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Year 1 Workshops

Warwick team visit to Birzeit University, April 2011


Professor Shirin Rai, Gender and Global Governance, Public lecture at Muwatin (the Palestinian Institute for the Study of Democracy), Ramallah

Building on her previously published work on global governance (Global Governance: Feminist Perspectives, 2008, Palgrave Macmillan, with Georgina Waylen), Shirin Rai’s paper argued the following: While the major strands of global governance theory bring a great deal of sophisticated analysis to bear upon the changing nature of market/state governance, all are predominantly ‘gender blind’ or at best address the issue of gender in the context of the impact of the various political economic shifts on the lives of women. And further, despite opening up the arena of non-state actors to governance scrutiny, they continue to focus on the governance of polities rather than of communities, which means that the relational link between the private and the public, the civic and the intimate, at the heart of feminist analysis remains unrecognized. The paper addressed this gap by examining market distortions that emerge through this neglect as well as by examining how the state is an active player in restructuring not only the national gendered labour-capital relations in response to new pressures of globalisation, but also reorganising its own regulatory and political boundaries to protect its position within the globalised political economy.

Workshop at the Institute of Women’s Studies, Birzeit University

Day 1: Universal norms, local realities: Gender norms, women’s rights and women’s movements


Dr Nicola Pratt, Centre for the Study of Women and Gender/Department of Politics and International Studies, University of Warwick

Nicola Pratt’s paper examined the reconceptualisation of gender in international security and the reassertion of global racial-sexual boundaries and hierarchies. Feminist international relations scholars have argued that international security, both in practice and in mainstream scholarship, depends historically upon the relegation of women to a domestic/national sphere, to be protected by the (male) political and military leaders that dominate the sphere of international politics. In other words, realist conceptions of security are deemed to be constituted through gendered binaries: male/female; protector/protected; international/domestic; war/peace; active/passive. These gendered boundaries are being broken down, for example, through the passing of UN Security Council Resolution 1325, which calls on women to be active in the governance of international peace and security. This reconceptualisation of gender is occurring simultaneously that racial-sexual boundaries and hierarchies are being reasserted, particularly with regards to prosecuting the so-called War on Terror. The racialised and sexualised assumptions of Resolution 1325 not only echo the racialised and sexualised assumptions of the 'war on terror' but the renegotiation of the gendered binaries identified by feminist international relations scholars within international security depends upon the reassertion of particular racial-sexual hierarchies. This observation should lead us to question the current conceptualisations of gender and its relation to race and sexuality within mainstream feminist international relations and feminist security studies.


Dr Vanessa Farr, UNDP, Jerusalem

Vanessa Farr’s paper examined the utility of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 amongst Palestinian women activists. Palestinian women’s organised resistance to the Israeli occupation is decades old and has been well-documented and analyzed by feminists in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) and outside(particularly by academics in the Institute of Women’s Studies, Birzeit University). Some of the most recent attempts to formulate and shape this resistance make reference to UNSCR 1325. The application of the Resolution in the work of three women’s organisations in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and Palestinian-Israeli peace-making attempts are analyzed in this paper. However, the paper concludes that the disconnect between women’s activism on the ground and in academia, the intentions stated in UNSCR 1325, and the Israel-Palestine peace process are so vast that there is little evidence that the Resolution offers an effective mechanism for women to transform the relations of power between Israel and Palestine and between elites and grassroots in order to make their voices heard.


Prof. Islah Jad, Director, Institute of Women’s Studies, Birzeit University

Islah Jad’s paper argues that universal norms around women’ s rights do not give space to organic feminisms and their dominance within the Palestinian and Arab context has facilitated the NGO-ization of the women’s movement. This has actually been disempowering for grassroots women. Within local feminisms, national and gender concerns are considered inextricably bound together. Universal norms about women’s rights have led to the fragmentation of national concerns. The appointment of femocrats within the Palestinian Authority is part of this fragmenting process. These femocrats refer to universal norms to negotiate with donors but this is actually an instrumentalisation of universal norms for particular political agendas. The discourses of femocrats focus on development but gloss over national problems, namely, Israel’s occupation. Moreover, the secular, Fateh-affiliated femocrats refuse to work with women in Hamas, who they consider as not abiding by these universal norms.

