The Challenge of Gender

Module Outline in Brief:

This module focuses on the trans- formation of gender norms through an exploration of gender performativity as a political practice. Performativity is understood as a regularized repetition of norms through social, cultural, verbal and bodily acts. Gender norms are constantly negotiated by social actors with conflicting interests, through an in- vocation of “tradition” or in the name of the “modern”, thus creating a mutually constitutive spatial framework.


Module Coordinators:

Module Members (see list below): 


Fellows 2017: will be up-dated soon

Fellows in 2016:

  • Dr. Elena Borghi (1.9.-30.11.2016):  Unaided by Men, They Will Discover their Won Strength. Women’s Associations and the formulation of new norms in late colonial India”(1917-1947); with follow-up fellowship at MWK Erfurt  (Jan,-Feb. 2017)
  •  Dr. Teresa Segura Garcia (1.8.-15.10.2016): Performing gender in princely educational spaces


Up-coming Events

TM 5  International Workshop      Call for papers

Prevent, Protect, Participate. Women’s Roles in Peace and Security

Location: Univ. of Wuerzburg,  30. November – 1 December  2017


Latest Events (for TM 5)

International Workshop: Gender Relations Revisited – Cross-Cultural Approaches to Violence and Agency in India and Germany 

Location: Univ. of Wuerzburg  (Akademie Frankenwarte), June 8/9 2017


EVENTS in 2016

Relating Gender: The Invocation of Culture.

Date: 3 – 4 October 2016
Location: IEG, New Delhi


Module Committee (alph., by last name): 


Full Outline:

Research will include (1) the cultural performance of gender and transgender identities in religious practices, literary productions and media in South Asia. Locating contemporary debates on gender is- sues within a historical context, the focus will be (a) on the literary-socio-political sphere of late 19th century, where early works of prose fiction in Indian vernacular languages functioned as political performances in the cross-cultural process of value transfer mediated by the progressive (male) elite in colonial India, reshaping gender norms in the process of nation building. Further, contemporary Anglo- Indian literary texts as well as theatre performances will be considered both as products of and as productive of modern India in a globalised context. They self-reflexively examine and creatively explore how spaces are gendered (or become un-gendered) through the processes of migration, displacement and globalisation. Special focus will be on how texts and performances negotiate gender roles in civic spaces which are located between the private, domestic sphere and the public sphere of politics, inquiring into their functions, for example as sites of change and empowerment. An additional aspect will be the role that remembering and forgetting play in forging gendered spaces, since we assume that such spaces emerge from a dynamic interplay between tradition and transition. (b) Comparative work on transgender and queer identified groups who are redefining their status vis-a-vis both national state authorities and the emerging global discourse on transgender/queer rights will relate to debates regarding gender normativity. (c) A third focus will be on new degrees of “individuation” which inflect, with ambiguous results, accepted norms such as progress, education or emancipation. Enquiries will concentrate on women’s participation in (or withdrawal from) performance and ritual.

(2) Theoretical and international perspectives will guide investigations on how gender identity is negotiated in political processes. (a) The self-image of Indian society as a rising global power will be examined for contradictory indicators about the status of women, and against the backdrop of more recent debates on modernity, secularism and multiculturalism. The focus will be on the development and deployment of concepts such as “empowerment”. Furthermore, the role of the judiciary will have to be considered, since the Supreme Courts in constitutional democracies are seen as an important if not the main guardian of the liberty and equality of the citizens. (b) The impact of international human rights protocols on national and local contexts in South Asia, Africa and Western countries will be analysed. As the UN takes centre stage (from the Women’s Rights Convention to UN WOMEN), the focus will be on norm creation, diffusion, and transformation in the area of women’s rights: from the international arena into the national level and vice versa. (c) Women’s individual participation in modern civil society is a major aim of (adult) educational policies. A comparative analysis of concepts of education in Asia-Pacific and Europe will identify transnational similarities and differences of gendered (adult) educational programmes.