The Radcliffe Day 2012 panel, "From Front Lines to High Courts: The Law and Social Change," explores the possibilities and limits of the law in making social change.
Historian Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz explores Harvard University’s relationship with women, which she describes as complicated. Her review begins with the University’s founding 375 years ago, when Harvard excluded women as students and teachers. For 200 years, the University conveyed education and prestige to a ministry and a rising merchant class. Beginning in the 19th century, women found innovative ways to attain higher education, but the terms of access required accommodation—even invisibility. Horowitz contends that the fight for equity began more than a century ago and remains a work in progress today. Harvard University President Drew Gilpin Faust offers brief welcoming remarks.
This discussion presents a dialogue among activists, scholars, and cultural analysts. They 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.
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.
This discussion illuminates the ways that women's presence has democratized uses of space. It also questions 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.
Given that demands for democratization are typically framed in universalistic language, this panel considers ways in which women take important roles in making demands for democratization or for participation in newly democratic governments. It also examines how gender-specific issues become a central component of demands on newly democratized governments.
Two rapporteurs highlight the major themes of the conference, tying together issues raised across panels. They 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.
Written in direct response to the ongoing revolution in Egypt, Ibrahim El-Husseini's Commedia Al-Ahzaan (Comedy of Sorrows) follows a young university-educated Egyptian woman through a series of encounters with different members of society. Through these encounters, she comes to realize how little she understands her own country.
Director and screenwriter Deepa Mehta discusses her recent work with Salman Rushdie to adapt his 1981 novel Midnight's Children for the screen—they collaborated closely as he wrote the screenplay—including the challenges of casting 30 principal actors in India and spending days and nights in intensive workshops inspired by the ancient Indian performing arts treatise, the Natya Shastra. Mehta shares her philosophy of filmmaking and how she walks the fine line between conventional storytelling and pure instinct. Following the lecture, she is joined by Bapsi Sidhwa, who wrote the novel on which Mehta's 1998 film Earth was based, to discuss the relationship between author and filmmaker and the evolution of story from print to film.
Nicole Le Douarin (Honorary Professor, Collège de France) explores the neural crest, an important embryonic structure that appeared in primitive vertebrates.