2021: Success Stories: Women and Health
Olivia Engle (Birkbeck), Abortion at Home: The Potential of Medication Abortion to Address Geographic and Spatial Barriers to Abortion Care
Direct-to-patient telemedicine abortion services, in which an individual receives and takes medication abortion at home, have offered a potential solution to the enduring burden of distance to abortion care for rural women and pregnant people in the US. Yet little is understood about how distance shapes abortion decision-making and experiences of abortion access in rural communities. This research seeks to determine the extent to which direct-to-patient telemedicine abortion services can reduce geographic and spatial barriers to abortion care for rural women and pregnant people. This research is interdisciplinary in nature and uses feminist mixed-methods to understand in what ways medication abortion at home is shaping the spatial configuration of abortion care in rural communities. This research extends the literature on abortion geographies through its focus on the abortion (im)mobilities of rural women and pregnant people vis-à-vis telemedicine abortion services in the northern central US.
Heqing Huang (University of Cambridge), Breaking Through the ‘Deferrer’ Role: Female Health Professionals’ Positioning at a Flagship Hospital in China
In general hospitals in China, there is a lack of female representation in leadership positions. However, as female health professionals play a critical role in the fight against COVID-19, the institution has increasingly recognised the contribution of expertise from women. What are the changing dynamics in the positioning of female professionals at a hospital? The legacy leading to female professionals’ inferior status is unpacked. The research focuses on how female health professionals navigate through these pre-existing gender imbalances and devise strategies to progress towards leadership positions. Contextual and institutional factors that influence female professionals’ success are considered. This is an ethnographical case study of a flagship hospital in southern China. Research methods include non-participant observations and in-depth interviews with both male and female health professionals. The study presents living narratives and success stories of female leaders who proactively engage in clinical practice and research in the healthcare sector in China.
Ruoxi Liu (University of Cambridge), Self-Publishing as Feminist Therapy and Empowerment: Decentralisation, Expression, and Resistance among Chinese Feminist Art Groups in Southern China
Contextualised in the ‘underground’ art fields of southern China, my research studies women’s self-publishing, more particularly, zine-making, that has been prospering as to facilitate expression and establishing connection among some Guangzhou-based artists in in their alternative art practices. By conducting participant observation, in-depth interviews, diaries for six months in Guangzhou and digital ethnography, I have found the zine-making of the feminist art groups has multi-layer functions: Firstly, it empowers the participants without an arts background to express their feminist ideas through artistic creations. Secondly, it provides new media and platforms that allow women to express their feeling, to share their experiences and to tell stories. Thirdly, the revenues of self-publications can support the feminist art groups for their future publishing and exhibition activities. Furthermore, the ‘economics’ of zine-making has also developed into an anti-capitalist working approach capable of feeding back into the feminist communities. Therefore, I argue that the self-publishing practice among the feminist art groups in Southern China can work as self-healing and self-empowerment approaches for women. And the ‘economics’ of zine-making has also developed into an anti-capitalist working approach capable of feeding back the feminist communities in future.
Aideen O’Shaughnessy (University of Cambridge), Bodies of Change: Analysing the Embodied and Affective Movement for Abortion Rights in Ireland
In May 2018, the Irish public voted to repeal the 8th amendment of the constitution, expanding access to legal abortion care. The 8th amendment was inserted into the Constitution in 1983, giving an equal right to life to the ‘unborn’, and was directly transposed into the consent policy of the national health system, prohibiting pregnant women and people from making decisions about their own care. Adding to critical feminist studies of reproduction, and inspired by phenomenology and affect theory, this research offers an alternative perspective on (Irish) abortion politics, studying the intimate, embodied experiences of women and people living under Ireland’s constitutional abortion ban. Employing a qualitative research methodology based on in-depth interviews, this research explores how abortion activists in Ireland experience, negotiate and mobilise against the (effects of the) country’s abortion ban in their everyday lives, illustrating how structures of reproductive inequality are inscribed and felt at the level of the embodied subject.
