Feminist Activism 1968-2018 – Symposium at Northumbria University

Please see below details of an afternoon symposium on Feminist Activism organized by Gendered Subjects. This event is part of the Institute of the Humanities programme and the 2019 Festival of Feminist Ideas and Action.  Attendance is free and open to all, but please register for a place via the link below:

Feminist Activism 1968-2018

1st May 2019

Sandyford Building Room 201, Northumbria University, UK

This event is free but you need to register here


1.30pm Registration and Introduction

2pm – Session 1:

The Labour of Liberation: Black Feminist Activism as Cultural Work

Panel: Umme Imam, Kath Boodhai, Sheree Mack, Padma Rao and Hannabiell Sanders.

Chair: Rosie Lewis (The Angelou Centre)

“Above all else, our politics sprang from the shared belief that Black women are inherently valuable, that our liberation is a necessity.” The Combahee River Collective

Throughout this intergenerational dialogue we will be discussing the ways that black feminist activism has often run synonymously with all aspects of black and minority women’s cultural work. With a focus on the heritage of black and minority women in the North East, we will be discussing the wide ranging social justice issues that many of the panel tackle in their day to day creative and vocational lives. From ending violence against black women and girls, to trade unionism and the many connections between writing, art and activism- we will explore the challenges and additional labour involved in ensuring that black and minoritised women’s voices and cultural work in the North East is preserved and documented.

3pm Break

3.15pm – Session 2:

Remembering feminist activism: Sisterhood and After: the Women’s Liberation Oral History Project

Speaker: Polly Russell (British Library)

Chair: Melanie Waters

In this talk Polly Russell reflects on 8 years of curating feminist history and archives at the British Library. Focussing on Sisterhood & After: the Women’s Liberation Movement Oral History Project, Polly will explore the projects’ aims, achievements and challenges. She will reflect on the politics and practices involved in curating feminist histories within a large institution, drawing on her experiences of digitising Spare Rib magazine in 2015, her ongoing work with academic partners on the Business of Women’s Words project and her role as lead curator for a forthcoming exhibition on the evolution of women’s rights.

Dr Polly Russell works as the Lead Curator for Contemporary Politics and Public Life in the Archives and Manuscripts Department at the British Library and as a freelance food historian and writer. At the British Library she is responsible for building collections and developing related products and services for research, student, school and general audiences. Polly has been the British Library lead in a number of collaborative research projects including the 2004-2007 ESRC-AHRC funded 3-year ‘Manufacturing Meaning along the Food Commodity Chain’ project with the University of Sheffield, the Leverhulme funded 2012-2015 project Sisterhood & After: the Women’s Liberation Movement Oral History Project with the University of Sussex and the current Business of Women’s Words project with Sussex and Cambridge universities. In 2015 Polly led the project to digitise and make freely available the entire run of Spare Rib magazines and she is currently curating a largescale exhibition on the evolution of women’s rights in the UK which will be held in the British Library in 2020. Polly’s research research subjects include women’s history and feminism as well as the history of British food and the social, cultural and political connections between food and everyday life.

4.15pm Break

4.30pm – Session 3:

International feminist activism in Brazil, Mexico, Italy, and Saudi Arabia

Panel: Alaa Abu-Naji, Natalia Pais Fornari, Clara M. García, and Guadalupe Lizeth Pérez Saucedo.

Chair: Boriana Alexandrova-Isgate (Centre for Women’s Studies, University of York)

This panel will offer a glimpse into the current state of feminist activism outside the UK, looking at recent or ongoing actions taking place across Brazil, Italy, Mexico, and Saudi Arabia. Each panellist is or has been directly involved in the feminist contexts they discuss in their papers and as such will be able to offer a first-hand account of the locally specific issues concerning international feminist activism in the present moment.

  • Guadalupe Lizeth Pérez Saucedo will speak about police brutality and the repression of the teachers’ protests against recent education reforms in Oaxaca, Mexico.
  • Alaa Abu-Naji will focus on the human rights violations women are currently facing in Saudi Arabia and discuss the different ways in which feminist protest has threatened the stability of the regime over the years.
  • Clara M. García will review recent developments in the Italian feminist movement, engaging with some of its current debates and discourses.
  • Natalia Pais Fornari will present a cultural and political overview of the #EleNão #NotHim movement in Brazil, which protested Jair Bolsonaro’s recent win of the presidential elections and the related upsurge of far-right politics in the country. The paper will focus on Brazilian women’s resistance campaigns, such as grassroots organisation through social media and visual activism, and will address their repercussions on communities of resistance as well as the socio-political backlash.

5.30pm Close

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