[-empyre-] Welcome to week 3 of February 2020 discussion: Feminist interventions

Dale Hudson dmh2018 at nyu.edu
Mon Feb 17 17:04:12 AEDT 2020

Thanks, Kay and Nat, for nudging us to think differently.

This week we continue by thinking about feminist interventions.

I’ve invited Sama Alshaibi  and Afrah Shafiq to offer discuss how they engage in feminist arts practices in two different contexts, which I think can help us think comparatively and move beyond the essentializing categories that linger even as we collectively try to destabilize them


3—Feminist interventions

For the first week, the discussion focuses on feminist practices that might not always be legible outside North Africa, West Asia, and South Asia since they respond to different configurations of patriarchy in postcolonial and transnational contexts.

Western feminisms often adopt categories of “Arab women,” “Indian women,” “Muslim women,” or “Oriental women,” who are imagined as repressed by clothing or religion. Lila Abu-Lughod’s famous “Do Muslim Women Need Saving?” outlined ways that A-list Hollywood female and male celebrities mobilized their power to forward U.S. military interests in Afghanistan. French president Emmanuel Macron’s speech at the opening of Le Louvre Abu Dhabi in the UAE evoked “universal” culture as a means of combatting terrorism, then sold warships in Saudi Arabia.

How can feminists respond to these powerful foreign cultural institutions? How do artists navigate between claiming cultural heritage and tradition while also critiquing sexism, racism, casteism, and other forms of social and political violence? How do artists, curators, and scholars activate feminist critique without being accused of betrayal or being undermined by white (“feminist”) saviors from Berlin, London, Los Angeles, New York, Paris, or Tel Aviv? 


Sama Alshaibi’s practice examines the mechanisms displacement and fragmentation in the aftermath of war and exile. Her photographs, videos and immersive installations features the body, often her own, as either a gendered site or a geographic device resisting oppressive political and social conditions. Alshaibi’s monograph Sama Alshaibi: Sand Rushes In (New York: Aperture, 2015) presents her Silsila series which probes the human dimensions of migration borders and environmental demise. Her work has been featured in several prominent biennials and exhibited in over 20 national and international solo exhibitions. Born in Basra to an Iraqi father and Palestinian mother, Alshaibi is based in the United States where she is Professor of Photography, Video and Imaging at the University of Arizona, Tucson. 

Afrah Shafiq is a multi/new media artist based between Goa and Bangalore. Her art practice moves across various platforms and mediums, seeking a way to retain the tactile within the digital and the poetry within technology.  Her work has been shown at the Lahore Biennial 2020, testsite Austin, Kochi Muziris Biennale 2018/19, The Guild Art Gallery in Alibaug, Be.Fantastic in Bengaluru, What About Art in Mumbai, Digital Graffiti Festival in Florida, The Fusebox Festival in Texas and the Computer Space festival in Bulgaria.  She has been invited on research and residency programs with Fluent Collaborative Austin, the Liverpool Biennial of Contemporary Art, and the Institute of Advance Studies in Nantes, France. When she is not glued to her computer she also makes glass mosaic.

More information about the empyre mailing list