2020: The Gender Dynamics of Crisis and Community
Hala Abdelgawad (University of Sussex), Gendered Judgeship: The Dilemma of Female Representation in the Egyptian Judiciary
Unlike most countries in the Middle East and Africa, Egypt still lags regarding women’s representation in the judiciary. Female judges represent less than 0.3% of the total number of judges in Egypt. Furthermore, some judicial bodies openly discriminate against women’s judgeship. This is reflected in the obstinate rejection of the administrative judiciary, known as the State Council, to appoint any women as judges to its courts. The dissertation investigates the conflict between women’s rights activists and the State Council’s judges. On the one hand, the project focuses on how women’s rights activists, local feminist NGOs and female law school graduates have responded to the crisis of the rejection of the State Council to appoint women as administrative law judges through examining their motivations, strategies and tools. On the other hand, the project examines the stances and arguments of the male judges of the State Council regarding the subject matter. Theoretically, the project relies on the extensive literature on social theory, women’s representation, citizenship, gender equality and gendered institutions. The dissertation is based on extensive fieldwork, combining secondary sources with in-depth qualitative interviews. The interviews have been conducted with Egyptian judges, women’s rights activists, human rights activists, legal researchers, lawyers, female law school graduates, female claimants against the Council, members of the National Council for Women, and politicians.
Qiuyang Chen (Warwick University), Women and Private Credit on South-east Coastal China the 1980s
This research project investigates women and private credit in south-east coastal China in the 1980s by focusing on incidents of credit crises in local communities. It incorporates the tools of oral history, historical anthropology, and digital humanities to study the relationship between the female network and the custom of microfinance in rural maritime communities in Zhejiang, Fujian, and Guangdong provinces. It specifically studies an informal financial instrument ‘hui’, which was a private credit association, and subsequent ‘hui’ credit crises that disrupted local communities greatly. While having been major agents in the private credit market for decades, the voice of local women was left out when credit crises were generated into collective memory. Thus, the study examines how the hui and credit crises were portrayed in the local narrative and reviews their impact on local gender norms. It further investigates if new or challenging roles emerged in the post-crisis period.
Emmaleena Käkelä (University of Strathclyde), Continuums of Control: Negotiation of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) and Cultural Change After Migration to Scotland
Global instabilities, the “migration crisis” and rising inter-cultural tensions across Europe have relocated female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) and other gendered cultural practices at the heart of ongoing debates on migration, multiculturalism and social cohesion. My research has examined how exclusionary state policies and dominant discourses on asylum and refugee integration influence women’s vulnerability to FGM/C in Scotland. This participatory research has emphasised the voices of communities and FGM/C-affected women whose views continue to be underrepresented in the policy debates, research and interventions to protect girls and women from FGM/C. The research findings illustrate how cultural dislocation, displacement and intersecting structural inequalities influence refugees’ experiences of cultural and gendered identity negotiation and the abandonment of FGM/C in diaspora. In doing so, my research contributes to furthering our knowledge about the dynamics of FGM/C and strives to inform future approaches to culturally sensitive and survivor-centred prevention, protection and support provision for FGM/C-affected women.
Shalini Nair (University of Sussex), The Exclusionary Discourse of Sexual Violence in India
My research examines how marginalised survivors of sexual violence in India navigate and resist various intersectional oppressions in everyday and exceptional spaces. It investigates how sexual violence has its roots in certain structures that give dominant state and non-state actors their power to oppress. My work addresses theoretical, methodological, and empirical gaps in the sexual violence discourse through a combination of fieldwork across the country and policy analysis. I aim to deconstruct the many forms that the crisis of sexual oppression takes within the diverse geo-political context of India as also the community-led possibilities for contesting them. This includes a critical comparison of such survivor-led movements against sexual violence and other transnational movements in order to outline areas of political-policy intervention and for feminist theory and praxis.
2019: Climate Change and Gender
Hattie Cansino (Newcastle), Paradise is Political: Affective and Aesthetic Economies of Tourism in North-east Brazil
Paradise: an evocative and seductive trope which underpins much contemporary tourism today. However, rather than serve as a “smokeless industry”, ensuring development in its places, paradise tourism is built on gendered and racialised tropes that underpin an exclusionary and marginalising form of politics. By looking at the lives of residents in one such paradisiacal destination: Praia da Pipa, a beach town on the coast of the northeast of Brazil, I argue that residents’ interactions with an environment in which everyday aesthetics of paradise enable the creation of new, increasingly neoliberal subjectivities. As such, I argue that this particular paradise should be seen as a productive site of contemporary understandings of modernities and their corresponding economies. Based on twelve months of ethnographic fieldwork, I combine insights from International Political Sociology, postcolonial feminism, and International Political Economy to show the often surprising ways in which residents engage with, contest, and accept such sociocultural and economic understandings.
