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Urban access

Contested spaces and contested politics

Ulrich Ufer

The global Right to the City network challenges exclusionary effects of neoliberal urbanization by claiming citizens' rights for access to urban space and to the benefits of urban culture. Artists belong to one of the most vulnerable groups in the context of gentrification and urban exclusion. At the same time, their creative and expressive capacities put them in a privileged position to voice protest. Oscillating between counterhegemony, accommodation, and strategic collusion, a group of artist-activists from the city of Hamburg in Germany have been employing the means of empowered symbolism, activist art, and emancipatory knowledge in order to implement an alterpolitics of space. Their occupation of the historic Hamburg Gängeviertel has successfully repoliticized questions over urban use value and urban access, which had been purposefully excluded from the realm of the political in the revanchist, neoliberal city.

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Whose Austria?

Muslim Youth Challenge Nativist and Closed Notions of Austrian Identity

Farid Hafez

The Austrian Muslim Youth was founded in 1996 by young Muslims of different ethnic backgrounds and has become the largest multi-ethnic, co-educational, German-speaking youth organization in Austria today. Since its inception, it has presented the concept of an ‘Austrian Muslim identity’ as a key philosophy. In this article, I ask how the idea of this identity was negotiated. I suggest that this concept is not reinforcing nativist notions. Rather, the formation of an Austrian Muslim identity can be seen as an attempt to create safe spaces to empower young Muslims to live their religion while fully participating in Austrian society. Hence, this concept speaks to two audiences simultaneously, challenging nativist notions and offering young Muslims ways to see themselves as possessing multiple and hybrid identities.

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Transnational Public Spheres from 'Above' and from 'Below'

Feminist Networks across the Middle East and Europe

Ruba Salih

This article examines the emergence of transnational public spheres brought about by women activists in diasporas and countries of origin across Europe and the Middle East. Such activism can take various forms - networks, partnerships, transnational mobilisations against war or for advocacy - which, in turn, have an impact on the ability to provide women with new paths to emancipation. Although globalising states and societies are becoming more interconnected, demarcating inequalities and forms of governance still exist. Parameters based on territoriality and national citizenship reinforce the unequal access to resources that women experience around the globe and thus have a hand in shaping women's agendas. The article concludes that although women may be able to acquire empowering tools through feminist transnational networks, these tools are not always capable of dismantling boundaries or weakening old hierarchies.

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The Perceptibility of the Invisible Cosmology

Religious Rituals and Embodied Spirituality among the Bahraini Shi‘a

El-Sayed El-Aswad

This article analyses the relationship between the seen and the unseen in the cosmology and practices of Bahraini Shi'a. Rather than contrasting the visible and the invisible, the study delineates the hierarchical relations between them, within a whole or cosmology, as reflected in various discursive and non-discursive actions that are supported by the religious beliefs of Bahraini Shi'a. Issues of the Hidden Imam, concealment, dissimulation and other unseen dimensions of the cosmos are discussed. The article finds that the Shi'a construct the invisible in their social world by using visible ways of creatively enacting their hidden thoughts and beliefs, as represented in their religious discourses, rituals and body symbolism. Their belief in a divine higher power provides a source of emotional, spiritual and socio-political empowerment.

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Driven women

Reconceptualizing women in traffic through the case of Gagauz mobile domestics

Leyla J. Keough

This article focuses on the skill and fortitude of Gagauz Moldovans who migrate to Istanbul to work as domestic laborers. I consider how these 'driven' women negotiate their subject positions as mothers and wives, educated workers, migrants and paid domestic laborers, Turkish-speaking Christians and former Soviets. While their understandings reproduce certain power relations in Turkey and Moldova, their journeys also constitute a route for empowerment. Their situation is presented in the context of a 'discourse of sexual threat' that circulates about them in Turkey. I examine how this discourse and the women's understandings of their own subjectivities work to open or close off, contribute to or limit, the subject positions, the goals and desires, and the potential agency of Gagauz and Turkish individuals. By considering these issues in this way, I argue that this case study may challenge traditional academic conceptualizations of migration in Europe, female subjects and power relations.

