Where the Women Are: Toward a Feminist Ethnography of Political Revolution


Wednesday, October 2, 4:30 p.m.
MacLean Center, 112 S. Michigan Ave, room 1307

A tenure presentation by Professor Karen Morris

This talk draws on ethnographic research in Côte d'Ivoire, West Africa and among Ivorian political activists in the United States to disrupt the metanarrative told by iconic images of young men as the central actors within political revolution. Most of the academic scholarship, governmental and NGO policy, and news coverage of the conflict in Côte d'Ivoire has fixated on men, presumably because they are the visible ones rioting in the streets and leading government and rebel coalitions. Seeking to reframe the way we think about what constitutes political participation, Professor Morris argues that there is Tahrir Square (and Tiananmen Square, Occupy encampments, etc.) but there are also a myriad of other, often-overlooked spaces, elements, and actors that coalesce to constitute a revolution. By exploring women’s influence on Ivorian politics in the form of informal "chatting," religious organizations, "apolitical" protests, social media activism, and spiritual and sexual power over men ("female genital power"), she argues that national politics is much more than engagement with the state and its official policies. It is also transforming the social within.

Karen Morris is a cultural anthropologist in the Liberal Arts and Visual & Critical Studies Departments. She has conducted ethnographic research in Côte d'Ivoire and among members of the Ivorian diaspora in the United States since 1998.