NOMEN Lab #3 Colonized Narratives of Violence against Women of Colour


Photo credit: Omar Sobhani

The focus on violence against women (VAW) has had some extremely important and beneficial consequences for women worldwide. Yet, the VAW discourse has succeeded partly because of its reliance on the victim subject. This talk will critically examine how the international women’s rights movement has reinforced the image of women of color as the victim subject. It will assess the legal framing as well as state mechanisms around VAW and their role in post-coloniality. What does this mean in concrete terms when we, women of color, experience violence, especially within our own communities? Who are we seen as representing when we call shelters that are run by dominant white churches to seek support? Who are we seen as representing when we call law enforcement officers to seek help? How are our bodies marked in these very moments? Moreover, can mechanisms that construct themselves through violence be used to protect us from violence?

Armeghan Taheri was born as an Afghan refugee in Iran before her family sought political asylum in Germany. Due to her personal experiences, she became passionate about questions of justice, domination and resistance and the connection between knowledge production and the politics of empowerment. She holds a LL.M. degree from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, in Human Rights and International Law. In her past research she focused on intersectionality as a legal approach to adjudicate violence against women, armed violence, and land and property rights of indigenous communities. Currently, she works in the private sector and is one of the co-founders of the NOMEN Collective.

The lab is the third from a new series of NOMEN Labs: The Body and the (Neo)colonial Gaze, by the NOMEN Collective

The body -particularly the female body- has become center attention again in the last weeks because of the debated burka- (Germany) and burkini- (France) ban. While the debates have brought once again to the fore, that Europe reinscribes religious bodies as too particular in the secular public sphere, it has also (re)produced the body of the religious woman of color as a problem that needs further regulation, disciplining and policing. Activists have contended on both sides, that the existence of the religious female body of color marked by cultural difference is either a matter of choice or of oppression. However, we in the NOMEN Collective would like to complicate this discourse. By aiming to unpack the notion of neutral bodies in neutral publics we will offer a mini lab series on the body and the (neo)colonial gaze in our contemporary political context.

The aim of the lab series is to demonstrate the ongoing work an alleged neutralization of bodies is doing to actually mark bodies as too religious, too political, too hysterical, too particular. While all of these claims and counter-claims about female bodies are certainly not new, we would like to use the space of the lab as a creative way to talk and re-enact certain sentiments, emotions, and sensibilities in order to raise awareness for processes of knowledge-production, religious practice, intra-communal struggle as always already complicated by the (neo)colonial gaze. While we agree, that there is no neutral body, that all bodies are produced and made productive through subjugation and discursive webs of power, we also want to complicate the notion of choice vs. oppression by reflecting collectively on processes of socialization into a communitarian subjectivity, a professional practice or a religious tradition. The notion of the neocolonial is important in pointing out, how certain power asymmetries have older genealogies, but come in a new disguise not by simply exercising brute power or change of structure, but by turning older colonial questions into questions of culture and cultural normativity. Further, the neocolonial is also a way to integrate postcolonial and decolonial intellectual movements into issues of political dominance within the heart of the empire/nation-state.

The colony is here and now, it holds untamed subjects and their performing bodies. What do certain body formations hold and what do they foreclose? We would like to perform and discuss this in the lab with an intimate circle of participants. The lab will be opened by one NOMEN Collective founding member with a personal story, that will turn its gaze into these analytic categories and broader questions of whose bodies become permissible and have access to upward mobility and whose bodies remain marked and signs of alterity. After the short input of 20-25 minutes, we will turn into a discussion, reflection and tool-making how some of these issues can be turned around and become tools of empowerment. The lab will work as a crucible to simmer and cook ideas that have validity in their practice. Artists, activists, community workers, and people of color are particularly encouraged to participate, share their perspectives and to carry some strategies into their field of activism.

The lab will be held in English.

Since we would like to keep an intimate atmosphere and the space cannot contain more than 25 people, we ask all interested to register to the following address until Sunday, December 4th: with a short introduction to who you are.

Tuesday, December 6th 016, 7 – 9.30 pm at Bilgisaray, Oranienstraße 194, Berlin Kreuzberg

Next lab:

#4 Tuesday, December 20th: The Fluid Body on an Uneven Political Ground, lab art performance by Adi Liraz

NOMEN Collective for Ethical Art and Political Practice was established on March 2016 in Berlin by Sultan Doughan, Adi Liraz, Armeghan Taheri and Hannah Tzuberi and joined by Patricia Piberger, Nahed Samour and Anid Stone.

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