5th June 2017
Post-Graduate Gender Research Network of Scotland
and The University of Edinburgh
Panel A – Contemporary Feminist Challenges – Chair: Rachel Davis – Room G.16
Rebecca Smyth (University of Edinburgh) Abortion and International Human Rights Law: a comparative study of Ireland and El Salvador
Taking a feminist legal theory and international human rights law perspective, I contend that denying or restricting access to safe, legal abortion violates numerus human rights and has its basis in misogynistic assumptions about the need to regulate and control female sexuality. The complete criminalisation of abortion in El Salvador and the almost complete restriction of abortion in Ireland have resulted in the suffering, death and incarceration of thousands of women. This comparative study highlights the similarities in human rights violations resulting from such a legal context, and the potential for redress and reform given the growing legitimacy of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHRs) within the regional and international human rights systems. By focusing on these two states and, by extension, on the European and Inter-American human rights systems, this paper shifts and broadens the focus of current literature on abortion, most of which focuses on the US context and the right to privacy. In conceptualising the law and gender as interconnected discourses with the potential to either perpetuate an inequitable social order or to challenge and transform it, the law’s potential to become more representative of and responsive to women’s needs and lived experiences becomes apparent. By interrogating the meaning of human rights from a feminist perspective, and assessing the real-world implications of such an interrogation, I intend to demonstrate the importance of straightforward access to safe, legal abortion in realising true gender equality.
Rebecca Smyth is a first year PhD student at the University of Edinburgh. She holds an LL.M (Distinction) in Human Rights Law from the same university, an M.Phil. in Gender and Women’s Studies (Distinction) from Trinity College Dublin, and a first-class honours degree in European Studies, also from Trinity. A Trinity Scholar and the 2009 Thomas MacDonagh Easter Week Scholarship holder, she is committed to intersectional feminist research and activism.
Sarah Jordan (University of St Andrews) Unstable Borderlands: An Eco-Feminist Approach to Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring
In this paper I explore the ways in which Rachel Carson’s texts, specifically her last publication Silent Spring, on the unmitigated use of pesticides in the U.S, anticipate eco-feminist criticism. Carson herself remains an inspiring figure in both scientific and literary circles. She fought against a male dominated field in order to make a name for herself, and was heavily criticized for her use of poetic language. Attempts to discredit her work are clear responses to her gender. As a theory eco-feminist thinking works as a lens to explore the ways that the oppression of women and the domination of nature have been carried out by means of a patriarchal hierarchy. I incorporate feminist border theory to compare Gloria Anzaldúa’s use of the border and the environment in her writing to that of Carson’s exploration of the margins of the environment, and her political call to action to ensure the protection of all human and non-human life within the natural world. Additionally, I give a reading of Carson’s work through Luce Irigaray’s theories, which advocate for a dismantling of the culture/nature (and by extension man/woman) dichotomy. Both Irigaray and Carson feel strongly that all life must be protected. We know that women have been subject to massive subordination, and connecting that suffering with that of the natural environment’s suffering from the impacts of culture makes for dynamic readings of any writer focusing on the natural world. If feminism is tasked with fighting for any oppressed or marginalized community then certainly feminism must include the welfare of the natural world in its political ideology. While this text comes ahead of these theories, an eco-feminist approach reveals how effective and profound the legacy Silent Spring has had on society and the discourse resulting in environmental justice movements.
Sarah Jordan is a postgraduate student at the University of St Andrews studying women, writing, and gender. She holds a BA in english and art history from Bryn Mawr College and most recently was the Director of Alumni Relations & Development with the Williams-Mystic Maritime Studies Program. She currently divides her time between New York and Scotland.
