The Arab Institute for Women

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International Conference: Women & Gender Studies in the Middle East

The Association for Middle East Women’s Studies (AMEWS) in partnership with the Arab Institute for Women (AiW) at the Lebanese American University (LAU) and the Bobst-AUB Collaborative Initiative at the American University in Beirut (AUB), organized an international conference on “Women and Gender Studies in the Middle East” over a period of 3 days (June 21, 22 and 23). LAU hosted the opening ceremony and the panel discussions on June 21.

In the opening ceremony, Ms. Myriam Sfeir (Director of the AiW, LAU) welcomed the participants and emphasized the importance of the collaborative work among the participating institutions in helping young scholars showcase their research and discuss pertinent issues related to gender. Then, Dr. Michel Mawad (President of LAU) delivered his word of appreciation to the efforts of AiW and AMEWS, and reemphasized LAU’s commitment to gender equality. The ceremony followed by Jennifer Olmsted’s (President of AMEWS) statement which thanked LAU and pointed up the significance of this event in reuniting efforts to achieving gender equality in the Middle East. Finally, Ms. Amel Grami gave the keynote address.

After the opening ceremony, the discussion was divided into two panels, each of which addressed two different topics, simultaneously, over three phases. During the first phase, the first panel addressed the topic of “Building Radical Feminist Futures: The Politics of Graduate Student Experience”. Graduate students shared their experiences and work on gender issues, and the prospects for building a more feminist future for the coming generations. The second panel, meanwhile, discussed the topic of “Constructing Sex, Gender, and Sexuality Past and Present”. Through a critical feminist lens, prominent speakers and academics highlighted the evolution of the concepts of gender and sexuality in the Middle East by focusing on topics like religious knowledge, and family and feminism.

The second phase was divided into two panels as well. The first panel addressed the topic of “Debating Gendered Experiences and Consciousness”. During this session, speakers and academics discussed the effects of religiosity and masculinities on women, women’s agency, and gender in public spaces. The second panel considered the topic of “Identity Struggles Across Borders: Migration, Diaspora, and Globalization” where participants talked about gender and mobility, gendered roles and women’s work in Palestine and the Arab world. 

The third phase concluded the discussion through two panels. The first panel, which was on “Gendered Representations”, discussed sex work (e.g., in Turkey), the effects of colonialism on women, and the challenges which women endure in minority groups in the Middle East. The second panel explored the topic of “Health: Physical, Mental, and Reproductive”. The panelists discussed women’s physical and mental well-being, their experiences with abortion services, and spatial spaces (e.g., in Egypt).

On the following days, the discussions proceeded at AUB. The panelists addressed several topics on women and gender in history, the state, research, labor, education, religion, marriage etc. Moreover, the Asfari Institute for Civil Society and Citizenship at AUB organized an activist panel and a field visit where the participants had the chance to discover and explore different NGOs working on issues of human and women’s rights in Lebanon. After a total of 3 days of discussions on women and gender at LAU and AUB, the event was finally concluded.