Dr. Sophie Richter-Devroe’s book, Women’s Political Activism in Palestine: Peacebuilding, Resistance, and Survival (University of Illinois Press, 2018) offers an analysis of the forms assumed by women’s political resistance in Occupied Palestine and interrogates how an understanding of such activism might be expanded if one attends to the ‘everyday’.
During the last twenty years, Palestinian women have practiced creative and, often, informal everyday forms of political activism. Building upon long-term ethnographic fieldwork, including several in-depth interviews and extended participant-observation, Dr. Richter-Devroe reflects on their struggles to bring about social and political change. In doing so, she presents a two-pronged critique of liberal notions of ‘the political’ as well as of mainstream conflict resolution methods–specifically the failed woman-to-woman peacebuilding projects so lauded around the world–which collapse in a context such as Palestine, characterized by ever-intensifying Israeli occupation and settler-colonial policies. Thus Dr. Richter-Devroe suggests that women confront Israeli settler colonialism both directly and indirectly through popular and everyday acts of resistance, drawing particular attention to the intricate dynamics of the everyday, tracing the emergent politics that women articulate and practice in that lived space. That is, through everyday acts with continuously offer women ways to reaffirm and reclaim their ‘right to have rights’, they are able to affect a unique form of political resistance, one that constitutes an important subject of study.
In shedding light on contemporary gendered 'politics from below' in the region, then, the book invites a rethinking of the workings, shapes, and boundaries of the political in ways that importantly contribute to and expand studies of gender and politics in the Middle East.
Dr. Sophie Richter-Devroe is an associate professor at Hamad bin Khalifa University, Doha in the Middle Eastern Studies Department in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences.
This interview is part of an NBN special series on “Mobilities and Methods“.
Josephine Chaet is a doctoral student in the department of Anthropology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her work focuses on questions of authoritarian politics and women’s organizing in Amman, Jordan.’