Shubhi Sharma (Edinburgh), Matriliny, a Patriarchal Tribal Society and Environmental Conservation: The Case of Khasi Hills REDD+ project in Meghalaya, India
I conducted a thirteen month long ethnographic research amongst the Khasi tribe of Meghalaya- a Northeastern Indian state. Meghalaya is a matrilineal state with strong community land rights but despite this, increasing market forces have caused environmental degradation and dispossessed the poor, especially women. Drawing primarily from in-depth semi-structured interviews and ethnographic observations, I studied an environmental conservation scheme called Reduction of Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) which was started by an all-male tribal elite and an international group of actors to curb deforestation. My research is informed by feminist, governmentality methodology, accumulation by dispossession in works inspired by Marx and notions of personal and impersonal domination in Max Weber’s work. I aim to assess how ‘technologies’ of REDD+ maintain or entrench past histories of dispossession; inequalities; gendered identities, and create distinct ‘environmental and gendered subjects’. I also analyse the agency of tribals whilst not losing sight of structural inequalities.
Ruth Smith (Leeds), Exploring Gendered Influences in the Adoption of ‘Climate Smart Agriculture’ Practices in Tanzania
This research takes an interdisciplinary approach to explore how gender influences the adoption of ‘climate-smart agricultural’ (CSA) practices within rural Tanzanian communities – i.e. practices that aim to increase productivity whilst simultaneously increasing resilience and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Understanding that households are made up of multiple individuals, each with their own agricultural preferences, access to resources and control over decision-making, Ruth will employ a collective household approach to explore how gender influences the intrahousehold decision-making process. She will also take an intersectional approach – understanding that other social attributes such as wealth, class and educational background differentiate male and female farmers and likely impact their agricultural decisions. Improved understanding of the priorities and barriers faced by different social groups in adopting and upscaling CSA practices, and of how gender influences the intrahousehold decision-making process, will contribute to improving the evidence base for tailored CSA policy and programme design in Tanzania.
2018: Authoritarianism and Gender
Diego Garcia-Rodriguez (UCL), ‘Who are the Queer Muslims?’ An Exploration of Queer Religious Empowerment in Indonesia
My research is based on an ethnographic study of religious practices among marginalised gender and sexual communities in the three Indonesian cities of Jakarta, Yogyakarta and Surabaya. Drawing on in-depth, semi-structured interviews, and participant observation with Indonesian Muslims, my research explores how, in the midst of an authoritarian revival in the country that is often explained in relation to religion, Islam itself has become a means to overcome conflictual feelings for Muslims within minority groups in Indonesia. A key factor in promoting gender and sexual equality in the country has been the development by Muslim scholars of a progressive branch of Islam emerging in the early 1980s based on tolerance, pluralism and mutual respect. Instead of depicting Muslim women and sexual minorities as permanently oppressed subjects, my project aims to locate spaces for the emergence of ‘agency’ and ‘empowerment’ within the margins of patriarchal structures by exploring the lived realities of my participants and the current discourses on gender and sexuality arising from both progressive and conservative Islamic scholars and authorities in Indonesia.
Zainab Hussaini (Chester), Breaking a Living Silence: Hazara Women’s Workplace Experiences
Belonging and the politics of belonging are becoming more volatile subjects under the influence of contemporary political agendas: globalization, increasing militarization and migration. A deeper look at educated Hazara women’s experiences of everyday “bordering” and “re-bordering” in two countries, Iran and Afghanistan, reveals that their sense of belonging have been substantially challenged. Located at the intersections of gender, ethnicity, religion, language, and immigration background, Hazara women experience multiple oppressions, especially in the workplace. However, their identities have been either ignored or have been labelled simply as ‘Afghan women’, a homogenous umbrella term. Employing an intersectional transnational feminist informed analytic framework, I examine how Hazara women located in this nexus of oppression resist and negotiate the relations of power in the workplace in a broader context of intervention, insecurity, ethnicization, and religious fundamentalism.
