Conference Speakers

Conference Speakers

Scholars and feminist activists from different countries worldwide discussed the interrelations between religion, politics and gender equality. Speakers, for instance, from India, Pakistan, Poland, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States shared their experiences and knowledge with the participants of the conference.

The following conference speakers are listed in alphabetical order:

Cassandra Balchin

Cassandra Balchin is a freelance researcher, writer and human-rights advocacy trainer, and has been part of the network Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML) since the early 1990s. Formerly a journalist based in Pakistan, she has published on Muslim family laws and international development policy regarding religion. Her more recent publications include: "'Muslim Women' and 'Moderate Muslims': British Policy and the Strengthening of Religious Absolutist Control over Gender Development", in The Power of Labelling: How and Why People’s Categories Matter, Rosalind Eyben and Joy Moncrieff (eds.), Earthscan (2007); "Recognising the Unrecognised: Inter-Country Cases and Muslim Marriage and Divorce in Britain", WLUML (2005).

Asef Bayat

Asef Bayat, Professor of Sociology and Middle East Studies, Leiden University, The Netherlands. His research areas range from social movements and non-movements, religion-politics-everyday life, Islam and the modern world, to urban space and politics, and international development. His books include “Street Politics: Poor People’s Movements in Iran” (Columbia University Press, 1997), “Making Islam Democratic: Social Movements and the Post-Islamist Turn” (Stanford University Press, 2007), and most recently “Life as Politics: How Ordinary People Change the Middle East” (Stanford University Press, 2009), and “Being Young and Muslim: Cultural Politics in the Global South and North” (Oxford University Press, forthcoming).

Beate Blatz

Beate Blatz was born in 1956 in Engers/Rhine and grew up in Cologne. She studied Comparative Religion and English Literature at the Universities of Bonn, Erlangen and Marburg, leaving Bonn University in 1984 with a PhD in Comparative Religion. For three years she worked as an editor for a big publishing house in Hannover before becoming PR Manager for different organisations including NGOs as well as business organisations. In 2006 she joined one of the two predecessors of the Protestant Women of Germany as general manager and in 2008 became head of the newly founded organisation representing 3.9 million women. Beate Blatz has published two books and various articles about the history of women in the church. She now lives and works in Hannover, Germany.

José Casanova

José Casanova is one of the world’s top scholars in the sociology of religion. He is a Professor at the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Georgetown University, Washington, DC, and heads the Berkley Center’s Program on Globalization, Religion and the Secular. He holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from the New School for Social Research. He has published works in a broad range of subjects, including religion and globalization, migration and religious pluralism, transnational religions, and sociological theory. His best-known work, “Public Religions in the Modern World” (University of Chicago Press, 1994), has become a modern classic in the field and been translated into five languages, including Arabic and Indonesian. His most recent research has focused primarily on two areas: globalization and religion, and the dynamics of transnational religion, migration, and increasing ethno-religious and cultural diversity. In studying religion and globalization, his research has adopted an ambitious comparative perspective that includes Catholicism, Pentecostalism and Islam within its scope. Some of his recent articles in this area include “Public Religions Revisited” (in Hent de Vries, ed., Religion: Beyond the Concept (Fordham University Press, 2008), and “Religion, Politics and Gender in Catholicism and Islam” (in Hanna Herzog and Ann Braude, ed., Gendered Modernities: Women, Religion, and Politics (Palgrave, forthcoming).

Agnieszka Graff

Agnieszka Graff is a Polish writer, translator, publicist and feminist, holding a Masters from Oxford University and a Ph.D. in English Literature from Warsaw University, Poland. She teaches American literature and cultural studies at the American Studies Center, and offers seminars at the Gender Studies Center at Warsaw University. Her research interests include narrative and feminist theory, the history of the American women’s movement, and the intersection of gender, race and national identity in both Polish and US culture. Her publications include articles on narrative theory, Joyce, Faulkner and Woolf, feminism, women in popular culture as well as translations, including Virginia Woolf’s “A Room of One’s Own”. In 2001 she published “The World Without Women” (in Polish), in which she described the absence of women in Polish public life and the patterns of gender-based discrimination in Poland. Her most recent publication, “Ricochet” (2008, in Polish too), deals with gender, sexuality and the nation. Her essays have been published in Polish newspapers and magazines, such as Gazeta Wyborcza, Zadra, Katedra, Krytyka Polityczna, and ResPublica Nowa. She is a co-founder of the women’s group “8 March Women Coalition”, which organizes the annual Warsaw women’s march, and a member of the Cultural Critique team.

