Feminist In/Security: Vulnerability, Securitization, and States of Crisis

IRW Seminar Fellows

Thea Renda Abu El-Haj, Rutgers-New Brunswick
“'Who Will Save the Children? Feminist Perspectives on the Contradictions of Education in States of In/Security and Crisis"

Thea AEHAcross the globe, optimistic, globally circulating “policyscapes” posit education as the balm to heal myriad social and political conflicts that are producing dispossession and extreme vulnerability for so many people today. Overlooked in these policy discourses are teachers as state actors who are charged with “securing” the future of the nation. Drawing on feminist perspectives, and looking closely at the case of educational policy-making in Lebanon, this talk analyzes the contradictory nature of teaching in the midst of conflict and crisis.

Allison Bloom, Anthropology, Rutgers-New Brunswick
“'Strengthen My Heart' (Fortaleza mi corazon): Embodied Hardships and Spiritual Strength Among Latina Domestic Violence Survivors in the United States"

allison bloomMy dissertation draws on extended ethnographic research with Latina immigrants at a domestic violence crisis center in Connecticut as they overcome complex structural barriers to leaving abusive relationships. For these diverse women, this path is often filled with grueling service work, legal battles, and emotional devastation resulting in constant states of crisis—especially for elderly women, women with chronic physical and mental health conditions, and women with long histories of trauma. Consequently, I demonstrate how these Latina clients resourcefully incorporate the center, local services, Western medicine, and their varied faith practices to create their own paths to security in light of their embodied hardships.

Alison Howell, Political Science, Rutgers-Newark
“Science, Technology, and the Martial Politics of Police/Military Violence: Thinking Beyond the Concepts of Militarization and Securitization”

Alison HowellThis project seeks to query the concepts of ‘militarization’ and ‘securitization’. It will argue that these concepts are insufficient since they are too ahistorical, too invested in a separation between the ‘norm’ (or ‘normal politics’ within the state) and the ‘exception’ (war), erroneously positing a normal state of politics within the state that is assumed to be peaceful. Drawing instead on feminist, anti-racist, and critical disability studies scholarship which has documented how insecurity is often produced by the state, the project will propose an alternative concept: martial politics.  Far from being mutually exclusive, ‘martial politics’ suggests that war and politics are thoroughly co-productive. 

Joanna Kempner, Sociology, Rutgers-New Brunswick
“Between Pain and Prohibition: How Underground Research Networks of Sick Citizen Scientists are Fighting the War on Drugs”

kempnerjoannaThe 1970 Controlled Substance Act categorized several psychoactive drugs, including cannabis and LSD, as Schedule I, which severely restricts the ability of scientists to conduct medical research into these compounds. I explore the relationship between the 1970s feminist health movement and the underground research movements studying these drugs. My empirical inquiry focuses on two networks: a cluster headache group (mainly men), who use psychedelic drugs to treat their excruciating disorder, and parents (mostly mothers) of children who have treatment-resistant epilepsy, who give their children CBD-rich cannabis. Both groups say that these diseases are severe and marginalized by medicine, leaving them little choice but to explore illegal drug options even if it puts their safety at risk.

Enmanuel Martínez, Comparative Literature, Rutgers-New Brunswick
“Archiving Gay and Lesbian Latino/a American Liberation Before HIV/AIDS”

EnMar MartinezMy seminar project recuperates disremembered transnational histories of gay and lesbian, social and political mobilization across North and South America and the Caribbean from the end of World War II through the start of the global HIV/AIDS epidemic in the early 1980s. This project centers on the question of sexual sovereignty and turns to a close reading of the editions of the Paz y Liberación (PyL), a multilingual, gay and lesbian Latino/a American newsletter published in the United States and distributed throughout Latin American and the Caribbean in the 1970s.

Ariel Otruba, Geography, Rutgers-New Brunswick
“Benign Bodies: Gendered Body Politics and the Borderization of Georgia’s South Ossetian Administrative Boundary Line”

A Otruba1The Georgian State Security Agency reports 840 incidents of administrative detention of Georgian citizens by Russian and de facto South Ossetian authorities between 2009 and the first quarter of 2015. An increasing number of arrests annually are related to ongoing restrictions on the freedom of movement caused by the highly contested and yet seemingly haphazard borderization process of the Administrative Boundary Line (ABL) of Georgia’s internationally unrecognized territory, “The Republic of South Ossetia.” During this IRW seminar, I will focus on part of my dissertation research which examines lived geopolitics and how gender influences the mobility, vulnerability and in/security of local bodies as they maneuver the elastic and moving geography of the ABL.

Juliana Restrepo Sanin, Political Science, Rutgers-New Brunswick
“Violence Against Women in Politics in Latin America”

J Restrepo SaninViolence against Women in Politics (VAWIP) is increasingly recognized as a serious obstacle to women’s political participation. Bolivia has been at the vanguard in the conceptualization of this phenomenon and the approval of legislation to combat it. Most definitions recognize only physical and psychological incidents, ignoring other ways in which women are pressured to leave public office. This dissertation analyzes the case of Bolivia and uses interview and archival data to study how VAWIP was developed as a concept and turned into a law. It uses feminist theory and literature on violence against women to make a critical analysis of Bolivian law in order to develop an expanded conceptualization of VAWIP that includes economic and symbolic manifestations.

Louisa Schein, Women’s and Gender Studies & Anthropology, Rutgers-New Brunswick
“Sly Legibility and Refugee Insecurity:  When Gendered 'Asian Threat' Imperils Hmong Americans”

Louisa ScheinMy year will be devoted to work on the complex and highly gendered legibility, or illegibility, of Asians/Asian Americans on the global stage and within American discourses. The figure of the Asian has teetered for at least a century between the shadowy netherworld of social death and the hypertrophied status of “menace.” I focus on Southeast Asian Americans and their contrapuntal ‘gangsterization’ that purportedly threatens the ‘security’ of peaceful (read white) communities, while in turn subjects the former to the precarities of social death, carceral control, police brutality and illegibility. The work I will pursue meshes comparative racialization and queer reading to analyze not only mediated texts, but also media production, and antiracist tactics our coalition deployed

Kyla Schuller, Women’s and Gender Studies, Rutgers-New Brunswick
“Gender Studies After Gender: Toward Interactionist Feminism”

schullerkylaThe distinction feminists drew in the 1970s and 1980s between “gender” and “sex” as social role versus fixed physiological characteristics is increasingly breaking down as the notion of a body and genome unmarked by culture becomes untenable. In this new book project, I reconsider the sex/ gender distinction in light of recent scientific and social research into the dynamism of biology and the broader framework of biopolitical security in order to theorize new models of embodiment useful for the twenty-first century. Gender Studies After Gender explores alternative models of embodiment that capture the interplay between heredity and environment and challenge the status of corporeality as a privileged site of population management. 

Additional Seminar Participants

Basuli Deb, IRW Global Scholar
Krystal Ghisyawan, Latino and Caribbean Studies, Rutgers-New Brunswick
Maria Hwang, IRW Global Scholar
Temma Kaplan, History, Rutgers-New Brunswick
Susan Marchand, Douglass Alumna
Sara Perryman, IRW Undergraduate Learning Community Coordinator

Conveners
Arlene Stein
Director, Institute for Research on Women

Sarah Tobias
Associate Director, Institute for Research on Women

 

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