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.Continue reading ‘Doing Well, Don’t Worry’: Exhibiting Archives as a Feminist Practice
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.Continue reading Framing Women’s Rights in Nepali Street Art
The newly published anthology Ethiopia Illustrated: Church Paintings, Maps and Drawings is a result of my appointment as Associate Fellow of the Ethiopian Academy of Sciences in 2017. The suggestion was aired to publish a volume with my research articles on Ethiopian manuscripts and paintings, which had previously appeared in a variety of journals accessible to readerships in Europe and North America, but which were not easily accessible in Ethiopia. Such a project necessitated obtaining permission to republish the articles, which fortunately was quickly forthcoming. But it also necessitated obtaining funding to print not only seven articles, but also no fewer than 146 illustrations in one volume. The Ethiopian Academy Press was keen to do so, but asked if financial assistance was available.Continue reading Ethiopia Illustrated: Manuscripts and Painting in Ethiopia – Examples from the Seventeenth to the Nineteenth Century
In the early 1970s, a slim pink book designated as the first issue in a series titled Frauen(raub)druck (Women’s (Bootleg) Print) became a best-seller in the burgeoning women’s movement in German-speaking countries. To categorise the influential publication is, however, a challenging task for more than one reason. Bearing two titles but no year of publication, the book lacks unambiguous and comprehensive bibliographic information.1 Also, the editors remained anonymous, and beyond a connection with the West Berlin Women’s Centre (Frauenzentrum Berlin), it is difficult to ascertain their place in the feminist milieus of the 1970s. But importantly, by linking the movement with two distinct historical and political contexts (early twentieth-century German research on gender roles in ancient societies and 1960s US-American radical feminism), the book raises questions about how to conceptualise historical awareness in 1970s feminism. To better understand the specific relationship between past, present and future the editors imagined, we have to go back to the critical feminist thinking on the production of historical feminisms that has developed since the 1990s.Continue reading The Production of Historical Feminisms, Part One: Historical Awareness and Political Activism
- For more information on the publication and its historical context, see Johanna Gehmacher, ‘Macht/Lust – Übersetzung und fragmentierte Traditionsbildung als Strategien zur Mobilisierung eines radikalen Feminismus’, in Angelika Schaser et al. (eds.), Erinnern, vergessen, umdeuten? Europäische Frauenbewegungen im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert (Frankfurt, 2019), 95–123.
In 1964 the first of composer Benjamin Britten and writer William Plomer’s ‘Church Parables’—Curlew River—was premiered at the Aldeburgh Festival in St. Bartholomew’s Church in Orford. Britten had been working on the project off and on with his librettist Plomer following Britten’s encounter with Noh theatre during a visit to Japan in 1955. Though the initial intention was simply to set the famous Noh play Sumidagawa to music, it was decided in 1959 that, given that the work was to be premiered in St. Bartholomew’s, it should be ‘a Christian work’ and set in medieval England in the form of a mystery play.1Continue reading Britten’s Virtual Mystery
- Letter to Plomer, 15 April 1959, quoted in: Mervyn Cooke, Britten and the Far East: Asian Influences in the Music of Benjamin Britten (Woodbridge, 1998), 142–143. ‘Christian’ underline in original.
In her captivating autobiographical novel Buiten het gareel [Out of Line], the Indonesian author Suwarsih Djojopuspito painted a vivid image of her experiences as an activist teacher during the last few years of Dutch rule in Indonesia. The book, published in Dutch in 1940, tells the story of Sulastri, an idealistic young teacher who runs a non-governmental school for Indonesian children together with her husband, Sugondo.Continue reading Not your Average National Hero: Scattered Archives and the Women of the Indonesian Anticolonial Movement
Most people who know me will tell you that I enjoy fewer things more than foraging in archives. I have been an archive rat since my days as a researcher on a national historical commission. My love of unusual nuggets (an asbestos sample), dust-encrusted fingers, and the tangible vestiges of previous researchers (documents bedecked in cigarette burns), is even becoming a monograph about one archive and its uses and abuses in the post-World War II era.Continue reading The Spaces Between: Interstitial Archives and Childbirth Activism in 1970s West Germany and the United States
It is doubly fitting that my book on German-speaking historians who emigrated to Britain after 1933 has now been published in the GHIL’s book series. As the holder of a GHIL scholarship, I had the pleasure to be based at the Institute during two archival research trips to London, and since the majority of sources for my project are in British archives, the chance to visit Britain and consult materials in person was indispensable. The GHIL also provided a highly stimulating intellectual environment, especially when I spoke about my Ph.D. project at the Institute‘s colloquium, which strongly shaped the ultimate direction of my research.Continue reading Historiography in Emigration: German Historians in Great Britain after 1933
The British Women’s Liberation Movement (WLM) of the late 1970s was marked by intense anxiety and discussion about the status of ‘theory’. At their last national conference held in Birmingham in 1978, the WLM buckled under the weight of a decade of collectively generated, epistemic and ideological complexity, cut across by social divisions of race, sexuality and class. In the aftermath, a radical feminist day workshop was held at the White Lion Free School, London, in April 1979, partly ‘out of a sense of desperation at feeling that none of the most evident and vocal factions at the plenary represented the politics of very many women in Women’s Liberation.’1 The meeting was also an occasion to unpick the movement’s ideological and, increasingly theoretical, density.Continue reading Knowledge Trouble – Practice, Theory and Anxiety in late 1970s Feminist Movements
- ‘We are the Feminists that Women Have Warned Us About:* Introductory Paper’, in Feminist Practice: Notes from the Tenth Year! (Theoretically Speaking) (London, 1979), 1–4, at 1.