Anka Grzywacz

Anka Grzywacz is a freelance translator living in Warsaw, Poland. She holds an MA in applied linguistics from Warsaw University. She has been a volunteer at the Federation for Women and Family Planning for five years. Anka has been involved in numerous projects, including the Women on Waves campaign for the right to safe and legal abortion. During the past three years, she has received training and practiced as a peer sexual educator in secondary schools with a group of volunteers called Ponton. She also attended numerous workshops and conferences, particularly on youth reproductive rights issues. Recently Anka decided to pursue a political career and started preparing for the new role by serving as a volunteer assistant to vice president of Poland's major left-wing party, Social Democratic Alliance (SLD), Professor Joanna Senyszyn. Her ambition is to become an MP dealing with women's rights issues. Anka makes a living translating documents, articles from the foreign press and movie subtitles.

Homa Hoodfar

Homa Hoodfar, Professor of Anthropology at Concordia University. Her primary research and interest and expertise lies in the intersection of political economy, gender and development in Muslim contexts, and in the complexities and implications of micro-macro linkages between social policies and women’s lived realities. She has extensively studied survival and empowerment strategies amongst those marginalised by legal constraints, particularly in the area of family law and citizenship, economic penury, and displacement, with a particular focus on women and younger people, in Egypt, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and amongst Canada’s Muslim community. She has written extensively on reproductive health policies, their discursive justifications, and their impact on or implications for women’s lives.  She has also been actively involved in the Women Living Under Muslim Laws network since the 1980s. Her publications include: “The Muslim Veil in North America: issues and debates” with Sajida Alvi and Sheila McDonough, Toronto: Canadian Scholars’ Press; “Building Civil Societies: A Guide for Social and Political Participation”, France: Women Living Under Muslim Laws with Nelofer Pazira; “Between Marriage and the Market: Intimate Politics and Survival in Cairo”, Berkeley: University of California Press; “Special Dossier: Shifting Boundaries in Marriage and Divorce in Muslim Communities: Women and Law in the Muslim World Program, Women Living Under Muslim Laws”, (Guest Editor); “Development, Change, and Gender in Cairo: A View from the Household”. Eds: Diane Singerman and Homa Hoodfar. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Deniz Kandiyoti

Deniz Kandiyoti is Professor of Development Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, UK. She holds a Ph.D. from the London School of Economics and Political Science. She has taught and researched in universities in Turkey, the USA and Britain. Her research interests include comparative perspectives on gender, household formation and development, and Islam and state policies in the Middle East. Her work on gender and Islam, especially in post-colonial and rural development areas, has been influential throughout the entire field. She has pioneered new research into understanding the implications of Islam and state policy on women, and as a result has brought more attention to the field. More recently she has worked in the Central Asian republics of the former USSR on post-Soviet transitions with special reference to land rights and agrarian reform and on the politics of gender in Afganistan. Among her recent publications are the articles "Between the Hammer and the Anvil: Post Conflict Reconstruction, Islam and Women's Rights" (Third World Quarterly, 28/3, 2007) and "Old Dilemmas or New Challenges? The Politics of Gender and Reconstruction in Afghanistan" (Development and Change, 38/2, 2007).

Azza Karam

Dr. Azza Karam serves as the Senior Culture Advisor at the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), where she coordinates Fund-wide global activities on Culture and Religion. Prior to this, she was the Senior Policy Research Advisor at the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), in the Regional Bureau for Arab States. Her programmatic experience spans the fields of global multi-religious collaboration, gender issues, governance, human rights, conflict, and political Islam. Before joining the UN, she worked at the “World Conference of Religions for Peace” where she founded the first Global Women of Faith Network, and advised on issues related to Muslim and Arab affairs. She served as the President of the Committee of Religious NGOs at the UN and was a Senior Program Officer at the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA). She has lectured at the School of Politics at the Queens University of Belfast, and at the University of Amsterdam, among others. She also served as consultant/trainer to the UNDP, OSCE and other international organisations, in the Arab region, Central Asia and Europe. She has authored and edited several books and published numerous articles. Her books include “Transnational Political Islam” (Pluto, 2004); “Islamisms, Women and the State (Macmillan, 1998); Women in Parliament: Beyond Numbers” (IIDEA, 1998 and 2007); and “Woman’s Place: Religions Women as Public Actors” (WCRP: 2002).

