The Birzeit University Institute of Women Studies Holds Sixth Annual Conference: “Doing Politics in Palestine: Between Alienation and Participation”

On the 20th anniversary of its founding, the Birzeit University Institute of Women Studies held its sixth annual conference “Doing Politics in Palestine: Between Alienation and Participation” on March 15, 2014 at the Said Khoury Building.

This year’s conference explored political organizational forms and political activism in Palestine and the Arab World in the wake of recent socio-economic and political changes in the region. The conference provided a conceptual framework that recognizes the intersection and dynamic interplay of gender, social issues, political structures and knowledge formation.

Conference panels included an exciting set of papers exploring a range of fundamental issues on “doing politics” including:

  • emerging forms of political organizing that appear to refuse more traditional forms of organization through political parties and political ideologies and the debates on the ability of these new forms to affect the political field;
  • the validity of alienating dichotomies prevalent in the political realm, such as those between humankind and nature, woman and man, and knowledge and the bearer of knowledge; and
  • the political, economic, and cultural formations characteristic of the post-Oslo era and the ways in which the Palestinian feminist and student movements have engaged with these formations.

At the opening session, the Institute honored its founders Ilham Abu Ghazaleh, Rita Giacaman, Eileen Kuttab, Lisa Taraki, Rema Hammami, Islah Jad, Lamis Abu Nahla and Penny Johnson, in addition to honoring Rula Abu Daho for her role in national struggle.

The conference included three sessions, described below:

First Panel: Knowledge Production and the Political Field: Political Activism in the Face of Hegemonic Conceptions.

  • Moderator: Rema Hammami
  • Laura Khoury: Geo-political Knowledge and the Scheme of Exporting Knowledge
  • Vijay Prashad: After Neoliberalism: Building the Other Possible World
  • Abdul-Rahim Al-Shaikh: Playing House: Performances of the Spectacle in the New Palestine
  • Frances Hasso: Reflections on Remembering, Forgetting, and Denial in Egyptian Storytelling

Second Panel: Political Participation and Alienation within Palestinian Feminist Activism.

  • Moderator: JamilKhader
  • Eileen Kuttab: Formation of Feminist Concepts in a Context of National and Political Alienation post Oslo: Palestinian Situation
  • Dalal Salameh, Khitam Saafin, Areen Hawari: Feminist Perspectives on the Forms of Political Participation/Alienation after Oslo.

Third Panel: Political and Organizational Transformations in Youth and Student Activism.

  • Moderator: Lena Meari
  • Wissam Rafeedie: “Altaqaddom” Student Newsletter: On the Relationship between the Form of Organization and the Union and Democratic Struggle of Students During the Eighties
  • Firas Jaber: Youth Mobilization in Palestine: Quickly from Spring to Autumn
  • Student Movement Representatives: Student Movement at Birzeit University, the Student Strike as a Case Study