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Culturally Bound: Women’s Friendship and Gendered Attachments

Mon, December 17, 3:00 to 4:30pm, Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center, Cambridge 2

Session Submission Type: Panel Session


This interdisciplinary panel focuses on the less explored territory of women’s emotional and social attachments, particularly as they pertain to relationships with other women and attachment to a child. The cultural manifestations that the three papers examine depict women who are very different from one another. With that, and despite the wide span of circumstances, geographies, nationalities, ages, and life situations, there are several threads that run across all the works that are being considered.
The female characters that stand at the center of each of the papers, all but one Jewish, operate under various sets of constraints. Their narratives are set against the backdrop of nationalism and the normative expectations for women’s roles within it. All protagonists are operating in cultural and / or gendered ‘cross-border areas’ (intervening spaces), struggling for recognition and for finding a place for themselves. Our panel thus explores ways of conceptualizing what it means to be a woman in such circumstances, and how negotiating social constraints within the national enterprise affects women’s relationships.
Focusing on Talya Lavie’s 2014 film Zero Motivation, Shiri Goren’s paper maps the trajectory of the relationship between two young women soldiers, whose marginality is constituted at the intersections of hierarchical military structure and gendered inequalities.
The female soldiers are invisible to the military system that does not care about their individual needs, abilities or desires. The drama between the two women, which slowly takes over the narrative of the film, creates social and cultural chaos that becomes productive for disrupting the prevailing attitudes of the hegemonic system towards them.
Young women in crisis are also featured in the novels of the German-Jewish-Azerbaijani-Russian writer Olga Grjasnowa (born in 1984). Anna-Dorothea Ludewig’s presentation examines the meaning of women friendship by discussing Grjasnowa’s novels Der Russe ist einer der Birken liebt, 2012 [All Russians love Birch Trees, English, 2014] and Die juristische Unschärfe einer Ehe, 2014 [A legal Haziness of a Marriage]. Both of the female protagonists of these narratives move between cultures and languages and experience emotional and erotic and adventures, aiming to locate what Paula Wójcik has termed “stability in fluctuation.”
Focusing on a later stage in life, and a somewhat different type of gendered attachment, Yael Kenan’s paper formulates a notion of maternal attachment in the face of loss in the context of Israel/Palestine. By juxtaposing David Grossman’s novel To the End of the Land (2008) and Ghassan Kanafani’s Umm Sa’ad (1969) Kenan’s reading challenges the definitions and limits of the political – the politics of mourning, the framework of nationalism and the role of mothering in both.

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