Priya Raghavan (LSE), Discourses of Sexual Violence in Post-Nirbhaya India: Challenging Progress Narratives
My research examines discourses of sexual violence in India, with a view to reveal the cynical cooptation of the issue of sexual violence by the right wing BJP government and its allies in the furtherance of their sectarian, casteist, and patriarchal Hindu Nationalist agenda. I track how sexual violence is mobilised as a political category by an increasingly emboldened and enlarged authoritarian state to justify: (i) strengthening its masculinist disciplinary apparatus, including the police and military; (ii) undermining the agency of women and re-inscribing relations of passivity and reliance on the patriarchal institutions of the family, community and state. I suggest that the emancipatory impulse of feminist discourses of sexual violence is refracted by the authoritarian state to re-inscribe gendered and other hierarchies and produce regulatory effects for its most vulnerable subjects. Through a critical examination of the encounter between discourses of sexual violence and the authoritarian state, I hope not only to expose damaging complicities, but also uncover possibilities to resist these problematic entanglements.
Tabia Richardson (Queen Mary), Divisive Voices-Deliberate Vocations: 3 female protagonists and their take on so called Christian-Jewish dialogue after the Holocaust; Gertrud Luckner, the activist; Eleonore Sterling, the historian; Jeanette Wolff, the politician
A gendered perspective assessing the work of three female figures in the institutionalised attempts at creating a dialogue between Christians and Jews in West Germany in the 1950s and 60s. Focusing on how the three women acted out their roles in this dialogue in the context of their biographical complexities, religious beliefs (or lack thereof) and professional capacities I tell the history of the phenomenon away from a male and mostly theological paradigm. Additionally, by concentrating on female actors, of which one was a non-Jewish German, I challenge the axis of separating the history of German Jews from German history. That way, the thesis contributes to the history of German-Jewish women in the decades succeeding the immediate post World War II period.
2016: Women and Protest
Mary Austin (SOAS), Discourses of the Domestic: Towards an Indonesian Domestic Workers Bill?
Domestic workers (predominantly women) constitute a significant part of the global workforce yet are frequently excluded from protective labour legislation. Drawing from social movement and gender theory, my project analyses the development of the (as yet unsuccessful) campaign for an Indonesian Domestic Workers’ Law. It asks several questions: How have activists, journalists and feminist academics sought to legitimize claims for domestic worker rights? What has been the impact of the dynamics between these actors? What has been their role in translating external ideas in the context of contested Indonesian modernities? How and to what extent has the domestic worker movement built on and enhanced domestic worker agency and political participation? Rooted in the anti-Suharto student protests of the 1980s and 1990s and now part of a global federation, the campaign continues to develop new forms of protest to keep its issues in the fore font of political and public debate.
Karen Desborough (Bristol), The Global Anti-Street Harassment Movement: A Feminist Politics of Resistance
Street harassment – sexual and gender-based harassment in public spaces – is a gendered oppression because it involves the exercise of power over female bodies. Feminist analysis locates street harassment on a continuum of violence, and sees all forms of sexual violence as the exercise of power and control (Kelly 1998: 41). Across the world women activists have been developing an anti-street harassment social movement to resist and end this gendered oppression. My research explores how and why the global anti-street harassment movement has emerged and developed over the last decade, and examines its transformational effects. I begin by mapping the anti-street harassment movement’s origins, structure, practices, goals and political orientation. Drawing on social movement theory and feminist theory, I then examine the mobilising role of motivations, emotions and identities; the facilitating role of the internet on the movement’s development; and the impact of the movement on realising transformations in gender relations.
