17. The role(s) of women in diasporic mobilization

The role(s) of women in diasporic mobilization: a feminist peace research perspective

Convenors: Caecilie Svop Jensen, Zahra Edalati & Dr. Élise Féron, Tampere University

Contact: caecilie.svopjensen (at) tuni.fi

Seminar room: Aspire (Parallel session 4)

Format: Hybrid

Gendered perspectives in research on diaspora mobilization are scarce and few studies focus on women’s perspectives in diaspora mobilization and activism. Contrary to migration studies, incorporating gender perspectives in diaspora studies is a rather recent trend (Féron 2021). In this context we propose a panel focusing on how women participate in political mobilization for 'homeland' issues and how they express agency in diasporic settings. Incorporating women’s perspectives and feminist approaches into studying how, why and when diasporas mobilize, helps deconstruct essentialist and homogenizing views of ‘diaspora’ and highlights the inherent complexities of such a category. Women’s experiences are often silenced and overlooked in favor of gendered understandings of diasporas as ‘male’ and in the process of patriarchal structures' reproduction from the home country.

Feminist peace research (FPR) is useful for precisely its focus on systems of knowledge and power, and for its concern with the differentiated experiences of men and women. We invite scholars who work on diasporic mobilization and women to share their research and in particular to discuss the relevance of intersectional and FPR-approaches to generate more nuanced views on diasporas and mobilization. By drawing attention to mobilization, we seek to explore the ways women in diasporas express agency and participate in political activism and mobilization as agents of change.

We propose a panel to explore different cases dealing with women diasporic participation in political mobilization and to discuss the different uses of FPR in this context. After each case has been presented (10-minute presentations) we will discuss, based on the cases presented, the uses of Feminist peace research in the nexus of women and diasporas. We welcome any papers highlighting women’s diasporic mobilization using intersectional or feminist perspectives. We are particularly interested in diasporic mobilization related to ‘homeland’ issues or conflict areas. Critical contributions can depart from these questions/ themes but do not need to be bound by them. The discussion will be chaired by Dr. Élise Féron, co-editor of the Routledge Feminist Peace Research Handbook (2021).


Caecilie Svop Jensen

Laura Gamkrelidze

Zahra Edalati & Majid Imani

Gina Wirz-Suárez


Cæcilie Svop Jensen, PhD Student in Peace and Conflict Research, Tampere Peace Research Institute, caecilie.svopjensen(at)tuni.fi

Gendered engagements: Exploring political mobilization among young Somali women in Finland

Feminist peace research (FPR) proposes to look at continuums of violence and peace instead of conceptualizing them as static or fixed entities in time and space. With this in mind, studying how violence and peace in both the country of origin and residence affect diasporic mobilization, is vitally important to fully understand diasporic spaces and mobilization for the ‘homeland’. Gender being a key tenet of FPR, the above inevitably includes looking at how gender plays a role in these processes. How does gender influence diasporic mobilization and continuums of violence and peace? How does peace, violence and conflict manifest in everyday diasporic spaces? In this vein, this study looks at how young Somali-background women in Finland engage with conflict in Somalia and how they view and make sense of political mobilization for their country of origin. The study therefore aims to shed light on (some of) the ways gender can affect diasporic mobilization related to ‘homeland’ conflict.

Drawing on interviews with young Somali-background women in Finland, this study investigates when and how Somali-background young women engage with political mobilization related to Somalia. As such, the study looks at how gender, conflict in the country of origin and the context of the country of residence affect decisions and motivations for engaging (or choosing not to) engage with ‘homeland’ issues or politics. The preliminary findings suggest that belonging and perceptions of ‘gender roles’ influence decisions to engage and that the presence of conflict in the country of origin intensifies the complex relations between belonging and participation in political mobilization. The study also finds that young Somali-background women argue for their political participation through an age trope in which political activism is perceived as outdated, an ‘old people thing’ whereas development and humanitarian projects are more common among the younger generations. The results indicate that the nexus of age and gender seems fundamental to understand patterns of diasporic mobilization.

