Seminar Meeting report 14/01 “Gender and Knowledge of Terrorism in Palestine”


Thanks to everyone who attended Carl Gibson’s talk on his fieldwork in Palestine. It was fascinating to hear about his varied experiences with interviewing local people and the information he has gathered from doing so. Carl discussed the difficulty in defining the word ‘terrorism’ and the varying use of the word in the Western and Arab media. He has discovered that media and internet discourse on terrorism is highly gendered. He noted that there is much more written about the lives of female terrorists and their motivations than on male terrorists. The sources mentioned often linked the women’s involvement with terrorism to a trauma in their past, such as the death of a child, rather than to political motivations. Yet, Carl suggested there was more of a taboo around these female terrorists as almost all of the posters he has spotted in Palestine were of male martyrs (شهيد/ shahid) rather that female ones (شَهِيدَة/ shahida).One woman in particular, named Hadeel al-Haslamun  has featured on the occasional poster, despite it being unclear whether her refusal to remove her niqab at the Palestine Israeli border was for political reasons.

The discussion after Carl’s paper revolved around the escalation of violence in Palestine and women’s involvement in such violence. We also debated why in war women and children are treated as victims and men often are not and why how this linked to a lack of  biographical information on the internet about male terrorists. As well as discussing the lives of the shahida in more depth, we also discussed the practicalities of Carl’s research in such a dangerous part of the world. It was clear that his many years of living in Palestine were vital to his success in finding interviewees and conducting his research successfully. We wish him all the best for his return to Palestine at the end of the week!


Seminar Meeting Report 03/12 “The Realm of Goddesses in Ancient Mesopotamia”


Monica Palmero Fernandez’s insightful paper introduced us to the ancient land of Mesopotamia (Iraq and Syria in the modern day) and the significance of goddesses in the cultural context of this society. She provided us with various visual representations of the goddesses which included drawings of these figures in human, symbolic, and animal form. Monica explained the complex gender identity of the gods and goddesses, stating that the same gods/goddesses were sometimes represented as male in one depiction and female in another. Their sexualities were also complex and did not reflect sexual norms in Ancient Mesopotamia. Monica connected the powers attributed to the goddesses by the ruling elite to the power structures this elite wished to enforce in the society they governed. For example, kings would write poems declaring their relationships to various deities throughout their lives in order to legitimate their royal status. She ended her paper by discussing the complexities of grappling with her methodological approach to written and visual depictions of the goddesses, which included looking at intersectionality and queer theory.

After her paper, the discussion centered around the role of elite women in male dominated Mesopotamian society, the link between the goddesses and nature, as well as the lack of sources describing the lives of members of society at the lower end of the hierarchy. Furthermore, Monica explained the difficulty in determining the gender of these goddesses from the Sumerian language because it does not have masculine and feminine pronouns or articles.

Maria and Sophie would like to thank Monica for her delightful paper and everyone else who attended our final seminar of 2015. We hope to see you next year for our very first paper which will take place on Thursday 14th January. It will be presented by Carl Gibson from the Politics and International Relations department. He will be providing us an insight into his fieldwork in Palestine.

Have a wonderful winter break!

“Why is housing more important to female satisfaction than male satisfaction?” 22nd October


Thanks to everyone who attended October’s Gender and Sexuality Network meeting!

And… to Chris Foye, of course, for his fascinating paper!

For the first time we were treated to a paper by a PhD student from a non Humanities background. Chris Foyes’ paper examined a data set from Germany and drew conclusions on the relationship between gender and the importance of housing. For example, he drew parallels between the importance of housing for men with or without children, stating that the former considered housing to be far more important than the latter. For women, however, there was no change in their attitudes to their home when they became mothers. His paper lead to a series of questions about the role of a woman’s age in her satisfaction towards her house and also whether marital status was an important factor. The organisers of this group, Maria and Sophie, also questioned whether sexuality played any role in the importance people assign to their housing. We were unsurprised that data from the 90s did not include any statistics on this. Yanos Soubieski, who will be presenting at our next meeting on the 26th November, asked whether attitudes towards housing in the former East and West Germany had reflected the historical changes in the two regions. Chris responded that this was a very interesting question and that he would bear this in mind in the chapter upon which his thesis is based. Cultural comparisons were also made between German, English, Greek, French, and Arabic speaking nations. The audience offered their personal experiences of the ways in which male family members’ attitudes towards their home environment differed from female family members’ attitudes. According to the attendees’ experiences, it often seemed to be the case that the men viewed their houses more in terms of an investment than did the women, putting less emphasis on the  appearance of the inside of the house than the women.

We are now looking forward to Yanos’ paper What’s wrong with Marxist Feminism? Taking the economics out of Marx” on the 26th November 1-2pm in the Graduate School. Look out for the abstract!

Next meeting: Gender Identity in the Mosaics of Roman Spain, 28th May

We are very much looking forward to our next meeting which will take place on 28th May G09 1-2pm. We are pleased to announce that our next talk will be given by Lucy Elkerton from the Universities of Bristol and Southampton.