Isabel Käser (SOAS), From gendered violence to gendered resistance: the Kurdish women’s movement in eastern Turkey (Bakur), northern Iraq (Başur) and northeastern Syria (Rojava)
Kurdish women are at the forefront in the political and armed fight against different forms of state violence and militant Islamic groups in Turkey, Iraq and Syria. Albeit operating in different local contexts, the women’s movements, which all have their rooting in the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), show similar political, organisational and ideological characteristics. Most importantly, women are organised independently from men, in all social, political, and armed activities, adhering to the principle of self-defence. Women pledge that ‘we will never stop resisting’ and that due to their longstanding history and experience of struggling, this fight for women’s liberation will be sustainable and women will never be pushed back into the private sphere in a post-conflict setting – as seen numerous times after previous national liberation wars, in which women played key roles in the armed resistance. This PhD thesis analyses this claim within mainly Bakur and Başur but also Rojava, and asks how violence, specifically gender based violence has led to forms of gendered resistance, and how these modes of resistance operate in times of conflict. It assesses mechanisms of grassroots mobilisation and organisation and highlights the ways in which women push back; politically, intellectually and physically, in order to hold on to the spaces previously claimed. It analysis the historical trajectory of women’s civil, political and armed resistance and asks how the interlinked women’s movements challenge larger power configurations in the Middle East. This research makes a contribution to existing debates on women and war, gender and conflict, but also the ways in which women participate in both democracy and nation-building, in a context where the movements’ ideas about democracy or nation are no longer tied to a state but a border-transcending concept of ‘Democratic Confederalism’.
2015: Health Inequalities
Eleanor K. Johnson (Cardiff), The Social, Economic, and Political Implications of Privatising Residential Care for the Elderly
My ethnographic research examines the link between the quality of work in the residential care sector and the quality of care which residential home workers provide to older people. Care work has been notoriously undervalued, not least because it is considered ‘women’s work’ (and thus devalued). Furthermore, it has been claimed that the residential care market has become dichotomous and deeply inequitable, marked by low-quality, low-cost care for publicly-funded residents at one end and by high-quality, high-cost care for self-funders at the other. Touching upon themes of emotional labour, (devalued and feminine) work, gender, rationality, time, morality, marketization, and care, among others, this study considers the social, political, and economic implications of privatising residential care. It examines how differences in the cost of residential care alter conditions of work in the sector and, conversely, how the organisation and quality of work in distinctly priced residential homes may be widening the gap in care quality. More broadly, the research contributes to the more theoretical literature on the relationship between morality and economic rationality by means of considering how it is that, in the case of my research, money can buy the virtues of compassion, care and kindness that permit quality of life in old age.
Jennifer Speirs (Glasgow), How Do Queer Youth Who Use the Internet Experience and Construct Their Mental Health?
This study investigates the interaction between lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning and asexual (LGBTQQA) young people’s gender and sexual identities and their mental health and wellbeing. This project seeks to identify the ways that LGBTQQA youth in the UK, USA and Australia, aged 16 25, are able to live well in a pervasively heteronormative world that often fails to factor them in. This small scale, in-depth project incorporates sensory ethnography and creative, visual and digital research methods alongside interviews and diaries to represent narratives of young people¹s everyday lives. It investigates the impact of entwined online and offline lives on the ways that participants made sense of their sexual and gender identities and created space for themselves. This study aims to add knowledge within a vital and under-researched field and to provide usable and accessible insights that can contribute to reducing mental health inequalities for LGBTQQA youth.
Paula Wittels (Brunel), Shaping Health: A Qualitative Investigation of the Eating and Physical Activity Behaviour of Women of Low Socioeconomic Status to Inform the Development of Interventions to Improve Diet and Increase Physical Activity
The research will investigate in a series of in depth interviews the complexity of the environment and the many influences on diet and physical behaviour and in particular the areas where women of low socioeconomic status (SES) feel they are in control over their diet and physical activity behaviour and areas where they feel out of control. The initial interviews will explore the reasons why women feel they do or do not have control over diet and physical activity behaviour and the role of structure and agency in the behaviours exhibited. The interviews will also cover the importance women of low SES give to physical activity and diet in relation to their own health and other members of their household. In follow up interviews the research will look at the value women ascribe to the programmes that are available to encourage physical activity and improve the quality of their diet. The information collected will be used to discuss new approaches to public health interventions to increase physical activity and improve diet quality with the research participants and their responses will be recorded. The project will provide a mechanism for women of low SES to express views on health, diet and physical activity.