Victoria Pistivsek (University of St Andrews) Toppling Trump Tower: Donald Trump’s Masculinity Imagined Beyond the Phallus
One of the most memorable aspects of Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign was his staunch defense of the size of penis after his political opponent Marco Rubio linked Trump’s ‘tiny’ hands to the smallness of his sexual organ. Even though the media and Trump’s detractors have continuously attempted to emasculate the 45th US president by mocking the size of his ‘hands’, thereby bringing his masculinity into a state of crisis in our penile-driven society, Trump has been able to hold onto a hyper-masculine image. It would be injudicious to assume that Trump countering the threat of emasculation is solely grounded on his asserting his sexual prowess. Rather than being able to delineate Trump’s masculinity through a mere reflection of the erect, sexually active penis, the phallus, which symbolizes dominance and violence, his masculinity can only be explained by seeking out other masculine metaphors, such as viewing the soft penis as the easily harmed or threatened aspect of masculinity. By drawing on preliminary explorations into alternative corporeal metaphors for masculinity, like Arthur Flannigan-Saint-Aubin’s essay in Theorizing Masculinities (1994), all the way to recent work, like Re-reading masculine organization: Phallic, testicular and seminal metaphors (2015) by Stephen A Linstead and Garance Maréchal, it will be evinced how masculinity can also be conceptualized via two metaphors relating to the testicles: ‘testicular’ masculinity may stand for endurance and ‘testerical’ masculinity can articulate itself as testiness. By defining masculinity through metaphoric connections to not only the erect penis but also the non-erect penis and the testicles, it becomes possible for us to express the ‘emotional’ aspects of Trump’s masculinity (especially his ‘testeria’) which cannot be contained within the limited framework of phallic masculinity and which could influence and motivate the masculinities of many a member of the male sex into a more emotional direction.
Victoria received a BA (Distinction) in English and American Studies in 2016 from the University of Vienna (Austria), where she also worked as a university tutor for Renaissance studies throughout the academic year 2015/16. My literary BA thesis explored the rake and his female match competing for domination on the Restoration stage and her linguistics BA thesis investigated the differences between women’s and men’s speech in English and in Japanese. She is currently undertaking the MLitt in Women, Writing and Gender at the University of St Andrews (Scotland).
Panel B – Transgressing Gender Norms – Chair: Lois Burke – Room G.16
Mauro Di Lullo (University of Glasgow) Pier Paolo Pasolini and the Beauty of Sexual Transgression
This paper intends to discuss sexuality and transgression through Pier Paolo Pasolini’s transgressive novel ‘Ragazzi Di Vita’.
‘’Ragazzi Di Vita’’, literally boys of life, (idiomatically hustlers) is a novel by the Italian author, poet and intellectual Pier Paolo Pasolini The novel tells the story of Riccetto, a street yob who the readers are first introduced to during his Confirmation and First Communion. Riccetto goes to jail after trying to steal some iron in order to buy his fiancée an engagement ring. He is released later and goes back to his same life of transgression. Pasolini makes it clear to the readers that Riccetto and his peers are wanderers and thieves by nature, they have no clear-established life plans; Riccetto becomes the embodiment of a beautiful transgressive hero. Pasolini finds Riccetto and his companions to be free from modernity and consumerism and rooted in a way of life that has since been lost. He also admired what he considered their transgressive sexual behaviour still separated from the sexual prejudices of contemporary society: homosexuality is not considered as a problem by Riccetto and his companions. Ragazzi di Vita can be read and discussed as a landmark for the development of a literature where sexuality becomes profoundly revolutionary and innovative. The novel was criticized among the general public upon its release and was heavily censored. The Italian government condemned it for its ‘offensive’ transgressive sexual behaviour. It was not the first time Pasolini had faced persecution; yet the controversy and criticism of his transgressive novel created attention and new potentialities for a renewed discourse on sexuality in literature and arts. Pasolini had succeeded to start shedding light on the beauty and attractiveness of sexuality and on the forgotten heroes he wanted the public to remember.
Mauro is a PhD candidate in French at the University of Glasgow; his supervisors are Dr. Ramona Fotiade and Prof. Paul Bishop. LLB with Honours at Strathclyde University, MRes at the University of Glasgow. He is a book reviewer for the Bulletin of Latin American Studies at the University of Liverpool. He is a strong believer in the revolutionary power of transgression.
Ana Maria Sapountzi (University of St Andrews) Laurence Olivier and the Challenging of Sexual ‘Normalcy’ in Hollywood
Mysterious, commanding, and classically handsome, Laurence Olivier, an English actor, broke filmic ground within his first year of arriving in Hollywood in (1939-1940) with his performances in Wuthering Heights (1939), Rebecca (1940), and Pride and Prejudice (1940), immediately joining the ranks of male stars and leading men at the time. Olivier’s sexy yet complicated spectacle achieved him instant success and heartthrob status with film audiences and critics; it also assisted in the establishment of an on-screen persona which would inform his entire oeuvre, especially his most famous Hollywood work, such as Carrie (1952), The Prince and the Showgirl (1957), The Devil’s Disciple (1959), and Spartacus (1960). However, while existing scholarship links Olivier to his Shakespearean work and persona, it notably neglects to deeply engage with his Hollywood performances. Thus, Olivier is usually positioned exclusively in relation to Shakespeare.
