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Visiting Speaker - Dr Lisa Wynn

"Intimate Violence and the Politics of Ethnographic Representation in the Middle East"

Using an ethnographic case study of intimate violence, this paper examines the link between love and desire, pain and violence, kinship and gender roles, and uses that as a springboard for examining a dilemma of representation: when ethnography is always political, how can we write about, and write against, gender violence in the Middle East?

Event details

In drawing public attention to Egyptian women’s experiences of gender violence, activists prevent the victims from experiencing gender violence in isolation, they identify the cultural and political roots of the violence, and they bring it to national and international attention in their efforts to effect systemic reform.  The irony is that international attention often translates these activists’ efforts into fuel for the stereotypes that demonize Arab men (Amar 2011).  In such an international economy of representations, how, then, might we proceed to examine structures that enable the oppression of women without creating a category of passive Egyptian women who are oppressed -- thus missing the ways that women successfully defy male dominance, and the ways that men refuse or fail to dominate?  How do we examine sexual harassment and violence against women without letting these become “the ‘essence’ of an invented idea called ‘Egyptian men’” (Kareem 2013)?  How can we understand a multiplicity of violences, ranging from the verbal harassment of women on the street to sexual assault at knifepoint, without rendering those into one monolithic concept of “male violence,” yet still stay attuned to the power that the whole assemblage  (Deleuze and Guattari 1987) of violences has to both discipline female behaviour in Egypt and organize Western thinking about the Middle East?  (Warning: This paper will include a brief narrative of sexual assault which may trigger strong reactions for some listeners.)

Lisa Wynn received her PhD from Princeton University and completed a postdoc at the same institution before coming to Australia where she is Associate Professor and Head of the Anthropology Department at Macquarie University in Sydney.  She is currently working on two ARC-funded research projects: one looks at emerging reproductive health technologies and women's lives in Egypt, focusing on non-normative heterosexualities, and out of this project she has started to write about love and desire and the tactics women use to navigate gender roles and moral codes.  The other project examines different disciplines' responses to the expanding regime of ethics surveillance over "human subjects" research.  She is the author of Pyramids and Nightclubs (University of Texas Press, 2007) and co-editor of Emergency Contraception: The Story of a Global Reproductive Health Technology (Palgrave, 2012) and the forthcoming Abortion Pills, Test Tube Babies and Sex Toys: Exploring Reproductive and Sexual Technologies in the Middle East and North Africa (In press for 2017, Vanderbilt University Press), both with Angel Foster.  She teaches classes on research methods, medical anthropology, and drugs, for which she has won a national teaching award from the Australian government.

Lisa_Wynn___A4_Notice.pdf (511K)


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