The 10th Annual International Feminist Journal of Politics (IFJP) Conference was held on 17–20 February. The theme of the conference was “Feminist Connections in Global Politics”. Papers presented not only theorise those connections but also investigate how they collapse. Due to the pandemic, the conference was fully held online this year, creating a platform to disseminate knowledge and allow researchers coming from different backgrounds, disciplines and time zones to interact with each other. Four scholars from the Graduate Institute’s Gender Centre were among the participants: Prof. Elisabeth Prügl, (Co-Director of the Gender Centre), Prof. Wening Udasmoro, (Research Affiliate to the Gender Centre), Dr. Rahel Kunz (Research Affiliate to the Gender Centre), and Ximena Osorio Garate, PhD Affiliate to the Gender Centre.
We interviewed each participant regarding the importance and main findings of their papers as well as their overall impression of the conference.
Drawing on colonial logics, why is it important to explore the nexus between development and progress, on the one hand, and force and coerced sterilisations as a technology of gendered violence, on the other hand?
X. Osorio Garate: Concepts of development and progress are routinely mobilised to justify violent interventions on bodies and spaces deemed “unmodern”, “uncivilised” and “irrational”. This usually means that racialised and gendered bodies, marginalised communities and/or ethnic minorities are usually the targets of technologies of control for the “betterment of the population” or to achieve development goals. Along these lines, forced and coerced sterilisations also follow a gendered and colonial logic, where racialised women are understood as the reproducers of difference and therefore the naturalised targets for sterilisation.
What do your findings tell us about the Peruvian case of the sterilisation programme compared to other similar programmes around the world?
X. Osorio Garate: By exploring forced sterilisations in Peru as part of a wider global phenomenon, we start to see how many of the practices, knowledge, technologies, objects, logics and institutions that were part of the Peruvian sterilisation programme have also been present around the world. This reveals how reproductive violence is not an isolated and private event, but is a form of political violence that is very much a part of international relations.
Why is it important to study the Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) agenda of the UN through the lenses of feminist and postcolonial theory?
R. Kunz: The WPS agenda promotes mainstreaming gender into matters of conflict and peacebuilding. In this context, multiple initiatives have emerged, producing complex “feminist dis/connections”. Drawing on feminist and postcolonial theory allows us to render visible and analyse the broader implications of these dis/connections: which voices are silenced, what processes of in/exclusion are reproduced and what forms of solidarity become im/possible?
What are your main findings concerning WPS initiatives in Nepal?
R. Kunz: Many WPS initiatives assume that gender mainstreaming is about transferring international gender norms into local contexts. I show that this is based on an understanding of translation as transfer, such as through gender trainings. Drawing on feminist and postcolonial insights on translation, I analyse an alternative WPS initiative in the context of post-conflict Nepal. This initiative is based on an understanding of translation as a pluri-directional process of transformation that requires all participants in the process to take upon them the task of stepping outside their established boundaries to understand the other sides and create dialogue. This creates spaces of feminist connections and contributes to decolonise the WPS agenda.
What is the importance of interpreting women’s participation in protest movements as a form of transformative peacebuilding?
E. Prügl: Peacebuilding is often understood as a matter of ending wars. But for peace to be sustainable, it requires development, state building, and, we suggest, justice and inclusion. Through their activism, women fight for justice and inclusion, and in this way contribute to transforming existing arrangements so that they become more sustainable.
What do your findings tell us about women’s land grab protests in East Java, Indonesia?
W. Udasmoro: Women land grab protests in Banyuwangi show us that struggle for land ownership in Indonesia is not only done by men (just like in many other cases). The presence of women in this struggle creates transformations of gender relations as women manage to enter the public and political spaces while men occupy the domestic space. Their presence in these public and political spaces shows also that women at the grassroots level contribute to the construction of a new political activism in Indonesia.
Could you share with us your experience of attending the first fully virtual IFJP conference?
X. Osorio Garate: This was my first time attending the IFJP conference and it was a marvellous experience. Having explicitly feminist spaces for political reflection and practice is fundamental for pushing the boundaries of our discipline and our own political thought. I found that the conference provided a caring, supportive and intellectually provoking forum for developing feminist connections and I am grateful to have been a part of it.
R. Kunz: It was a great experience despite the difficult circumstances. It was amazingly well organised. And the organisers took a lot of care to allow dialogue and also created meeting space for networking, even though that’s obviously more difficult online. Panels were very interesting! Many people showed up and participated in the discussions. And the keynote addresses were wonderful.
W. Udasmoro: The choice of platform is always very important because every country has different facilities and difficulties to get access to the platforms. The most important thing is to make sure that everyone can access the meeting. Using online methods is minimising people’s interaction; I’m looking forward to having a face-to-face meeting.
E. Prügl: On the one hand it is easier to zip around panels and even to watch panels that were taped after the fact. But sitting in front of the screen all day is very exhausting. The organisers also set up a “networking stage”, but as far as I could tell, nobody ever showed up there. Definitely looking forward to being back face to face!
Papers presented in the conference:
- “‘Feminist Dis/Connections’: Translations in and beyond the WPS Agenda” by Rahel Kunz.
- “‘No Matter What – I’ve Got Rights’: Women’s Land Grab Protests in Banyuwangi, East Java” by Wening Udasmoro and Elisabeth Prügl:
- “Population Control and the Global Politics of Anti-Natalist Violence” by Ximena Osorio Garate.
Interview by Buğra Güngör, PhD Candidate in International Relations and Political Science; editing by Nathalie Tanner, Research Office and Emmanuelle Chauvet, Gender Centre
Banner picture: excerpt from an image by ©mariakray/Shutterstock.com.