Drawing from key concepts of Queer theory, particularly Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s ‘Epistemology of the Closet’ theory, and in view of recent findings that reveal Olivier’s interest and practice of applying Freudian meanings to his performance just before his arrival in Hollywood, this paper will revisit his Hollywood work and identify how his nuanced method of performing challenged traditional ideals of “normalcy” within the larger context of dominant discourses of sexuality and gender in the 1940s and 50s. In doing so this paper will explore an overlooked part of Olivier’s career, whilst forging a new critical approach to the discourse surrounding the actor, arguing his position as a queer performer.
Ana Maria Sapountzi is a first year PhD student at the Department of Film Studies at the University of St Andrews, where she is undertaking a queer study of Laurence Olivier’s Hollywood performances. Her main areas of research interest include gender and sexuality, identity, performance, cultural analysis, stardom, aesthetics and subversion.
Panel C – Beauty & Relationships – Chair: Ashley Dee Paton – Room G.15
Jaime Benjamin (University of Dundee) Mate Preference Trade-Offs a la carte vs. table d’hôte: Examining Sex Differences Using Conjoint Analysis
When forced to make tradeoffs between desirable attributes in a potential mate, previous research suggests men are likely to tradeoff status and resources for physical attractiveness, whereas women are more likely to tradeoff physical attractiveness for status and resources. However, the magnitude of these sex differences along with the strength of preferences may be exaggerated due to methodologies. Examining trade-offs can quickly become an overly complicated task when attempting to see how different levels of an attribute affect mate desirability, particularly when there are more than two attributes in consideration. Conjoint analysis (CA) is a multivariate analysis typically used to examine how several attributes factor into an overall choice (Green & Srinivasan, 1978; Luce & Tukey, 1964). In mate-preferences research, CA is extremely underutilized. Mate-preference research typically uses a ‘compositional’ approach, in which predictions incorporate effects of independent variables on dependent variables. CA is a “decompositional model” where the independent variables are set at different levels for profile creation, based on the idea that a person values an object as a whole, by combining the value of each component. In essence, rather than participants providing importance ratings for each attribute, the importance ratings are derived from their choices. The present study makes use CA as well as previously established methods of trade-off analysis (based on Edlund & Sagarin, 2010; Li, et al., 2002; Kendrick et al, 1990) to examine sex differences in trade-offs. Results are discussed with regard to evolutionary and sociobiological theories.
Jaime Benjamin is a Ph.D. student at the University of Dundee. She came to Dundee after completing her Masters (with distinction) at the University of Exeter. She currently in the final phase of writing up her thesis which focuses on the trade-offs made during mate selection, examining factors that can influence decision-making, such as individual and societal levels of traditional gender ideology, socioeconomic parity. She is interested in many research areas around the topic of Sex, Sexuality and Gender.
Hannah Walters (University of Glasgow) Preliminary Results of PhD Research into the Identities and Imagined Futures of ‘Beauty Girls’
This paper provides an overview of the research processes and preliminary results of PhD research into the aspirations and identities of working-class young women and girls engaged with further education beauty courses in Glasgow.
Beauty education exists between a number of competing axes of feminist interpretation; on the one hand, second-wave feminist principles revolving around beauty and misogyny (Jeffreys 2005) and the harmful nature of the fashion-beauty complex might seem an appropriate lens through which to view the phenomenon of beauty education (Bartky 1990). By contrast, detraditionalization narratives of choice, freedom, self-actualization and acknowledgement of the pluralization of female identities (such as those prominent in reflexive modernisation scholarship and third-wave feminism) are frequently mobilised by beauty students themselves. However, critical examination of the experiences and identities of young women and girls in beauty education reveals a more complex relationship with both their identities as “beauty girls” and their ‘imagined futures’.
The empirical basis for this paper is a series of “lifelines” interviews, loosely modelled after the work of Thomson and Holland, supplemented with ethnographic and observational data of the beauty classroom (2003). The visual method of the lifeline was used as a tool to encourage discussion of participants’ aspirations and imagined futures, both in terms of their professional and personal lives. Themes covered included hopes, dreams and expectations regarding family, relationships, work and lifestyle at various points in the future. In addition, lifelines were used to gain background information on participants, plotting their personal and educational journeys to becoming a beauty student.
This method was designed to gain insights into the aspirations and identity-forming processes of young women and girls in beauty education, engaging with ideas of how personal narratives of educational journeys are formed, what it means to be a “beauty girl”, and how participants envisage this (gendered, class-specific) identity as part of their future lives.
