it, proliferating accounts told stories of the modernization of the Arab world through the bodies and the lives of its women. This paper is interested in exploring a number of the gendered dimensions of the “Arab Spring.” First, following Cynthia Enloe's curiosity, it asks "where are the women?" in the Arab Spring – as demonstrators, pariahs, martyrs, caregivers, and citizens, and how women's locations in their societies may be changing with or as a result of these political changes. It finds two distinct media narratives of women’s roles in the “Arab Spring,” one which characterizes the Arab Spring as gender-emancipatory and another which characterizes it as gender-subordinating. To understand this dissonance, following Spike Peterson and Anne Runyan, the remainder of the paper looks at the Arab Spring through gendered lenses – asking what questions about gender (and sex and race and culture) are necessary to particular scholarly, media, and pop culture representations of the events of the Spring of 2011, both projected outwards from the “Arab world” and projected onto it.

About Laura Sjoberg:

Laura Sjoberg (BA, University of Chicago; Ph.D., University of Southern California School of International Relations; J.D. Boston College Law School) is Associate Professor of Political Science. Her research interests are in the area of gender-based and feminist approaches to the study of international relations generally, and international security specifically. Her research has addressed gender and just war theory, women’s violence in global politics, and feminist interpretations of the theory and practice of security policy.

Dr. Sjoberg is author of Gender, Justice, and the Wars in Iraq (Lexington, 2006), Mothers, Monsters, Whores: Women’s Violence in Global Politics (with Caron Gentry, Zed Books, 2007), and Gendering Global Conflict: Towards a Feminist Theory of War (Columbia University Press, forthcoming). Dr. Sjoberg is currently homebase editor of the International Feminist Journal of Politics, and editor of several books and journal special issues, including: Gender and International Security: Feminist Perspectives (Routledge, 2009), "Security Studies: Feminsit Contributions" (a special issue of the journal Security Studies, 2009), Rethinking the 21st Century: New Problems, Old Solutions (with Amy Eckert, Zed Books, 2009), Gender, War, and Militarism: Feminist Perspectives(with Sandra Via, Praeger Security International, 2010), Women, Gender, and Terrorism (with Caron Gentry, University of Georgia Press, 2011), Feminism and International Relations: Conversations about the Past, Present, and Future (with J. Ann Tickner, Routledge, 2011), the Feminist Theory and Gender Studies Section of the International Studies Compendium. Her work has also recently been published in International Studies Quarterly, International Studies Review, International Studies Perspectives, International Politics,International Relations, Politics and Gender, and International Political Sociology, among other places. 

Dr. Sjoberg has previously taught at Brandeis University, Merrimack College, Duke University, and Virginia Tech before coming to the University of Florida. She has held post-doctoral and faculty research fellowships with the Women in Public Policy Program and the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Dr. Sjoberg has been the President of the International Studies Association-West and the International Studies-Association-Northeast, the Chair of the Feminist Theory and Gender Studies Section of the International Studies Association, and a member of the Governing Council of the International Studies Association. She has received support for her research from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, from the Institute for Society, Culture, and the Environment at Virginia Tech, from the International Studies Association, from the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University, and from the Center for the Study of Sexuality in the Military at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

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