TM5 – The Challenge of Gender

Module Outline:

For the last four decades, the category of gender has opened up new lines of enquiry, brought forward new methodologies, and has unsettled academic orthodoxies in disciplines such as history, political science, economics, literature, and performance studies. Gender must be an imperative framework in any understanding of the metamorphoses of the political, since it inflects all relationships of power. The changing signification of gender becomes visible at the interface of politics and feminism. Feminism contests constitutive structures of modern political institutions, for instance divisions between public and private, the state and the domestic, and political and civil societies.
TM5 provides a cross-modular tool for ICAS:MP as a whole. It offers a platform for other modules to address the politics of gender and ways in which power and powerlessness are constructed in economic, social and cultural fields. The module has been renamed from “Performing Gender – Negotiating Space in Civil Society” to “The Challenge of Gender”. This was done for conceptual reasons: We perceive the variety of disciplines in TM5, such as anthropology, political science, Indology and history, as a challenge to methodology. In our conceptual workshops, we kept asking “What has the category of gender done to the disciplines?” We felt compelled to turn to gender as a framework of analysis and ask how the lens of gender will transform our conceptual frames as well as our methodology. We will focus on the following set of cross-cultural enquiries:
(1) “The Lens of Gender: Refiguration of Categories”. This would be our theme for a cross modular conference. It will take up the challenge of exploring categories and vocabularies of gender, such as men and women, sexuality, intersectionality, heteronormativity and binary oppositions, across the changing contours of the contemporary political.
(2) “Gender, Religion, Performance”. Although the impact of religion on gender relations has been changing, it has not diminished.  We need to explore relations among traditions, rituals, performance and faith.  We have started on this with our workshop on “Relating Gender. The invocation of culture” in Oct 2016 and we expect this line of enquiry to be a crucial contribution to the project.
(3) “Gender, Migration, Labour”. A cross-cutting theme with TM2, it will explore gender intersections with flows of capital and labor across borders in a globalized context. In response to the recommendations of the evaluation committee, these issues will be examined in cooperation with TM2 and TM6. The aim will be to explore how the term ‘feminization’ in relation to labour has much wider application across economies in various parts of the world in the form of accelerated informalisation, growing precarity  and rapidly changing technologies in both manufacturing and service sectors.
(4) “Gender and Reproductive Technologies”. One major shift in gendered forms of labour has been in the field of reproductive technologies. Recent research indicates that there is a blurring between production and social reproduction, especially in industries such as surrogacy. These developments also challenge the biological anchoring of motherhood, the very foundation of sex-gender structures.  Moreover, they unsettle institutions of family and citizenship.  These issues have been addressed in our Workshop in Delhi on 19 and 20 March 2018 and will be further explored in their interplay with changing forms of politics. They will overlap with themes in TM2 and TM3.
(5) “Gender, Violence and the complexities of Law”. This theme draws from the earlier one.  We have already explored questions of gender and violence in an Indo-German comparative perspective.  At a workshop on gender-based violence, we differentiated between “events”, such as the Delhi gang rape case (Dec. 2012) and the Cologne incident (New Year’s Eve 2015/16) and everyday forms of gender violence. Gender-based violence, which may emanate from individuals or the state, is a crucial social mechanism by which women are forced into subordination. Typically, these issues have been addressed through making and remaking of laws. In the past few decades, new offences have been so designated by legislation, drawing into the public domain violence previously coded as private.  Yet, in many contexts, such as in India, good laws do not translate into implementation. The question of gender, violence and law offers an opportunity for comparative exploration of different kind of democracies, such as Germany and India. The link between sanctioned violence and forms of state allows this topic to interconnect with TM 3 as suggested by the evaluation committee.
(6)“Gender Diversity and the Politics of Identity”. The questions of law and violence spill over into new movements based on gender. Emerging global discourses on Trans*identity demand citizenship, recognition and rights for transgender and queer identified groups. How do nation-states respond to these demands? In a recent workshop, we compared the situation of transgender identified persons such as Hijras, Jogappas and Aravanis in India with transgender identified persons in Germany. Alternative readings of gender diversity reveal a cosmos of trans*identity, with norms intersecting with class, culture, and historical circumstances. How can the cultural concept of a Third Gender and the history of medicalisation of trans- and intersexuality inform our understanding of emerging trans-politics in India and Germany?

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