Hannah Walters is an ESRC-funded PhD student at the University of Glasgow. She identifies her work as belonging to the fields of the Sociology of Youth and Girlhood Studies, with an emphasis upon the lived experiences of young women and girls and the overlapping axes of youth, gender and economic/class-based disadvantage.
Panel D – Women in Leadership – Chair: Ashley Dee Paton – Room G.15
Lauren Riley (Robert Gordon University) Women in STEM: An Analysis of the Barriers Faced by Women of Colour in Obtaining Leadership Roles
While women make up almost half of the workforce in both the United States and United Kingdom, they are not obtaining senior leadership positions at the same rate as men. Just this year, the Catalyst report on CEOs of the S&P 500 found that only 29 of the CEO positions of those companies were women (5.8%), two of which represented a minority status. Furthermore, women make up only 21% of the workforce in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) industries which provide higher earning potential than positions traditionally occupied by women. Much of the research done to investigate the barriers preventing women from reaching high level leadership positions has focused on the experiences of middle class white women and has neglected the experiences of minority women and how their gender and minority status intersect to create additional barriers to advancement in the workplace. This dissertation will take an intersectional approach to investigating the barriers that both white women and minority women face specifically in the male-dominated STEM industries through qualitative research methods. Semi-structured interviews will be conducted with women who have obtained high level leadership positions and focus groups will be conducted with women whose careers have stagnated or who have left the workforce. The findings will explore the different internal, organizational and environmental struggles that minority women face compared to white women in obtaining a senior leadership position in the STEM industries.
Lauren Riley is a first-year Research PhD student at Robert Gordon University’s School of Management in Aberdeen, Scotland. She has taught Organizational Theory and Behaviour for the University of Alaska Fairbanks and is currently focusing on women in management for her dissertation.
Anindita Jaiswal (University of Edinburgh) Hard Law Versus Soft Law: The Case for Gender in Corporate Leadership
Gender diversity in corporate leadership has survived firm challenges as regards its relevance in private commerce. While some allege it to be a disguised trespass of social objectives into private property, others have questioned its contributions in terms of value-addition to the business. Considering the complex dynamics within which a company and the board functions, ascertaining an absolute answer to the above seems difficult, and not of much practical relevance too. The friction between the two rationale of social justice and business is obsolete insofar as justifying such diversity is concerned, which (based on a combined case of both of such rationale, with no demarcation made) now stands accepted industry-wide as a good governance practice.
Based on the above well-supported assumption (and without seeking to independently investigate the rationale for it), this paper proceeds to the next level, i.e., deriving an optimum legal strategy in this regard. A cursory review of the legal positions generally adopted by countries yields that the strategies implemented lie within the extreme contours of mandatory State-enforced quotas on one end and voluntary market-driven efforts on the other end. In other words, the policy approaches are contrasted between hard law and soft law- a choice that often becomes ambiguous in matters of corporate governance (which resonates a dynamic mix of law and business, and now with gender added to it). To this end, the paper examines Norway and the United Kingdom, as apt examples of the two extreme approaches pertaining to boardroom gender diversity.
Further, pursuant to a review of both, the paper then seeks to derive elements/constituents of an optimum legal strategy. Needless to state, the constituents do not suggest a “one size fits all” remedy, rather they would serve as broad level benchmark or guidance, upon which optimum strategies could be formulated by countries subject to their specific conditions. The suggestions are original ideas, not as yet endorsed upon by countries.
Anindita is pursuing my third year of Ph.D. at the Law School, University of Edinburgh. Her research relates to Boardroom Gender Diversity from a policy and corporate governance perspective, with focus on India.
Chilani Kodikara (University of Edinburgh) Diversification as a Survival Strategy Amongst Women Headed Households in Mullaitivu, Sri Lanka
In post war Sri Lanka, small, medium and micro enterprise (SME) development has emerged as the dominant approach to livelihood development for war affected women, and particularly for women heads of households (WHH). This is despite the fact that it is a neglected aspect of Sri Lanka’s economy which has not received the required policy support leading to the failure of many such enterprises. SME’s in Sri Lanka exhibit high birth rates and high death rates and many small firms fail to grow due to several impediments peculiar to SME’s (Gamage 2014: 359). Based on in-depth interviews with seven women heads of households in Mullaitivu District, one of the districts worst affected by the war, I argue that not every woman who is a recipient of SME programmes becomes an ‘entrepreneur’ running an ‘enterprise’ or even a micro enterprise. Rather they assist women to commence and engage in self-employment activities, as part of a diverse repertoire of extremely precarious livelihood activities and income sources in which their own labour is the most important ingredient. In this paper I explore diversity/diversification as a survival strategy of women headed households in Mullaitivu and the ways in which women’s productive labour is deeply entangled with multiple other labours – the extraordinary labour of remaking their lives after war, the reproductive labour required to take care of family and home and the labour of coping with traumatic memory. Based on these findings, I argue that women’s (and men’s) livelihoods in post war Sri Lanka has to be located and analysed within the broader politics of post war development and reconstruction of war affected areas as a question of economic justice, and that livelihoods of war affected communities cannot be analyzed without accounting for the multiple losses and traumas suffered by them, particularly during the last phase of the war and their right to economic reparations beyond a market based approach to economic empowerment.
