Conferences & Symposia

Women Making Democracy

Conference

Each year, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University hosts a conference that explores from many perspectives the role of gender in a significant aspect of the human experience. This year’s conference, titled "Women Making Democracy," will consider the role of women specifically—and gender more generally—in movements for democratic change.

Activists, journalists, and academics from different fields and disciplines will examine and analyze recent events in countries affected by the democratizing efforts often described as “Arab Spring” and compare women’s experiences of these events with those of women in other moments of democratic change around the world, including Eastern Europe, South Africa, and Latin America.

Organizing Committee

Jennifer Hochschild, Chair
Henry LaBarre Jayne Professor of Government, Professor of African and African American Studies, and Harvard College Professor, Department of Government, Harvard University

Lizabeth Cohen, Dean, Radcliffe Institute for Advancved Study
Howard Mumford Jones Professor of American Studies, Department of History, Harvard University

Leila Ahmed
Victor S. Thomas Professor of Divinity, Harvard Divinity School

Nancy F. Cott, Carl and Lily Pforzheimer Foundation Director of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study
Jonathan Trumbull Professor of History, Department of History, Harvard University

Jane J. Mansbridge
Adams Professor of Political Leadership and Democratic Values, Harvard Kennedy School

Nancy Rosenblum
Senator Joseph Clark Professor of Ethics in Politics and Government Political Theory, Department of Government, Harvard University

Hashim Sarkis
Aga Khan Professor of Landscape Architecture and Urbanism in Muslim Societies, Department of Urban Planning and Design, Graduate School of Design, Harvard University

Malika Zeghal
Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Professor in Contemporary Islamic Thought and Life, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University

Schedule

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The conference will open with an artistic performance that reinforces the themes of the gendered nature of democratic struggles through a dramatic reading of a work written in direct response to the ongoing revolution in Egypt. The ticketed event will feature a staged reading of Ibrahim El-Husseini’s Commedia Al-Ahzaan (A Comedy of Sorrows), translated by Rebekah Maggor and Mohammed Albakry, as commissioned by the Radcliffe Institute. The play, which premiered recently at the experimental Al-Ghad Theatre in Cairo, follows a young university-educated Egyptian woman. Through a series of encounters with different members of society, she comes to realize how little she understood her own country.

The reading will be followed by a discussion with the playwright and others, who together will provide context for this theatrical response to the revolution, focusing in particular on the themes addressed in the conference.

7:00 pm

Doors open

7:30 pm

Welcome and Introduction

Lizabeth Cohen, Dean, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study; Howard Mumford Jones Professor of American Studies, Department of History, Harvard University

7:45 pm

Dramatic Reading of Commedia Al-Ahzaan (A Comedy of Sorrows)

8:45 pm

Panel Discussion with Q&A Session

Rebekah Maggor, Director, A Comedy of Sorrows; Lecturer, Department of English, Vanderbilt University

Ibrahim El-Husseini, Playwright, A Comedy of Sorrows

Cynthia Schneider, Former United States Ambassador to the Netherlands; Distinguished Professor in Practice of Diplomacy, Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, and Associate Professor of Art History, Department of Art and Art History, Georgetown University

Moderated by Robin Young, Host,Here & Now, WBUR

9:30 pm

Reception

Friday, March 30, 2012
7:45 am

Registration 

8:45 am

Welcoming Remarks

Lizabeth Cohen, Dean, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study; Howard Mumford Jones Professor of American Studies, Department of History, Harvard University

Jennifer Hochschild, Henry LaBarre Jayne Professor of Government, Professor of African and African American Studies, and Harvard College Professor, Department of Government, Harvard University

9:00 am

Keynote Address with Q&A Session

Shahira Amin, Egyptian journalist

Leila Ahmed, Victor S. Thomas Professor of Divinity, Harvard Divinity School, will moderate the question-and-answer session.

9:45 am

Break 

10:00 am

Panel: “Public Places, Alternative Spaces”

This discussion will illuminate the ways that women’s presence has democratized uses of space. It will also question the connection between revolution and the street by exploring virtual spaces such as the blogosphere and women’s hidden activism in crevices of the city, where every space may be reenvisioned for its mobilizing potential.

Nadje al-Ali, Professor of Gender Studies, Centre for Gender Studies, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London

Mounira Charrad, Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Texas at Austin

Philip N. Howard, Associate Professor, Department of Communication, Jackson School of International Studies, Information School, University of Washington

Shireen Hassim, Professor of Politics; Department of Political Studies, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg

Moderated by Hashim Sarkis, Aga Khan Professor of Landscape Architecture and Urbanism in Muslim Societies, Department of Urban Planning and Design, Graduate School of Design, Harvard University

11:45 am

Lunch

The lunch break is also an opportunity to view related exhibits on campus, which may include an associated exhibit at the Schlesinger Library, an art exhibit in the Byerly Hall gallery, and an exhibit at the Graduate School of Design.

1:00 pm

Panel: “Women, Rights, and Power”

Given that demands for democratization are typically framed in universalistic language, this panel will consider ways in which women take important roles in making demands for democratization or for participation in newly democratic governments. It will also examine how gender-specific issues become a central component of demands on newly democratized governments.

Dalia Mogahed, Executive Director and Senior Analyst, Gallup Center for Muslim Studies

Rima Khalaf, Undersecretary General and Executive Secretary, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia

Heba Raouf Ezzat, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Faculty of Economics and Political Science, Cairo University

Ann Snitow, Director, Gender Studies Program, and Associate Professor, Literature and Gender Studies, Eugene Lang College for Liberal Arts, the New School; Cofounder and Board Member, Network of East and West Women (NEWW)

Moderated by Jane J. Mansbridge, Adams Professor of Political Leadership and Democratic Values, Harvard Kennedy School

2:45 pm

Break 

3:00 pm

Panel: “Representing Women: Culture, Religion, and Revolution”

This discussion presents a dialogue among activists, scholars, and cultural analysts. They will reflect on cultural practices and iconic representations of women as they play out in democratizing movements, with a particular interest in the place of religion in democratic politics.

Dalenda Larguèche, Professor of History and Women Studies, Université de la Manouba (Tunisia)

Beth Baron, Professor of History, the City College of New York; Codirector, Middle East and Middle Eastern American Center, the Graduate Center, City University of New York; Editor, International Journal of Middle East Studies

Elzbieta Matynia, Associate Professor of Sociology and Liberal Studies; Director of the Transregional Center for Democratic Studies, The New School for Social Research

Moderated by Malika Zeghal, Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Professor in Contemporary Islamic Thought and Life, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University 

4:30 pm

Rapporteur Discussion

Two rapporteurs will highlight the major themes of the conference, tying together issues raised across panels. They will compare different countries and moments of democratic change to help participants understand what is distinctive about “Arab Spring” and what is universal about women making democracy.

Temma Kaplan, Professor of History, Department of History, School of Arts and Sciences, Rutgers University

Leila Fawaz, Issam M. Fares Professor of Lebanese and Eastern Mediterranean Studies; Founding Director, Fares Center for Eastern Mediterranean Studies, Tufts University; President, Board of Overseers, Harvard University

Moderated by Nancy Rosenblum, Senator Joseph Clark Professor of Ethics in Politics and Government Political Theory, Department of Government, Harvard University

5:00 pm

Closing Remarks

Jennifer Hochschild

Lizabeth Cohen

5:15 pm

Reception