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CfP: Women's Spring: Feminism, Nationalism and Civil Disobedience

Women's Spring: Feminism, Nationalism and Civil Disobedience
21-23 June 2018, University of Central Lancashire, Preston


In a recent interview for BBC Radio 3, Paul Gilroy, rather provocatively contended that nationalism is embedded a “fascistic” wish for “a magical identity that will somehow dissolve every little bit of otherness.” In the era that witnessed the success of the Brexit campaign, the election of Donald Trump, the rise in anti-immigrant resentment and religious fundamentalism, nationalism is more and more often associated with militant extremism that threatens the very existence of the secular and culturally diverse public sphere.

As Tamar Mayer has observed, nationalism is an exercise in internal hegemony that aims at dissolution of ethnic, religious and sexual differences, in which “the empowerment of one gender or one nation or one sexuality virtually always comes at the expense and disempowerment of another’’ (Mayer 1). Women represent a notable point of similarity and difference vis-a-vis ethnic, religious or sexual others. Like minorities, women are often marginalised in the public sphere; unlike them, due to their sheer numbers, women can have a considerable political leverage. Often glorified for their roles of biological reproducers of a nation and signifiers of national/ethnic/religious singularity, women, more often than not, constitute a “silent majority,” to misquote Richard Nixon. Occasionally, however, women stand up en mass not only to attempts to limit their agency but also to nationalist excesses. Ukrainian Femen, the Black Lives Matter movement spearheaded by black women, Argentinian 2016 #NiUnaMenos protest against femicides, the Women’s March on Washington against Trump’s populism, and Polish feminist “black” marches against patriarchal and Catholic conservatism, are just a few examples of women showing tremendous courage and determination in defending  “the culture of Human Rights” (Pramod Nayar) and “conviviality” (Paul Gilroy). With these movements, women have aroused hope of creating what Nancy Fraser called multiple “subaltern counterpublics” – that is discursive arenas which develop in opposition to the official (un?)public sphere. These arenas are bases for revolutionary politics that defies the exclusions of the national body politic and promotes the ideal of equal civic participation. Roger Sue called these alternative feminist social hubs “a counter society” (La Contresociété 2016). Alain Tourain saw in their emergence a transformative political force with far-reaching consequences for the neo-liberal world (Le monde des femmes 2006).

The aim of this conference is to explore the ways in which female activists and artists responded the resurgence of the far-right nationalism and the twin evil of religious fundamentalism. The conference wants to take a closer look at grassroots emancipatory movements, women-led voluntary associations, as well as cultural texts by women – performances, installations, artworks, films and novels – in which authors take a stance against religious bigotry, xenophobia, homophobia, racism and misogyny. Contributions that focus on women’s endorsement of and participation in ultra-conservative national and orthodox religious campaigns are also invited.

Please send your 250-word abstracts for 20-minute papers or article proposals and 100-word bio notes to: by 01 April 2018. Selected papers will be published as a special issue in Open Cultural Studies.

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