Chilani is a first year PhD student in International Development at the School of Social and Political Science. Chilani’s PhD focuses on Law as a site of struggle in Sri Lanka’s transitional justice process.
Panel E – Cross-Cultural Communications – Chair: Rachel Davis – Room G.16
Alison McNaughton (University of Glasgow) Vindicación Feminista and Off Our Backs: Transatlantic feminist dialogue during ‘la Transición española’ 1975-1979
This paper will examine selected extracts from two feminist publications, Vindicación Feminista and Off Our Backs as an example of transnational feminist dialogue 1975-79. In line with the wider Translating Feminism project, this research will serve as a case study, examining the use of translation in fostering transnational solidarity across feminist movements. The longest running feminist journal in the United States, Off Our Backs published continuously from 1970-2008, providing transnational feminist perspectives on women’s rights and movements. More broadly addressing current events worldwide, a central aim was “to educate the public about the status of women around the world”. As part of this wider, transnational perspective, Off Our Backs drew heavily on Vindicación Feminista as a voice for Spanish feminist activism and socio-political affairs. Excerpts from Vindicación Feminista were presented as either ‘translations’ or ‘summaries’ on a range of themes with a particular emphasis on the two organisations shared concerns of abortion, access to contraception and divorce.
Vindicación Feminista, in print from 1976-1979, was the first Spanish feminist journal to emerge in the period of ‘la Transición from dictatorship to democracy. Co-founded by left-wing feminist activists Lidia Falcon and Carmen Alcalde, their aim was to provide a platform to unify feminist voices in Spain. Vindicación Feminista also engaged in national and global politics, offering feminist perspectives on current affairs and fostering connections with activists and publications abroad, including links to Off Our Backs in the USA. Despite its positive reception, particularly in Barcelona where the organisation was based, Vindicación Feminista was also widely criticised by numerous feminist organisations, trade unions and political parties in Spain, primarily due to the price of subscription. Lack of national publicity and financial backing ultimately led to its closure in 1979, though occasional special editions continued to be published. Although on a national scale, Vindicación Feminista proved to be controversial and short-lived, the publication clearly had an international reach and established a transatlantic dialogue with foreign publications, including Off Our Backs.
Alison McNaughton is an MRes Modern Languages student at the University of Glasgow, funded by the School of Modern Languages & Cultures as part of the Leverhulme International Research Network ‘Translating Feminism’. Her background is in Spanish and History and her research interests intersect gender and translation studies. Her current master’s project focusses on the influence of transnational feminisms in Spain, during the Spanish transition to democracy (c1975-1981).
Hannah Yoken (University of Glasgow) Transnational Sites of Nordic Feminist Exchange – Femø Island and Greenham Common
The Nordic countries are globally perceived as exemplar nations in terms of gender equality and feminist activism. Yet, feminism did not develop in these national settings without outside inspiration. Since the 1960s Nordic feminist thought and action has been heavily influenced by the cross-cultural exchange of ideas, texts and individuals. This paper examines transnational feminist connections in the Nordic countries by focusing on international sites of exchange, defined as the physical places and spaces where feminists from the Nordic countries and beyond gathered to meet and exchange experiences, ideas and practices. Specifically, this paper explores two transnational sites of exchange. The first case study focuses on the island of Femø in Denmark, which stands out as one of the most important and persistent locations for transnational feminist interaction. From 1971 until the mid-1980s the Danish Rødstrømper organised annual summer camps on this small Danish island, the aims of which were to create a close-knit community that brought together women across all ages and social. The camps were organised around tent clusters and often focused on a specific theme, such as, ‘women’s sexuality’, ‘women in the workforce’, ‘the myth surrounding motherhood’ or ‘lesbianism’. While attendance varied, approximately 600 to 900 women attended Femø camps annually. The second case study explores the presence of Nordic feminists at the Women’s Peace Camp, which existed outside the Greenham Common nuclear RAF base in Berkshire, England during the 1980s. Active from 1981 until the latter half of the decade, Greenham Common was frequented by many Nordic women and caught the interest of the Nordic feminist press. Methodologically, this paper is based on archival primary sources, including feminist periodicals, internal communiques, and personal testimony, as well as secondary sources written in English, Finnish and the Scandinavian languages.
