Conference: Feminist Thought as a Tool for Resistance (June 2007)

Mada al-Carmel and Birzeit University hold international feminist conference: Palestinian Voices: Feminist Thought as a Tool for Resistance

The Gender Studies Program at Mada al-Carmel launched its first International Feminist Conference, to the sounds of music played on the Kanoon. In the critical and open atmosphere, conference participants used the tools of feminist theory to examine the contemporary and historical role of the voice of Palestinian women, questioning mainstream hegemonic discourse – a masculine, elite domain. Far more than an academic exercise, the conference aimed to give a space for Palestinian women from both sides of the Green Line to work together to build and strengthen women’s role in resistance in future – to challenge the mainstream both within and beyond their own society.

One of Mada al-Carmel's primary goals is to provide an institutional base and an intellectual climate to study the needs and collective future of Palestinians of 1948 and their relationship with the rest of the Palestinian nation and the Arab World. Thus the two-day conference started in Nazareth on June 28th and continued in Birzeit on June 29th, in collaboration with the Women Studies Institute at Birzeit University, bringing together feminist researchers, theorists and scholars from a multitude of disciplines, with the purpose of making the voices of feminist academics and activists heard, and disseminating their research and practical experiences.

The conference covered a broad range of issues, including papers such as; "Globalization and Gender" (Eileen Kuttab); "Gender, Nation and Resistance in Palestine" (Dr Rabab Abdulhadi); "Women & Economy" (Mr Mtanes Shehadeh); "Voicing Women into History" (Dr Rosemary Sayigh); "Connecting the National to the Social" (Dr Faiha Abdul Hadi); Race-Ing and Gendering the Camp" (Prof Sherene Razack); Gender and the National Planning Discourse in Israel" (Dr Yosef Jabareen); "Feminist Thought As A Tool For Resistance" (Dr Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian).

After the opening day in Nazareth, participants boarded a bus and drove across occupied Palestinian land to the city of Ramallah to join Birzeit colleagues, prevented from attending the first day in the Galilee. At an evening reception, Dr Nadera Kevorkian and Dr Faiha Abdul Hadi launched new publications, while Dr Rosemary Sayigh introduced her new e-book, an archive of women’s voices available online.

Over 250 participants attended the conference, challenging geographically imposed boundaries, and sharing in an event which provided a much needed space for women to explore the possibilities of international feminist thought and experiences as a powerful tool for their own struggle – for Palestinian women’s resistance.