World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th – 24th 2010


Women in Conflict Zones: Memory and Violence - Militarized, Heroic Lives, and the Everyday (285) - NOT_DEFINED activity_field_Panel

· NOT_DEFINED date: THU 22, 9.00-11.00 am

· NOT_DEFINED institution: University of California (USA)

· NOT_DEFINED organizer: Sondra Hale & Rana Sharif

· NOT_DEFINED sponsor: Association of Middle East Women''s Studies (AMEWS)

· NOT_DEFINED language: English

· NOT_DEFINED description: Sponsored by the Association of Middle East Women's Studies (AMEWS)

In theorizing the global militarization of people’s lives, panelists emphasize the gendered nature of it and acknowledge the variants of violence in diverse conflict zones where women and men differentially remember wars, their “heroic lives” in political and military conflicts, and the violence of the everyday. In the 20th and 21st centuries the proliferation of wars, revolutions, genocides, occupations, and terror has expanded our concepts of violent forms, the perpetuation of which has blurred the boundary between “war” and “peace”, and unsettled dichotomies of victim and perpetrator. Although more recently an increased awareness of the impact of violence on women has emerged, what is still under-theorized is a demonstration of how deeply and intimately structures of gender are woven into the causes and execution of present-day conflicts and militarization of many societies. In Bosnia, Rwanda, Darfur, and the Congo, for example, rape and other forms of “sexual” violence have been turned into weapons of war. Although gender-based sexual violence is prominent in contemporary analyses of conflicts, what is under-theorized is the diversity of the spaces where violence against women occurs: e.g., in the everyday of occupation (e.g., in Iraq and Palestine), in prisons (e.g., in Iran), and in the memory-slates generated for women by men (e.g., in Sudan). However, while this panel is about violence against women spatially and temporally, it is also about women’s resistance.

Chair: Rana Sharif (University of California, Los Angeles)

Discussant: Suad Jospeh (University of California, Davis)

Paper presenter: Nadje Al-Ali (Centre for Gender Studies, SOAS, University of London), “Iraqi Women's Every Day life Experiences of Violence & Occupation”
Explores the various ways Iraqi women have experienced the recent invasion and ongoing occupation in terms of it multiple layers of violence. Despite the clearly political nature of political and gender-based violence in Iraq, the media tend to portray violence against Iraqi women as an unfortunate part of Arab or Muslim 'culture'. Al-Ali challenges the commonly held assumption that gender-based violence, when committed in the Middle East, derives from Islam. She presents the range of social, political and economic factors which are the context for and background to violence in its many forms and expressions, including at the hands of the occupation forces, Islamist militia, as well as resistance groups. She argues that gender ideologies and relations are not marginal but central to the understanding of the current conflict and violence in post-invasion Iraq.

Paper presenter: Sondra Hale (University of California, Los Angeles), “Gendered Violence, Memory, and the "Heroic Life" in Sudan's Conflict Zones”
Analyzes the ways in which Sudanese men remember Sudan’s many conflicts or see themselves as leading “heroic lives” as part of these conflicts; whereas women may be indoctrinated to see themselves as “bystanders” or “supporters” of the heroic ones. These are highly gendered performances where men act out the “heroic life”; whereas women’s performances are most often as “victims”, bystanders, or nurturers to those living underground or in prisons. Likewise, in the militarized conflict zones of various regions of Sudan so much of men’s memory of the “homeland’s” past is written on women’s bodies, including instances of gender-based violence. Furthermore, in Darfur, the Nuba Mountains, and South Sudan women have been subjected to forms of sexual violence which are differentially remembered by perpetrator and victim, a dichotomy that is unsettled by ambivalence. Hale analyzes the ways in which men try to colonize women’s renditions of the past. These strategies are aimed at forced amnesia and indoctrinated memory and at valorizing one group’s past and present over another’s. Therefore, Hale argues, whether we are discussing the “heroic life” of the men of the Sudanese Communist Party or the militarized life of regional struggles, the politics of memory is played out on women’s bodies.

Paper presenter: Rana Sharif (University of California, Los Angeles), “Epistemologies of the Everyday: Time, Space/Gender, and Power in the Occupied Palestinian Territory of the West Bank”
Explores the fabric of the everyday in the West Bank. Sharif considers how manifestations of the habitual and the mundane exist in direct relation to power, control, and ruptures of the everyday, while simultaneously reflecting creativity and dexterity. This examination of time and space elucidates the ways in which each exists in constant contingency, demonstrating the fluidity rather than the fixity of either notion. By gendering such dynamics, Sharif will highlight the intricacies of time and space as both modalities of oppression and agents of transformation. The concept of “normalcy” in the West Bank is reconstituted to expose temporality and materiality in a constant state of contingency. Her analysis will consider the ways in which geographies, architectures and cartographies of power operate in the production of a systematized time and space, producing an everyday normalized by and through temporal and material ruptures and fissures. Drawing on their interdisciplinarity, deep ethnography, and theoretical explorations, panelists expand our understanding of gendered memory, violence, and militarization, and the gendered performances of the “heroic life” and everyday life in the Middle East.