by Catalina Ballesteros Garzón and Rebecca Moltmann
As a way to circumvent the constraints of the pandemic, the ZiF research group “Global Contestations of Women’s and Gender Rights” created the podcast series “Whose Rights, Which Rights?”. The series was meant to convey the group’s main topics while continuously underlining the relevance of its international and interdisciplinary approach.
After two years of intense work, the research group “Global Contestations of Women’s and Gender Rights”, led by PD Dr. Alexandra Scheele, Prof. Dr. Julia Roth, and Prof. Dr. Heidemarie Winkel (all Bielefeld University) came to an end. It was challenging; the pandemic started just as some researchers began their on-site residency, and the ZiF became a haven for them, a kind of unexpected monastery for a research withdrawal. Others were unable to travel which was unfortunate because the group was notably diverse. The fellows were from Brazil, Colombia, Nigeria, Pakistan, the United States, Morocco, Hungary, Austria, Great Britain, among other countries, and came from areas such as Philosophy, Legal Studies, History, Religious Studies, Theology, Anthropology, Sociology, Political Sciences, Gender Studies, Linguistics, and Literary and Cultural Studies.
According to Julia Roth, it is key to understand that gender is central to discussing a variety of matters relevant to society. There are many interrelated conjunctures: migration, wealth distribution, labor force and, of course, violence – particularly femicide. Given that such interrelations occur on a global scale, the variety of backgrounds of the fellows, rather than being a challenge, was completely logical and adequate. The communication and exchange within the group flowed effortlessly, says Alexandra Scheele: an “international approach was beyond our desire, it just makes sense to work in that way. The global alliances exist, in the right-wing activism for example, and it was crucial to see the connections”.
The convenors were convinced that the group’s topic had a lot to contribute to understanding the present global crises. The substantial increase of sectors, primarily conservative and right-wing oriented, who oppose the struggles for gender justice and sexual diversity is worrying. There was a lot to be said, but the way interactions and events were thought to be done, had to be changed completely. This drove the group to try other ways of reaching people and disseminating scientific knowledge, different from the ‘zoomification’ of academic events. This was how the idea of a podcast was formed; it appeared to be a really good format to explore the respective research areas of the fellows and dwell on how and why women’s and gender rights are being attacked. The concrete push for the podcast series was finally given by the fellow Andrea Pető who already had experience with this format.
Katharina Ußling and Mira Regauf, students and members of the campus radio of Bielefeld University, Hertz 87.9, took on the task of producing with great enthusiasm. They asked the right questions to make the dialogue interesting to a listener who is not necessarily an expert on such topics and, therefore, needs details to understand the context better. Over the course of 10 episodes, the podcast explores the theoretical and conceptual approach of the group as well as empirical cases. The topics covered religion, citizenship and democracy, reproductive rights, the crisis of care – including the context of the pandemic –, all through the lens of gender. The podcast was also supposed to stress the urgency of reflecting on such issues. Keeping such topics alive in public opinion may help raise awareness about the fact that despite the existence of normative tools and legal frameworks that grant rights to women and LGBTQI+ people, equity and a dignified life have not been guaranteed.
|1) Introducing the Research Group||Three main areas: gendered division of labor and care work, authoritarian forms of religion and their instrumentalization, and the gendering of citizenship and the questioning of sexual and reproductive rights.|
|2) Feminist Criticism of Religion||Political scientist Ina Kerner discusses the appropriation of criticism of religion by right-wing groups and parties. In particular, she addresses the AfD (Alternative für Deutschland) and the conflation of feminism with anti-Muslim racism and sheds light on why feminist and scholarly critique of religion is essential.|
|3) Religious and Secular Women’s Movements||Language and gender scholars Fatima Sadiqi and Shirin Zubair talk about the relationship between religious and secular women’s movements in Pakistan and North African countries, and discuss political frameworks for women’s political protest such as the Arab Spring and the instrumentalization of religion by extremist groups.|
|4) How are Gender and Reproductive Rights Challenged Today?||Historian Andrea Pető describes the influence of right-wing conservative and right-wing populist governments, such as in Hungary or Poland, regarding the effects on sexual and reproductive rights throughout Europe.|
|5) Right-Wing Populism and Anti-Gender Campaigns||Cultural studies scholar Julia Roth and the political scientist Birgit Sauer show that gender-hostile views within the ideologies of right-wing conservative, populist, and right extreme actors is a global phenomenon. They also highlight the potential of the concept of intersectionality as a political lens for counter-movements, solidarity alliances, and cooperative strategies beyond national, class-related, cultural, or religious differences, such as the Black Lives Matter movement and initiative #sayhername.|
|6) Women’s Rights in Nigeria||Peace, Conflict, and Security Studies Scholar Onyinye Durueke presents her fieldwork findings in Niger Delta communities in Nigeria, and talks about the restrictions of women’s participatory rights concerning natural resource governance due to a patriarchal culture.|
|7) Post-Colonial Perspectives on Women’s and Gender Rights||Ligia Fabris, law scholar from Brazil, talks about post-colonial perspectives on women’s and gender rights, especially when it comes to politics, gender-based political violence and the rights of trans people within the intersection of law, gender studies and political theory.|
|8) COVID-19 State Responses as Contestation Within Global Capitalism and the Multi-layered Meaning of Social Reproduction||Martina Sproll and Ania Plomien discuss the global approaches to the societal, economic and social consequences of the Covid-19 crisis from the perspective of social reproduction. Gender inequality seems to be exacerbated: more women are taking care of the household once again, and precariousness in caregiving jobs has increased.|
|9) Radical Theory of Democracy: A Perspective to Understand the Contestations of Gender Rights||Time to address democracy fundamentally: not only as a form of government but as an idea of emancipation and self-determination within a community. In this episode, Karsten Schubert and Lívia de Souza Lima, PhD student at Bielefeld University, discuss the contribution of radical democratic theory to understanding the contestations of women’s and gender rights.|
|10) Global Contestations of Gender Rights – A Conclusion||To conclude the podcast series Alexandra Scheele and Julia Roth talk about the results of the research group. They discuss the results of the joint work, the importance of interdisciplinarity and internationality, and the perspectives and challenges for further work. They also talk about their closing publication, the anthology Global Contestations of Gender Rights (transcript, 2022).|