Hannah is a historian of twentieth-century cultural, social and political history with an interest in questions surrounding gender. During her studies she has specialised in the development of various social movements and countercultures in post-war Europe. Methodologically, she has a strong interest in oral history and social theory. She graduated in 2015 with First Class Joint Honours in Politics and History, and in 2016 she was awarded an MSc Gender History degree with Distinction. She is currently a fully AHRC/SGSAH-funded PhD researcher at the University of Glasgow. Her research focuses on the transnational development of ‘Nordic feminism’ since the 1960s.
Diana El Said Fouda (University of Edinburgh) Challenging the representation of Arab/Muslim Women in both Western and Arab Societies: the case study of the films Scheherazade, Tell Me a Story and Cairo 678
Challenging the representation of Arab/Muslim Women in both Western and Arab societies: the case study of the films Scheherazade, Tell Me a Story and Cairo 678.
Egyptian commercial cinema has served as a medium of popular culture since the early 20th century it has explored social, political and moral issues. It has reflected upon and informed social constructions of female identity especially since the late 1990s, contributing in shaping the feminist discourse. Egyptian cinema can be seen as a provider of cross-cultural communication since it has voiced concerns on the issues encountered by women in the Arab world, acting as a tool of social expression.
A representation is the portrayal of someone or something in a particular way in order to give an idea about it and convey certain values. The representation of Arab women differs in Western media from Arab societies and yet both convey very precise ideas about the status of women in these societies. Through the analysis of two Egyptian movies, Scheherazade, Tell Me a Story and Cairo 678, I argue that some new Egyptian movies are challenging the representation of women both in Western and Arab societies. These two movies try to depict the Egyptian patriarchal society in a way where women stand up against it, fighting common preconceptions about their situation. They challenge the representation of Arab women in Western media – pictured as voiceless victims – but they also question their representation in Arab societies where they mostly appear through the virgin/whore dichotomy. However, even though they advocate for a more accurate representation of women, they also uses common Arab patriarchal tropes.
 Scheherazade, Tell Me a Story, directed by Yousry Nasrallah, (Egypt: Misr Cinema Company, 2009).
 Cairo 678, directed by Mohamad Diab, (Egypt: Dolar Film, 2010).
Diana EL SAÏD FOUDA, an Egyptian-French student of the MSc of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Edinburgh. She graduated from Sciences Po Paris with a Master in Public Administration in 2016 after graduating from an undergraduate joint-program in History and Social Sciences between Sciences Po Paris and La Sorbonne – Paris IV in 2014. Her research mainly focuses on the role of the media and the representation of women and/or religion in Egypt.
Panel F – Intersections of Race and Gender – Chair: Alison McNaughton – Room G.16
Alice Kelly (University of Edinburgh) Behaving Herself: Subversive Subaltern Sexuality and Wayward White Women in Joseph Conrad’s Colonial Fiction
In his work on US imperialism in the Philipines, Roland Sintos Coloma argues white women were positioned as morally permissible sexual partners for white men. He retools Spivak’s ‘white men are saving brown women from brown men’ (33) into ‘white women are saving brown women and white men from each other’ (243). In both his formulation and Spivak’s, it is always the ‘brown woman’ as subaltern who cannot be heard.
It may be surprising, then, that in Joseph Conrad’s writing, read as both ‘mainstream male experience’ (Straus, 123) and the work of ‘a bloody racist’ (Achebe, 788), this unheard view of the woman of colour surfaces. In Conrad’s An Outcast of the Islands (1896), Willems, a Dutch white man, forces Aïssa, a Malay-Arab woman, to renounce her cultural identity and assimilate to the role of the white woman in order to be with him. However, her performance of this role evokes her suppressed cultural alterity, as it is a version of white femininity that most closely resembles her own construction of white women as promiscuous. When she ‘behaves herself’ and adheres to the racial codes Willems enforces, by acting like a white woman, she is also behaving as herself by enacting her own subversive performance of what she perceives white femininity to represent.