Here is the abstract for Lucy’s paper:

Europa 2
Rape of Europa Mosaic, Merida

The mosaics of Roman Iberia have been comparatively neglected as an important body of evidence for the society that created them. They contain a range of vivid images including mythological and allegorical scenes, and scenes of “everyday” life. This research aims to demonstrate the potential of this material in understanding the social structures of the communities of the provincial inhabitants of the Iberian Peninsula, in particular in questions of gender identity. How do the images on these mosaics impact on the way that people within this particular community had a sense of their gender? I will argue that by studying the mosaics of the Iberian Peninsula we can discern a discourse of gender: that the images contribute to, and form part of, ideas about what is appropriate behaviour within these communities, and the construction of both masculinities and femininities. This study will specifically look at these questions and this evidence in its local context. In particular, this talk will focus on my initial research so far, which has examined particular mosaics which contribute to an idea of masculinity. For example, a number of hunting mosaics are considered, alongside images of violence against women, which both seem to reinforce a particular set of behaviours for ideal manhood within this provincial community. I aim to examine these mosaics bothEl Hinojal - boar as images of art and as physical artefacts that exist in an archaeological context. By doing so, I believe I can contribute significantly to our knowledge of constructions of gender in Roman Iberia.

And a bit more about Lucy….

Lucy is in her first year of a PhD at the University of Bristol and the University of Southampton. Her thesis is on the mosaics of Roman Spain, in particular looking at how gender is represented and communicated through these images. She’s interested in how this provincial society constructs and performs gendered behaviour, and how these images contribute to these conceptions of gender. She is based in the Classics department at Bristol, and the Archaeology department at Southampton. Her undergraduate and masters degrees are both in Roman Archaeology at Southampton.
We look forward to seeing you at the Graduate School!
La Olmeda Scene
Villa Romano de la Olmeda – Hunt Mosaic

Next Meeting 30th April 1-2pm

Newbury_Abbot_Trent's_TragedyThe next meeting of the Gender and Sexuality Research Network is upon us! We hope to see as many as you as possible in the Graduate School on Thursday 30th April at 1pm in G09. All are welcome!

We are pleased to announce that our speaker for the meeting will be Yasmin Bell from the Department of Film, Theatre and Television.

She will be examining suicide and gendered behavior in early modern British tragedy.

Here is her abstract:

‘Unseemly woman in seemly man!’ Suicide and Standards of Gendered Behaviour in Early Modern British Tragedy

Suicide is a common feature of late Elizabethan and early Jacobean tragedy, despite its taboo status as unlawful and sinful. In the plays discussed, suicide presents the characters with an opportunity to either reclaim their honourable position within gender roles, but potentially transgressing the normative behaviour of their gender in doing so. The self-sacrifice of women, while utilising traits of courage and strength considered unfeminine, is reinscribed as the epitome of femininity when the act is undertaken to maintain chastity and male reputation; the suicide of men, when not in the service of the state, is deemed unmanly and shameful. My focus shall therefore fall upon the following plays: Romeo and Juliet (Shakespeare, 1596), Othello (Shakespeare, 1603), The Maid’s Tragedy (Beaumont and Fletcher, 1611) and The Second Maiden’s Tragedy (Middleton, 1611).

Here is Yasmin’s Bio:

My name is Yasmin Bell, I am 21 years old and currently enrolled on the MA(Res) Theatre Studies course at the University of Reading. I previously attended the University of Winchester for my BA in Drama Studies, where I graduated with first class honours. My research interests include:

  • Theatre and Film Controversies
  • Shakespeare and his Contemporaries
  • “Media Effects” and Contemporary Violent Film and Television
  • Social taboos in performance
  • Feminist critique

In the future I hope to continue combining my different research interests and hobbies (for example, exploring the different audience perceptions of pole dance in live performance and its portrayal in television and film). A more long-term goal is to undertake a PhD at the University of Winchester.

We look forward to seeing you all there!

Concerning Violence: Film Screening and Panel Discussion 23rd March

10991550_10101094358119719_4086808720657747900_oPostgraduate students are invited to join us for the screening and discussion of the film ‘Concerning Violence’ in Old Whiteknight’s house, room G09, 5-7pm.

‘Concerning Violence’ is a ground-breaking documentary by Goran Olsson which is based on Frantz Fanon’s essay ‘De la violence’ (On Violence) in his work Les Damnés de la terre (The Wretched of The Earth). The film has won many awards at film festivals across the globe.

See the trailer here:

The event is organised by Carl Gibson from the Politics department at Reading University with the support of Maria Tomlinson and other PhD students. Maria will be one of the members of the panel who will discuss the film, the works of Frantz Fanon, and the role of violence in the modern world. As co-organiser of the Gender and Sexuality Research Network and a PhD student incorporating feminist theory into her project, Maria hopes to bring a critical feminist perspective on the work of Frantz Fanon. She will be questioning Fanon’s representation of women and also more generally women’s involvement in violent combat and other feminist modes of resistance.

If you are interested in attending please email Carl Gibson at or Maria Tomlinson (see contacts page) by 18th March.

Looking forward to seeing you there!