Dr Jyhene Kebsi, lecturer in the School of Social Sciences has founded a Network focused on the promotion of Gender Studies for students. Here she writes about what the Network has done in its first few months.
The Gendered Transnational Texts and Communities Network (GTTCN) aims at deepening students’ understanding of the themes that are covered in the Gender Studies units, which focus on North Africa and the Middle East. My students’ curiosity about gender relations and the feminist movements in Arab Muslim-majority countries was the main incentive behind this Network, which aims at consolidating the knowledge acquired in the units I teach: GEND3030 Decolonizing Identity and GEND3010 Gender, Crime and Violence. These units, together with the Network, create a bridge between Arab countries and Australian students; aim to correct stereotypes, and create mutual understanding with the ultimate aim of achieving dialogue and peaceful interreligious coexistence.
Since Arabic, French and English represent the three main languages used in the Arab region, the materials provided in both the Network and the units are in all three languages. I also translate all the non-English sources used in the Network (and units) for students. The Network also provides a space to discuss various themes and artefacts related to the intersection between gender and transnationalism. It sheds light on gendered transnationalism through a focus on world literature, world cinema, comparative literature, popular culture and media. While the Arab world represents the main focus of GTTCN, occasionally, the Network also sheds light on non-Arab parts of the global south.
Even in our first few months, we have held a number of events. The first meeting of the Network was a viewing and discussion of the documentary Fishers of Men. This film focuses on paperless migration from Africa to Europe and shows the diversity of undocumented immigrants.
For the second meeting, I gave a presentation on oil business’s impact on African women’s lives, entitled: “Transnational World Petrofiction: The Impact of the Oil Industry on Nigerian Women.” It explored the plight of the ecological refugees who are forced to leave the land of their ancestors so that oil companies can mine their land for oil and increase their profit.
Our third meeting was a viewing of the film Capernaum by the Lebanese director Nadine Labaki. The film focuses on a 12-year old child who lives in the slums of Beirut and decides to sue his parents, and when the judge asks him about the reason, he says: “Because they brought me to life.”
I had wanted to watch Capernaum by Nadine Labaki since its release in 2018, so when Dr Kebsi proposed the concept of the Gendered Transnational Texts and Communities Network, I jumped at the chance to not only get to watch this film but increase my awareness of other texts, the context surrounding them and the nuances that only someone with a shared or similar cultural background can provide.Alanah
The Network also organised a poetry workshop where we wrote poems on the theme “Refugee Girls.” The aim was to write poems that represented children asylum seekers. The pieces produced focused on different aspects of the refugee experience including the paperless journey, detention, rights violations, resettlement and trauma.
Dr Kebsi prompted discussion on the experiences of refugee girls, and although it was daunting at first to write poetry, with the support of the group, I was able to begin composing a meaningful draft which I hope to continue!Lilyanne
I alsogave a presentation entitled: “State Feminism in Saudi Arabia: Women’s Rights Under Bin Salman” on the merits and limitations of state feminism in the Saudi context. It also aimed to complicate the otherwise flat picture of the “Saudi woman.”
Dr Kebsi is a wonderful facilitator with so much knowledge, passion and encouragement, and I would urge anyone remotely interested in transnational feminism, paperless migration, and intersectionality to please come to the network.Sophie
There is a lot of passion and enthusiasm in and for the Network. Students come after my two-hour seminar that ends at 4pm, and we sometimes stay on until 6.30pm (when our initial agreement was to meet for an hour and a half!). The GTTCN will continue throughout Session 2. Any students and community members who are interested in joining us can contact Dr Jyhene Kebsi, email@example.com.