Their Women are Empowered’: The Politics of Idealising Gender in Sahrawi Refugee Camps

Their Women are Empowered’: The Politics of Idealising Gender in Sahrawi Refugee Camps

Wednesday, 5 March 2014 - 12:45pm
68 Woodstock Road, Oxford, OX2 6JF, the Middle East Centre
Dr Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh (University of Oxford)
MEC Seminar


Refugee camps are typically perceived as militarized and patriarchal spaces characterised by violence against women, and yet the Sahrawi refugee camps and their inhabitants have consistently been represented as ideal in nature: uniquely democratic spaces, which are characterized by gender equality and a total absence of sexual and gender-based violence. Drawing on extensive research with and about Sahrawi refugees in Algeria, Cuba, Spain, South Africa, and Syria, this talk examines how, why and to what effect such idealized depictions of the camps have been projected onto the international arena, focusing in particular on the multi-faceted implications of denying the existence of violence against women in this North African protracted refugee situation.


Dr Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh is Senior Research Officer at the University of Oxford, where she is also Research Fellow in Refugee Studies at Lady Margaret Hall. Her research focuses on the intersections between gender, generation and religion in contexts of displacement and statelessness with a particular regional focus on the Middle East and North Africa. Elena's recent publications include The Ideal Refugees: Gender, Islam and the Sahrawi Politics of Survival (Syracuse University Press, 2014). She is co-editor of The Oxford Handbook of Refugee and Forced Migration Studies, which is forthcoming with Oxford University Press in June 2014.

Women’s Rights Research Seminars

The Women’s Rights Research Seminars at Oxford was founded in 2009 with the initial aim of directing interdisciplinary scholarly attention to the legal status of women in Iran. Since then, the research group has broadened its purview to the rights of women in the Middle East, covering topics such as the politics of fertility, women in ethnic minorities, and the treatment of women in states governed and influenced by Islamic law and jurisprudence. WRRS welcomes seminar and paper proposals from any discipline. Enquiries: Binesh Hass