2013: Assessing Gender Progress
Sydney Calkin (York), The Political Economy of Women’s Empowerment: Gender Equality and the World Bank
Women and girls are the face of international development today: women’s empowerment is now recognised as a central pillar of the development agenda. Their visibility is, however, significantly constrained by its inclusion in a neoliberal broader policy agenda that instrumentalises women as ‘untapped’ resources for economic growth. My research critically explores the popular concept of women’s empowerment in international development institutions. It asks what empowerment means in these policy contexts by examining how empowerment is represented and which women are imagined as models of empowerment. Using qualitative methods, my research examines four recent (2007-2012) World Bank gender-focused publications and initiatives. I suggest that the version of women’s empowerment represented in dominant policy discourses is a limited notion of empowerment that is largely incompatible with feminist visions of gender justice, because of its simplistic equation of women’s income and employment with broader social and political power, hiding relational gender inequalities and the gendered implications of neoliberal globalisation.
Kristen Cordell (Kings), Participation and Protection: Mutual Concepts, Divergent Norms
My research seeks to understand the complex relationship between the existence of Women, Peace, and Security policies (specifically Security Council resolutions 1325 and 1820) and progress for women’s security and equality in post conflict spaces. I examine the priorities of institutions responsible for operationalizing the resolutions (specifically peacekeeping missions)and ask how the ‘translation’ of these priorities has an impact at the national level. I am using the case study of Afghanistan and Liberia to investigate my hypothesis; that the overarching tensions between UN resolutions 1325 and 1820 – specifically the tension between the principles of participation and protection – has challenged the ability of international institutions to interpret them as priorities at the national level. I attempt to show that in creating relevant and contextualized norms around protection and participation institutions have created a confusing and in some cases competing narrative that actually erodes attempts to created gendered human security– resulting in a siphoning resources, squandering political will and in many cases rendering them ineffective.
Nazia Hussein (Warwick), ‘Neo-Patriarchy’, Emotions and Respectability: Alternative Measures of Gender Progress in Urban Bangladesh
I am undertaking an empirical study of the meanings of the ‘new woman’ in Bangladesh, who are identified as the urban, middle class, highly educated, professional women of the country. My study particularly focuses on the multiple positioning that women experience as employees, mothers, wives and daughters-in-law and the changing meanings of what is means to be a middle class woman in Bangladesh. I argue that a true measure of gender progress is incomplete without a detailed study of these broader inter-relationships and how they have relational impacts on both family life and paid employment. I explore these inter-relationships through ‘neo-patriarchal bargain’, aesthetic labor and class distinction to identify the various ways through which Bangladeshi women, with their newfound educational, economic and cultural progress outside the home, manage gendered and classes identities and social respectability. I examine the ways in which women negotiate various constraints within the household, and study these negotiations in relation to women’s progress outside the home.
Zoe Young (Sussex), The Shifters: Working Mothers’ Experiences of Changing the Way They Work
This longitudinal, qualitative study will follow the transition experiences of 30 professional working women who seek to combine motherhood with paid work by shifting their working pattern from a full-time arrangement to one that offers flexibility in the time or place that paid work gets done. Women in the UK are more likely than in countries with the highest rates of female employment to switch to part-time work once they have children and to remain in it beyond the age their youngest child go to school. Whilst this form of flexible work offers welcome reconciliation of family and work life for those for whom it is available and affordable, research demonstrates significant long-term losses in pay, promotions and prospects over the life course, indicating that work-life balance comes at the expense of advancing labour market position. By interviewing women who make the shift into flexible work as they are doing it, this study will capture changes and continuities in attitudes and aspirations for work, career and family life. It will examine whether the lived experience of flexible working matches its transformational potential that is so often articulated in state and organisational policies encouraging maternal employment.
2012: No Safe Place? Gender-Based Violence in Institutional Settings
Susie Balderston (Lancaster), Collective Interventions, Identities and Intersections: What Works for Women after Disablist Hate Crime Involving Rape?
Harriet Gray (LSE), Militarised Violence, Militarised Choices: Domestic Abuse and Victim-Survivors Help-Seeking Decisions in the UK Armed Forces
2011: Gender and Higher Education
Tania Saeed (Oxford), Islamophobia? The Narratives of Pakistani and British Pakistani Female Students in Universities in England
Judith Stewart (University of the West of England), Constructing Graduateness: Girls Becoming Graduates in a Post-1992 University
Filip Vostal (Bristol), The High-Speed University
Pauline Whelan (Leeds Met), Widening Participation: Discourse and Policy