IGP Stories

A New Podcast Series: Takhayyul Nativeness and Emergent Issues

Sertaç Sehlikoglu, Fatemeh Sadeghi, Sumrin Kalia, Mezna Qato

27 October 2022

On Friday October 7th, the members of Takhayyul, an ERC Project at the Institute for Global Prosperity (IGP) at UCL, launched the "Takhayyul Nativeness and Emergent Issues" podcast series.

The Takhayyul project is carried out in eleven different countries in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and South Asia, often included in the concept of the Global South, where people are more vulnerable to global changes and crises - as we have seen in the flood catastrophe in Pakistan. Many members of our team are scholars who have expertise in the geographies they grew up in. In our first meeting following the uprisings in Iran, we found ourselves in a need to channel our intellectual and academic expertise, combined with the deep care to the events taking place in Iran. We felt an urgent need to create a platform where we can address the emergent issues as they happen, with other scholars, intellectuals, and activists.

Women, Life, and Freedom: Iran Uprising and Its International Impact

The first episode titled “Women, Life, and Freedom: Iran Uprising and Its International Impact”, was led by Dr Fatemeh Sadeghi, of Takhayyul and UCL, a scholar of political science, and Iran political scientist who is an expert on Iran. This episode discussed how the uprisings in Iran were received in different parts of the world, specifically in China, Pakistan, India, Bahrain, Turkey, and the UK. The guests were Dr Sumrin Kalia from Takhayyul, Dr Yuan He (IGP), Dr Alaa Shehabi, a UCL scholar and a former member of the IGP, Rumeysa Camdereli, a Muslim feminist intellectual and activist, and an anonymous scholar (pseudonym HS) and activist from India.

Why is this movement significant and what possibilities does it offer?

Fatemeh Sadeghi argued that the significance is that this movement is rooted in everyday life and by relying on the ordinary it is able to create something extraordinary. Thousands of ordinary women and men took to the streets of Tehran and many other cities because they are frustrated by humiliating hypermasculine and hypersexual oppression - an inseparable element of the political apparatus in Iran. This movement emerges from ordinary realities on the ground, rather than the illusory world of the authorities. By doing this, the protesters also succeeded in showing that the government, though still claiming to be morally superior, is morally bankrupt.

This ordinariness is exemplified in various slogans, songs, tweets, artistic works, graffiti, images and videos. In the face of hegemony, the protesters insist on an ordinary life such as eating breakfast in a coffeehouse in downtown Tehran, dancing, singing, painting, poetry, love, and sport. The enemy that the authorities talk about is life itself. By ignoring everyday life and its hardships such as corruption, precarity, environmental crisis, and severe discrimination and inequality, the Iranian government declared war on life.

The guest speakers offered their own perspectives by taking the discussion of women’s agency and their attempts to assert their political agency from a global perspective. Sumrin Kalia,

Takhayyul’s Pakistan scholar expanded on the question of women’s activism by highlighting the political conditions contributing to further persecution of women in Pakistan and beyond. Through the example of Benazir Bhutto who hails from dynastic politics of Pakistan, and yet was assassinated by extremist groups, Kalia argued that women are disproportionately sidelined in politics and face mounting challenges in securing their civil liberties and rights to their bodies. Hegemonic masculine power pervades Pakistani society, and manifests in honour killings perpetrated by family members of women. Gender norms that are prescribed to women limit their public visibility, stunt their social mobility, and silence them in the political sphere.

Historically, women have been the first victims, especially in the current global climate of increasing inequality and social polarisation. The rise of right-wing populist politics across the world, not only valorises toxic masculine traits but also takes away women’s rights to their own bodies. In the US Supreme Court’s recent ruling eliminating women’s right to an abortion comes as an outcome of Trump’s populist presidency. In India, ruled by populist Modi, a high court has imposed a ban on wearing head scarves. In France, the police have imposed a ban on wearing a burkini. In Afghanistan the return of the Taliban resulted in the closure of girls’ schools. The list is endless. Despite global calls for gender equality there is a persistent erosion of women’s rights everywhere. In this alarming world context, Iranian women’s resistance comes as a hope. It is a sign that despite the hegemonic persistence of masculine power, women have the ability to assert their own agency and defy the gender norms that are meant to limit their freedoms both in private and in the public sphere.

The episode was chaired by the Primary Investigator of Takhayyul, Dr Sertaç Sehlikoglu (Principal Research Fellow at the Institute for Global Prosperity, IGP) with technical support by Hazal Aydin, the research assistant of the project from Koc University, Turkey; and Meryem Zisan Koker, the assistant to Dr Sehlikoglu. The recording was broadcast live on YouTube and will be edited into a podcast soon.

Stay tuned!

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