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Paradoxes of transnational space and local activism

Iranians organizing across borders

Halleh Ghorashi and Nayereh Tavakoli

The Iranian revolution of 1979 promised to bring freedom and equality, but as soon as one group gained power, it turned out to be oppressive of both its political opposition and women. This resulted in the formation of a large Iranian diaspora bound together by its hatred for the Iranian regime. Years of suppression in the 1980s in Iran resulted in a deep gap between Iranians living inside and outside Iran. During the 1990s, however, cross-border relationships started to change as a result of two major factors: transnational activities and the influence of cyberspace. This paper focuses on the paradoxes of transnational connections in local protest with a focus on the women’s movement. We show both how transnational links have empowered women activists in Iran and how they have led to new dangers at the local level. We also reveal how support from the Iranian diaspora can be patronizing as well as supportive.

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From West to East

International Women's Day, the First Decade

Rochelle Goldberg Ruthchild

The year 2010 was the centennial of Clara Zetkin's proposal for an annual women's holiday, which became known as International Women's Day, and 2011 was the centennial of its first celebrations. The first ten years of the holiday's existence were a particularly tumultuous time in world history, with the advent of World War I, revolutionary upheavals in some of the major combatant countries, and the demise of the German, Habsburg, Ottoman, and Russian empires. During this time, International Women's Day celebrations quickly gained great popularity, and in 1917 sparked the February Russian Revolution. This article focuses on the development of the holiday from its U.S. and Western European origins and goal of women's suff rage, to its role in empowering Russian women to spark a revolution, and its re-branding as a Soviet communist celebration. Special attention is paid to the roles of two prominent international socialist women leaders, Zetkin and Alexandra Kollontai, in shaping the holiday's evolution.

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Reclaiming European Heritages of Transatlantic Migration

The Politics of Identity of East European Immigrants to the U.S.A.

Vytis Čiubrinskas

This article provides a fieldwork-based case study for the application of identity empowerment through heritage as a research perspective for the analysis of East European transnationalism seen in Lithuanian immigration in the U.S.A. Two patterns of reclaiming European heritages, 'diasporic' and 'recognitionist', are discussed. The 'diasporic' pattern among more recent migrants embraces a transatlantic heritage in which culture stands for the nation. It is instrumentalised as a claim to retain essential Lithuanianness, and reinforced by the moral imperative to return to the homeland. The 'recognitionist' pattern is exemplified by descendants of earlier East European immigrants, and is focused on family roots, as well as on ethnic history and culture. Transatlantic roots and ethnic heritages of the Lithuanian 'Texas pioneers' are reinforced by belonging to the local United States as migrants strive to achieve re-inscription of that heritage as one that has long been rooted in the local history of Texas.

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Social Quality in Everyday Life

Changing European Experiences of Employment, Family and Community

Sue Yeandle

In this article the concept of 'social quality' is invoked as a way of exploring the impact, relevance and potential of policy and social structural developments for citizens' everyday lives. As a concept, 'social quality' embraces a range of themes each of which has received extensive sociological attention: social cohesion and solidarity as crucial elements in both citizenship and in social institutions such as family, neighbourhood and workplace; autonomy and empowerment as central to the individual's sense of identity and self-worth; economic security, which underpins everyday life and enables people to engage in everyday activities and to approach their future without fear of poverty; and social inclusion, the involvement of individuals in social, economic and cultural aspects of collective life.

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Laurent L.G. van der Maesen

The main task of this article is to introduce the social quality initiative and to link its recent outcomes to aspects of employment policy. The initiative was launched during the Dutch Presidency in 1997 as a new academic approach to the circumstances of citizens in Europe, the Member States, regions, cities and communities. The idea of social quality arose out of the conflict between European economic and social policy – more specifically, the subordination of the latter to the former – and the lack of any distinct rationale for social policies. Two studies published by the Foundation provided the basis for the initiative’s development, and established the four objective conditional factors or components of social quality: Socio-economic security, cohesion, inclusion, and empowerment.