Significantly, it is Aïssa’s perception of white women that Conrad returns to most often. From Lena in Victory, to Freya in ‘Freya of the Seven Isles,’ to Edith in The Rescue, desiring wayward white women populate his work. This paper explores the representation of female sexuality in both white and non-white bodies in Conrad’s fiction, to ask whether proto-feminist narratives of defiant women can ever be discernible in overtly patriarchal and colonial texts.
Alice M Kelly is an English Literature PhD student funded by the Wolfson Foundation, at the University of Edinburgh, where she also completed her undergraduate degree and Masters. Her interest in Conrad’s female characters began when she studied them for her undergraduate dissertation. She has always been interested in issues of gender, sexuality and intersectionality.
Lakshmi-Pearl Quigley (University of Edinburgh) Gender and film in history: approaches to the portrayal of women’s subjectivity in Bengali cinema
The purpose of this research is to conduct an interdisciplinary analysis of arthouse film in India and the opportunities it can provide for examining women’s subjectivity from an historical perspective. The analysis attempts to synthesise a feminist perspective with arguments about the usefulness of film as a primary source, to discuss the use of ‘silence’ in Satyajit Ray’s films. These films depict the inner turmoil of young women in the second half of the nineteenth century, in wealthy families in rural Bengal. Ray portrays the constrictions placed upon their lives by normative notions of femininity, which became particularly prominent as nationalist sentiment rose in the nineteenth century amongst educated upper-class Bengali men. The research employs postmodern and feminist techniques to deconstruct ‘knowledge’ and defend the validity of film as an historical discourse in its own right. The piece questions the notion of historical knowledge as rooted in the written word, and therefore challenges the privileging of written sources over what Ray conveys in his films through facial expression, gesture, eye movement and the uses of the camera to convey deeper meanings. It discusses two ideas central to the nationalist thought developing in the Bengal at this time: cultural ‘emancipation,’ and the roots of Devi’s protagonist Daya’s incarnation in the ideology of the ‘Mother-Goddess.’ The discussion attempts to define what women’s subjectivity means in this specific setting and to determine whether the films are indeed useful historical documents that bypass recourse to written documents that often obscure women’s perspectives.
Lakshmi-Pearl is in the process of completing my Masters in Gender History at the University of Edinburgh. She completed her Undergraduate degree in English Literature and History from the University of Edinburgh in 2015. Her research interests include the intellectual history of feminism, intersectionality (particularly the intersection of race and gender) in history. Her most recent projects have included a case study on the Nigerian ‘Women’s War’ of 1929 and a study of the gendered implications of Freud’s methodology in the Interpretation of Dreams. She is currently working towards the completion of my Master’s thesis in which she will look at Rabindranath Tagore and Satyajit’s work in a comparison of colonial and post-colonial Indian cultural productions. She hopes to go on to study Gender History further in the coming years with the completion of a PHD.
Emmaleena Kakela (University of Strathclyde) How can we practice what we preach? Decolonising feminist struggle against Female Genital Cutting
‘Female Genital Cutting’ (FGC) is also commonly known as ‘Female Circumcision’ or ‘Female Genital Mutilation’ is a genital modification procedure of removal of some, or all parts of external female genitalia for non-medical reasons. Since the practice entered the wider Western consciousness in the 1970’s, FGC and the manner in which it should be intervened to have been subject to considerable scholarly and public debate. Regardless of decades of international campaigning against FGC, today over 200 million girls and women continue to be affected by the practice worldwide. The Western feminist movement has played an instrumental role in not only bringing the practice of FGC to the attention of the wider international community, but further, in defining the parameters of the Western anti-FGC discourse. Regardless of its good intentions, this paper critiques the process by which much of the Western anti-FGC discourse has come to silence the women it intends to defend. When it comes to feminist scholarship’s emphasis on intersectionality, situatedness of knowledge and structural analysis of oppression, the practice of FGC truly comes to challenge our ability to practice what we preach. In exploring how the Third World women’s context, agency and voices have, and continue to be largely disregarded, this paper comes to elucidate the ways in which Western portrayals of FGC come to contribute to not only the discursive, but also the economic and political subjugation of women of colour. Reflecting an on-going PhD research in Scotland, this paper suggests how a more nuanced analysis of structural inequalities and power relations can enable both feminist research and activism to pursue more effective interventions and to challenge the colonial continuities of the anti-FGC movement.
Emmaleena is a first year social work PhD student, researching how experiences of migration and resettlement come to contribute to the attitudes, and prevalence of Female Genital Cutting in Scotland.
