The Politics of Photography: An Interview with Mary-Ann Kennedy

In the run-up to the launch of the GHIL’s online exhibition ‘Forms, Voices, Networks: Feminism and the Media‘ on 23 November, 2021 at 1pm GMT, we chatted with artist and activist Mary Ann Kennedy. Kennedy is a founding member of the Photography Workshop (Edinburgh)/Portfolio Gallery and the WildFires network for women who work in and with photography in Scotland. She is currently the Programme Leader for the BA(Hons) Photography degree at Edinburgh Napier University. The interviewer is Jane Freeland, the coordinator of the International Standing Working Group and a historian of feminism and gender in modern Germany working at the GHIL.

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Conference Report: The Twelfth Medieval History Seminar, 30 September–2 October 2021

Now in its twelfth iteration, the biennial Medieval History Seminar (MHS) has become an established platform for postgraduate students to present and discuss ongoing research projects on the Middle Ages with distinguished medievalists as well as their peers. It has also become a cherished tradition of the German Historical Institute London; however, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many traditional events to be postponed or adapted, and the Medieval History Seminar was no exception.

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Sustaining ‘Information for Women’: The Informationsdienst für Frauenfragen, the American Military Occupation, and Women’s Politics in West Germany, 1951–1990

‘The Women’s Affairs unit…is based on the recognition of the fact that German women are in a decisive position either to promote or retard the development of Germany as a democratic state.’1 This statement appeared as part of a 1949 report by the Women’s Affairs branch of the Office of Military Government, United States (OMGUS). The post-war ‘surplus’ of women meant that there were an estimated 7 million more women than men across occupied Germany. As such, the Western authorities (in this case, American) invested time and resources in the late 1940s and early 1950s in ‘retraining’ programs for women.

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  1. National Archives, College Park, Maryland, Reports Women’s Affairs, box 51, file 5, Women’s Affairs Branch, Semi-Annual Report, 1 July-31 December 1949 (accessed July 2008). []

‘Doing Well, Don’t Worry’: Exhibiting Archives as a Feminist Practice

In 2014, my colleagues at the Cairo-based Women and Memory Forum (WMF) and I decided to establish a women’s museum in Egypt. I was motivated by two things. The first was the absence of feminist narratives in museums in Egypt and across the Arab region. While Egypt hosts more than seventy museums, not a single one is dedicated to women’s history and only a handful of these museums are specialized biographical museums on famous women figures. The second was the expanding collections of archives and objects of material culture housed at WMF.

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#IchBinHanna: What next?

Since around the middle of June 2021, academics in Germany have been posting reports of their experiences and criticisms of the Wissenschaftszeitvertragsgesetz (WissZeitVG) or German Law on Fixed-Term Contracts in Higher Education and Research1 under the Twitter hashtag #IchBinHanna.

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  1. This law limits the length of employment contracts for doctoral candidates to a maximum of six years before the completion of their dissertations, and for postdocs to a maximum of six years after completion of their dissertations. The vast majority of academics in Germany are employed on fixed-term contracts, often for only one or two years at a time, and even postdocs often have only a 50 per cent contract. Tenured posts hardly exist, so for many the only goal is to secure one of the increasingly rare full professorships. []

Understanding Social Change through the Digital Humanities

How has the mass media supported, enabled or challenged women’s emancipation? How have feminists used the media to promote women’s issues and rights? How have these messages been interpreted by the public? And how has this changed since the emergence of the mass press in the late nineteenth century?

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Framing Women’s Rights in Nepali Street Art

If you walk down the streets of Kathmandu, you can’t fail to notice its vibrant street art scene. When I first visited the city in 2018, I was taken aback by the juxtaposition of heritage buildings and slick urban iconography that defined the capital and its environs. Outside the Zoo in Patan, for example, a long grey wall is adorned with girls’ hand-prints. The prints flow from the pen of a schoolgirl, painted in her uniform, drawing on the wall with her back to the viewer. Above her, the English words ‘Wall of Hope’ float in a deliberate scrawl. In the corner of the work just visible is the signature ‘Pink Riches’—a Minneapolis-based street artist.

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Intervention on Behalf of Foreign Subjects during the Anglo-Spanish War, 1585–1604

It is fitting that my dissertation on the idea of intervention and protection of foreign subjects during the Anglo-Spanish War (1585–1604) has been published in the GHIL’s series, as it touches on one of the most researched periods of English history: the reign of Queen Elizabeth I and the Anglo-Spanish War. My study investigates the conflict-ridden relationship between Protestant England and Catholic Spain in the incipient Age of Confession as reflected in publications and drafts of declarations of war and war manifestos, which scholarship has shown to be sources of vital importance for the history of political thought in the early modern period.

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Prophecies and (Hi)Stories: Telling the Conquest of Constantinople in 1453

From a Euro-Mediterranean perspective, the conquest of Constantinople led by the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II in 1453 not only marked the end of the Byzantine empire that had lasted more than a millennium, but also the end of the European Middle Ages. Rightly considered a ‘moment of great historical significance’1 by both contemporaries and modern researchers, the conquest of Constantinople ‘had repercussions that went far beyond its walls’2 not only politically and economically, but also culturally and socially.

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  1. The Siege of Constantinople 1453: Seven Contemporary Accounts, ed. by John Melville-Jones (Amsterdam, 1972), vii. []
  2. Michael Angold, ‘Turning Points in History: The Fall of Constantinople’, Byzantinoslavica, 71 (2013), 11–30, at 12. []

The Production of Historical Feminisms, Part Two: Transnational Strategies and the Feminist ‘We’

With this post, Johanna Gehmacher returns to the issues of tradition-building and historicization within women’s movements. Using a book that combined trans-temporal and transnational strategies to legitimise and incite feminist activism in West Germany in the 1970s as a case study, Gehmacher examines the production of meaning within feminist movements and the interconnection between visions and politics of the past, present and future in feminism. Part One of this series can be found here.

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