Laura Gamkrelidze, PhD degree student in Cultural Studies, Ilia State University (Tbilisi, Georgia) Laura.gamkrelidze.1@iliauni.edu.ge

Yezidi women and caste system: advantage or disadvantage

The Yezidi community is a very patriarchal and isolated community. They are an indigenous ethno-religious community living in different parts of the world. Originally, they're from Northern Iraq. They are covering a wide geographical area including Iraq, Syria, Germany, Armenia, France, Russia and Georgia. It's estimated to be under one million worldwide. The unique characteristics of the community: is the caste system. There are three castes: sheikhs, Pirs and Murids. Membership to Yezidi castes is inherited from parents and it is impossible to change caste. According to Yezidism sheikhs and Pirs are from clerical caste and murids are commoners. They say that they are equal to each other. The largest caste is the caste murids of Georgia. From the theological view, they're equal. But in real-life experience, they're inequalities between them. Sheikhs and Pirs can work at the temple and they gain more money from the worship and making everyday rituals in the community. This part put them in a more privileged position.

There’s a new question. Are Yezidi women from the Sheik’s and Pir’s castes more privileged? What the “priviledge” means from the Yezidi women's perspective. The voices of Yezidi women are silenced. I want to explore experiences of Yezidi women from different castes presented in an intersectional perspective.

I'm exploring all three castes one by one to understand what benefits, bonuses a member of any caste may have or vice versa. How equal are the Yezidi women to each other due to their caste affiliation. How strict is the caste system towards women and how much does it restrict their freedom? How much does the caste system determine their lifestyle and future? These will be my main questions for the discussion

To achieve the goal, I'm using qualitative research methods such as observation and interviewing. These methods help me the most in studying the Yezidi women in Georgia. I have pre-designed research questions.

Zahra Imani (zahra.edalati@tuni.fi) & Majid Imani (majid.imani@tuni.fi), Doctoral Researchers at Tampere University

Iranian women and diasporic political mobilization

The Islamic revolution of 1979, which marked the new history of Iranian immigration, has affected the life and self-awareness of Iranians in their countries of residence. The Islamic revolution has resulted in big changes that divided the history of Iran into before and after the revolution. Women’s bodies have been the central part of those changes and since then, women have had to deal with different kinds of prevalent religious symbolism which has had a striking role in Iranian life inside Iran and the diaspora community. However, Iranian Women’s experiences in the diasporic community are often overlooked and available studies in most cases present a homogenized picture of women in diaspora. Indeed, in this paper based on the interviews with young and middle-aged women who live in Finland and Germany, we shed light on how the interviewees are constructing their versions of historical and political events, how women can affect diasporic mobilization throughout their everyday experiences, and how they express agency in diasporic settings. Based on the conducted interviews, we will also show that women who left Iran during the revolution era have different attitudes toward religion, politics, gender roles, and political activism in comparison to young women who left Iran 30 to 40 years after the revolution. We focus on theoretical discussions concerning identity politics and feminist peace to investigate the nexus between historical changes, generational differences, and political mobilization of women in the diaspora.

Gina Wirz-Suárez, PhD researcher in Anthropology and Sociology, Geneva Graduate Institute for International and Development Studies, gina.wirz@graduateinstitute.ch

Gender, exile and peacebuilding: a case study on the transnational political participation of Colombian women in exile

My proposal focuses on women's activism in forced migration and peacebuilding contexts. From sociological and feminist perspectives, I analyze the forms and repertoires of action of Colombian women in exile and migrants in the European context. In this sense, this presentation will focus on the experience of a women's collective based in Spain towards the Colombian peace process between 2012 and 2016.

The peace agreement between the Colombian government and the FARC-EP guerrilla recognized the central role of victims and the implementation of a transitional justice system. As a form of political recognition, the Colombian diaspora, especially exiles, mobilized their transnational dynamics to recognize exile as a form of political persecution. Moreover, in a context of high mobilization of feminist and feminist movements, they promoted a gender perspective in this peace deal, influencing the need for political participation of women in exile. Hence, in Europe, the rise of women's political groups and collectives such as "La Colectiva" in Spain and "Mujer Diaspora" in the UK is relevant to this study.

Taking the case study of "La Colectiva," I have identified four axes in which this political group mobilized towards homeland politics and peacebuilding: i) the characterization of gender-based political persecution as a cause of exile. As one of the central claims of this women's collective, sexual violence against women's leaders was claimed in the understanding of socio-political violence and, by consequence, as a direct cause of exile; ii) The emergence of political subjectivity: women in exile. It refers to the configuration of a differentiated political subject by questioning the centrality of the "male experience" in the representation of Colombian exile; iii) Barriers and obstacles to political participation for women in exile in peace advocacy scenarios; and iv) organizational, political autonomy as strategic decision to empower their political positioning. Thus, this work draws on forced migration, political transnationalism, and feminist analysis to make visible the experiences of women's activism in peacebuilding dynamics.