This article discusses disability memoirs written by mothers of disabled sons during state socialism in Poland. It recovers an often forgotten experience of living socialism as a mother of a disabled child and analyzes disability as a category of difference that, unlike gender or class, was not reordered by the socialist state. It argues that disability reconfigured motherhood as a political institution under state socialism and shows that a child’s disability permitted women to become politically disobedient subjects. Disability allowed women who were responsible for their children’s overcoming disability to make demands on the state and criticize it for the lack of sufficient accommodations and resources. At the same time, the article highlights the violence embedded in the relationship between a disabled son and his mother.
Disability Memoirs in Socialist Poland
Over the past half decade, philosopher and political scientist Mihaela Miroiu published a series of short autobiographical stories that were eventually collected in a book, Cumintea mea de femeie [With my woman’s mind] (Bucharest: Cartea românească, 2017), which was reviewed in Aspasia (vol. 12) in 2018. While the whole volume deserves an international audience, I have selected the story “Medusa’s Smirk,” for translation because it sheds light on a topic little known, yet extremely important, in the lives of many women: sexual violence. Discussing sexual violence was a taboo topic under communism, and many women suppressed their traumatic memories of violence both seen and experienced. Yet accounts such as the one shared below have circulated orally and deserve further attention from scholars. For another relevant account, see http://www.publicseminar.org/2017/12/sex-in-the-time-of-communism/.
This article analyzes the Gulag memoirs of four women political prisoners—Olga Adamova-Sliozberg, Liudmila Miklashevskaya, Nadezhda Joffe, and Valentina Grigorievna levleva-Pavlenko—to examine the interplay of motherhood and survival. Each was a mother of small children sentenced to forced labor camps in the northern polar regions of the Soviet Union. Motherhood played a complex role in their survival. The rupture in family relations, particularly the separation from their children, magnified the psychological and emotional stress of their incarceration. Yet, being a mother in the camps provided a compelling motivation to stay alive. It helped them to sustain a sense of normalcy by connecting them to their former lives and to the family unit that represented stability and sustenance amid the bleakness of their Gulag existence.
Maria Bucur, Gendering Modernism: A Historical Reappraisal of the Canon, London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2017, xi + 149 pp., $24.95 (paperback), ISBN: 978-1-3500-2625-4.
Maria Bucur, The Century of Women: How Women Have Transformed the World Since 1900, Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2018, x + 232 pp., $35.00 (paperback), ISBN: 978-1-4422-5739-9.
Milena Kirova, ed., Mara Belcheva: Poezia (Mara Belcheva: Poetry), Volume 1, Sofia: Kibea, 2018, 268 pp., BGN 17 (paperback), ISBN 978-954-474-728-2.
Milena Kirova, ed., Mara Belcheva: Proza i prevodi (Mara Belcheva: Prose and translations), Volume 2, Sofia: Kibea, 2018, 350 pp., BGN 19 (paperback), ISBN 978-954-474-729-9.
Vanya Georgieva, Ekaterina Karavelova—Lora Karavelova: Kulturnoistoricheskiat sjuzhet “maiki-dushteri” v bulgarski context (Ekaterina Karavelova—Lora Karavelova: The cultural-historical subject “mothers-and-daughters” in the Bulgarian context), Sofia: Iztok-Zapad, 2017, 543 pp., BGN 25 (paperback), ISBN 978-619-01-0073-7.
Ten years after launching the Journal of Educational Media, Memory, and Society (JEMMS) in 2009, it seems appropriate to look back and assess the journal’s achievements, review its purpose, and address prospects for the coming years. As the only journal of its kind dedicated to the dissemination of international educational media research in the humanities, JEMMS has provided a platform for authors from sixteen countries on seven continents, including Chile, South Africa, Macedonia, and China.
The “Anti-Gender” Wave Contested: Gender Studies, Civil Society, and the State in Eastern Europe and Beyond*
On 12 October 2018, without any public statement or explanation, the responsible Hungarian authorities removed the two-year MA degree program in gender studies, first accredited in Hungary in 2007 and overhauled in 2016, from the list of approved study programs. (Students currently enrolled in any such master’s degree at any university in the country can finish their course of studies as usual.) For the MA degree program in gender studies established in 2017 at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, a state university and the largest university in terms of student numbers in the country, this equals abolition. For the two-year MA program in critical gender studies at Central European University (CEU) it means the loss of Hungarian accreditation, by which the degree was formally recognized in the European Union. This combines with the fact that CEU has lost the right to enroll new students into its US programs operated in Hungary, and more generally to operate in Hungary as an American institution (though this still is subject to legal encounters). Already in March 2017, at the time when the higher education reform was announced that would result in making CEU’s continued operation in Hungary impossible, the government discussed a report on “a number of questions of the gender studies MA degree,” and representatives of the small Catholic coalition partner of the government led by Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz/Hungarian Civic Alliance, the Christian Democratic People’s Party, publicly denied the legitimacy of gender studies as an academic subject.
A Comparative Review Essay
Alin Ciupală, Bătălia lor: Femeile din România în Primul Război Mondial (Their batt le: Women in Romania during World War I), Iași: Polirom, 2017, 392 pp., 48 illustrations, RON 39.95 (paperback), ISBN: 978-9-73466-577-8.
Jelena Batinić, Women and Yugoslav Partisans: A History of World War II Resistance, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015, 287 pp., 11 illustrations, GBP 24.99 (paperback), ISBN: 978-1-31611-862-7.
How important are regional foci in a world that is defined by transfers and mobilities? This issue of Transfers features a special section that addresses this question and provides varied answers on the role regions play in the understanding of modernity, power, and practices of moving. The call for the special section, “Asia on the Move,” went out in spring 2017. Since then, questions of mobilities, migration, and transfers have not only gained increasing attention and importance, they have also been met with resistance by local groups, in politics and social development—often, in the global point of view, from quite unexpected directions, as in the case of Myanmar and Rohinga migration in 2018.
African Philosophy and Rights
Motsamai Molefe and Chris Allsobrook
A useful way to approach the discourse of rights in African philosophy is in terms of Kwasi Wiredu’s (1996) distinction between cultural particulars and universals. According to Wiredu, cultural particulars are contingent and context-dependent. They fail to hold in all circumstances and for everyone (Wiredu 2005). Cultural universals are transcultural or objective (Wiredu 2005). Examples of cultural particulars include dress styles, religious rituals, social etiquette and so on. One example of a cultural universal is the norm of truth. One may imagine a society with different methods of greeting, dress, and raising children, but one cannot imagine a robust society which rejects the norm of truth as the basis of social practices.