Panel G – Challenging Gender Norms – Chair: Rian Sutton – Room G.15
Andria Caputo (University of St Andrews) Orlando Through the Ages: Gender and Authorship in Virginia Woolf’s Orlando and A Room of One’s Own
The representation of women and writing is a central theme in Woolf’s novel Orlando and essay A Room of One’s Own. Published a year apart, these two works explore the nature of female authorship in opposition to a dominant patriarchal literary tradition. In this paper, I will examine the representation of gendered authorship by using Althusser’s theory of ideological interpellation to explain how both works, when read as “companion” texts, reveal an intertextual reading of how female authorship is subjected to gendered interpellations. The purpose of this paper is to examine how Woolf’s theories of gendered authorship and her exploration of the textual omission of female authors from literary history explain Orlando’s growth as an interpellated author. I will focus on key literary periods where gendered interpellations and male literary tradition inhibits Orlando from proper self-expression. Each “literary period” discussed will be compared with its equivalent sections in A Room of One’s Own to explore the possibility of Orlando’s “androgynous mind”. Thus, my paper will argue for the possibility of reading the figure of Orlando as Woolf’s exemplary figure of the “androgynous mind”, where the normalized gendered binary that dominates the male literary canon is challenged and redefined.
Andria Caputo is a taught postgraduate student at the University of St Andrews, where she is currently completing her MLitt in Women, Writing and Gender. She previously completed her BA in Honours English (with Distinction) at Concordia University in Montreal. She received the Saltire Scholarship, as well as the Forum of Modern Languages Studies Scholarship, to pursue her dream postgraduate program at the University of St Andrews. Her research interests include gender and sexuality in literature, with specific focus on modern and contemporary women’s writing and autobiography, as well as theories of écriture féminine and French feminism.
Victoria Shropshire (University of Glasgow) Living is a Drag: Narratives and Identity
My research and writing revolves around inherited narratives and their impact on identity development. I am focusing specifically on the narratives of “Other”, as (combinations of) socially constructed, culturally assigned, family generated, and self-selected narratives. My research examines intersections of survivor narratives (immigrant and trauma) and illness narratives (chronic and terminal) with queer narratives (gender and sexuality) and how these intersected spaces impact the (re)construction of identity. These last two types of “othering” (illness narratives and queer narratives) and the surprising ways in which these intersect and impact identity (re)construction are the focus of my presentation.
Some questions which I address are:
Q: What value and/or power can be found in inherited narratives, and how do they impact our identity (re)construction? How do trauma and stigma translate into narratives and impact identity?
E.g. How does one negotiate with a categorization of self that is not of one’s own design, but rather a socially constructed and/or culturally accepted one?
Q: What roles do culture, geography, society, and politics play in shaping a narrative inheritance?
E.g. How can someone accept hospitalization and drugs if their cultural knowledge of these is defined by narratives of distrust and death? What management systems are available to those who must negotiate inherited narratives of chronic and terminal illness?
Q: How does one negotiate the expectations of identity and the mal-aligned reality of daily existence within a drug culture and management of a chronic illness?
E.g. How can/should a HIV+ individual deny or criticize the very mechanisms that society views as necessary and life-saving? How can/should a woman cancer patient reject a Pink Ribbon Culture?
My presentation, which is based on a scholarly article-in-progress, discusses these (and peripheral) questions/ideas. I look forward to sharing it as well as discussing related topics from conference presenters and attendees.
In 2015, Victoria committed to a Midlife Crisis. After 18 years as a University lecturer, she moved to Scotland to devote her full attention to the craft of writing and pursue a PhD. Her critical research and creative writing focus on the impact of inherited narratives on identity (re)construction. While the odd poem and short story emerge, she is currently focused on completing her debut novel, a fictionalized memoir in which a derelict debutante struggling with a chronic illness is rescued by Dobermans and drag queens. A cancer survivor with a wicked sense of humor, Victoria is a lover of all dogs, cigars, books, fine dining, beach houses, art, music, jigsaw puzzles, and Netflix. Her pet peeves are seahorse birdbaths, cypress clocks, and velvet paintings of Elvis.
This conference has been generously funded by the University of Edinburgh and organised by the PGRNS Committee: Lois Burke (Edinburgh Napier University), Rachel David (The University of Edinburgh), Alison McNaughton (The University of Glasgow), Ashley Dee Paton (The Open University) and Rian Sutton (The University of Edinburgh)