Day 2: Capitalism, Colonialism, Social Relations and the Gendered Body


Prof. Shirin Rai, Centre for the Study of Women and Gender/Department of Politics and International Studies, University of Warwick

Together with colleagues from Keele and Coventry Universities, Shirin Rai has been exploring how the non-recognition of the value of social reproduction – defined as 1) biological reproduction; 2) unpaid production in the home of both goods and services; and 3) the reproduction of culture and ideology - raises questions about the nature, rate and consequences of the depletion that occurs in doing this work. ‘Depletion’ refers to using up or draining reserves. Whilst ‘depletion’ is accounted for in mining and extractive industries, ‘depletion’ of individuals is not. By paying attention to the depletion of individuals, this would demonstrate the real costs that are accrued in the process of social reproduction and the levels of subsidy to the economy that are generated. If we do not know the level of depletion, we do not know how much replenishment is necessary and if we do not know how much replenishment is necessary, this can lead to harm to the individual, the household as well as the community. Recognition and measurement of social reproduction and the depletion that accrues through it are therefore important to address gender policy on work, welfare and equality.


Prof. Eileen Kuttab, Institute of Women’s Studies, Birzeit University

Eileen Kuttab’s presentation examined the ‘neo-liberal economic development’ occurring under Israel’s colonization of Palestine. Unlike other historical contexts of colonialism, the national bourgeoisie in Palestine have not built a national economy in order to de-link it from global capitalism. Instead, there has emerged a comprador bourgeoisie, coopted by the Palestinian Authority and working within the pre-determined boundaries of what constitutes the Palestinian economy. Following the Oslo Accords of 1993, the Palestinian Authority signed the Paris Protocols, which aimed at transforming the Palestinian economy into an export-oriented market economy, therefore transforming the peasant economy, which had been an essential part of the grassroots, self-sufficiency movement against Israel’s colonization policies. As part of the so-called economic peace, industrial zones have been developed in Palestine, similar to the regional model in Jordan and Egypt, using Israeli capital and local labour. This has been a strategy for generating employment; however, such employment is low paid and unprotected by the labour law. In addition, the industrial zones are established on most fertile agricultural land as a way to neglect agricultural production as a strategy for developing the Palestinian economy which is particularly harmful for women, who, traditionally, have been economically active in agriculture.


Dr Rachel Cohen, Department of Sociology, University of Surrey (formerly of the University of Warwick)

Rachel Cohen’s presentation focused on her research into ‘ body work’, referring to work on the bodies of others. This includes hairdressers, carers, doctors, undertakers, sex workers and security personnel. Approximately 70 per cent of body workers are women. We are witnessing the commodification of body work despite the intimacy of this type of work. Unlike other ‘products’ within global capitalism, bodies cannot be divided up between different institutions/locations; body work cannot be mechanized or standardized. Therefore, how does global capitalism make body work profitable? For example, the body work process is divided amongst different workers in order to enable the employment of less-skilled labour and is pushed into the informal/semi-formal sector to enable workers to be paid less. This has negative repercussions not only for workers themselves but also for the bodies upon which they work.


Prof. Rema Hammami, Institute of Women’s Studies, Birzeit University

Rema Hammami explored the intersecting notions of ‘ neo-liberal’ development, ‘good governance’ and ‘earned sovereignty’ in relation to Palestine. In recent years, and as discussed by Paul Williams, the international community has adopted a strategy of ‘earned sovereignty’ as a means of conflict resolution. Instead of a right to self-determination for all nations, there is an obligation for nations to earn their sovereignty. In the context of Palestine, Rema explains how ‘earned sovereignty’ was central to the Oslo peace process and has included donor-funded/donor-determined institution-building and implementation of neo-liberal economic policies. A particular focus of donor-funded institution-building has been the Palestinian security services, whose objective has been to end Palestinian resistance to Israel’s occupation. However, the second intifada represented the implosion of ‘earned sovereignty’ for Palestinians. Since 2005, there is a split amongst Palestinians between the notion of continued struggle for self-determination and continued implementation of ‘earned sovereignty’.


Dr Penny Johnson, Institute of Women’s Studies, Birzeit University

Penny Johnson discussed the “salary” paid to Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails and the Palestinian National Cash Transfer programme, introduced by the Palestinian Authority in 2010. The PNCT programme represents the reform of the Palestinian Authority’s social safety net scheme in order to meet donor requirements for ‘good governance’. In this respect, the PNCT is part of the discourse of Palestinian institution-building and ‘ earned sovereignty’. Both the PNCT and the prisoners’ salary scheme produce the ‘charitable or bureaucratic subject’. Such a framework reconfigures the Palestinian social contract where the ‘salary’ serves to place Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails (numbering approximately 7000) on the margins of the quasi-state, rather than at the centre of the national project. Until the Oslo peace process, Palestinian prisoners were central to the Palestinian national imaginary whereas now Palestinian ex-prisoners feel isolated, whilst the wives of prisoners, who are responsible for raising children, supporting their husbands’ families and visiting their husbands in prison, no longer feel supported by community, society and polity. In this respect, the situation of Palestinian prisoners within the ‘earned sovereignty’ project of the Oslo process is another example of how neoliberalism and ‘good governance’ intersect to marginalize resistance against Israeli occupation.