Anne Phillips

Anne Phillips is Professor of Political and Gender Theory at the London School of Economics and Political Science, where she holds a joint appointment in the Gender Institute and Government Department. She is a leading figure in feminist political theory, and has written on issues of equality and difference, democracy and representation, gender and multiculturalism. Her publications include “Multiculturalism without Culture” (2007), “Which Equalities Matter?” (1999), “The Politics of Presence” (1995), “Democracy and Difference” (1993), and “Engendering Democracy” (1991). She was awarded an honorary Doctorate from the University of Aalborg in 1999, and was elected Fellow of the British Academy in 2003. In 2008, she received a Special Recognition Award from the Political Studies Association, UK, for her contribution to Political Studies. She is currently working on a collection of essays on Gender and Culture, which will be published by Polity Press in 2010.

Shahra Razavi

Shahra Razavi is Senior Research Co-ordinator at the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD), where she oversees the Institute’s Programme on Gender and Development. She began her collaboration with UNRISD in 1993, after completing her Ph.D. at Oxford University. She has conceptualized and coordinated global comparative research projects in a number of areas, including on Agrarian Change, Gender and Land Rights; Gender and Social Policy; and The Political and Social Economy of Care. Her recent books include “Gender and Social Policy in a Global Context: Uncovering the Gendered Structure of ‘the Social’” (edited with Shireen Hassim, Palgrave, 2006); “Agrarian Change, Gender and Land Rights” (special issue of the Journal of Agrarian Change, Blackwell, 2003); “Gender Justice, Development and Rights” (edited with Maxine Molyneux, Oxford University Press, 2002). Her most recent journal articles include “Liberalization and the debates on women’s access to land” (Third World Quarterly, 28/8, 2007); “The return to social policy and the persistent neglect of unpaid care” (Development and Change, 38/3, 2007); “Does paid work enhance women’s access to welfare? Evidence from selected industrializing countries” (Social Politics, 4/1, 2007); and The Gendered Impacts of Liberalization: Towards 'Embedded Liberalism'? (Routledge, 2009).

Annette Riedel

Annette Riedel has been editor-in-chief in the Berlin studios of the German radio station “Deutschlandradio” since 2008. She studied German and English at Free University Berlin and in the U.S. between 1976 and 1997. She was working as a free-lance journalist at the radio station “Rias Berlin” (live reportages, features, moderations, opinion pieces), at first for the youth radio of “Rias 2”, later for political programs of “Rias 1” and “Deutschlandradio”, where she was in charge of moderation and editing of live broadcasts of different formats and lengths and where she produced broadcasts on diverse issues related to domestic, foreign, environmental, science, and economic policies, and on social themes. In 1997 she was employed on a permanent basis as editor in the department for reportages and features of “Deutschlandradio”, where she primarily edited and moderated the weekly half-hour interview broadcast “Tacheles”. Since 1998, she has moderated numerous panel discussions for “Deutschlandradio Berlin”, political parties, foundations and other organizations. Since 2001, she occasionally has participated as a journalist in the German television broadcasts “ARD-Presseclub” and “ZDF-Morgenmagazin”. In 2006, she contributed as an editor to ‘Global Players’, an English, economic CNBC Talk Show broadcasted worldwide.

Farida Shaheed

Farida Shaheed is a sociologist and women's rights activist, overseeing the Women, Law, and Status Program at Shirkat Gah, a women’s resource center in Lahore, Pakistan, where she works to integrate research, social development and advocacy. She is furthermore Director of the Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML) International Solidarity Network and a founding member of the national women’s lobbying organization Women’s Action Forum. She holds a Master’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Leeds and has published widely on women and women’s rights in Pakistan.

Barbara Unmüßig

Barbara Unmüßig is Co-President of the Heinrich Böll Foundation. She is responsible for the development of programmes and strategies in Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East and holds the strategic and programmatic responsibility for the “Gunda Werner Institute for feminism and gender democracy”. Her work primarily focuses on issues of globalisation and international climate policies, national and international gender policies as well as the promotion of democracy and conflict prevention. Before joining the Foundation, she has worked as a journalist and as a research assistant for the Green Parliamentarian Group in the German Bundestag. She has been active in numerous national and international NGO networks and has co-founded the organization “World Economy, Ecology & Development” (WEED) as well as the “German Institute for Human Rights” (DIMR). She has published numerous articles in newspapers and political periodicals on issues of trade and finance, international ecological policies and north-south relations networks.

Mariz Tadros

Mariz Tadros is Research Fellow at the Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, Brighton, U.K. There she is in “The Participation, Power and Social Change Team” (PPSC) which explores concepts and methods of 'participation' and how they can be used to improve the complex interactions between society and policy. She is also active as a journalist for Al-Ahram Weekly.

Gökce Yurdakul

Gökce Yurdakul studied Sociology at the Bogazici University and Gender & Women’s Studies at the Middle East Technical University in Turkey. She has her PhD. from the University of Toronto, Department of Sociology where she received the Connaught Fellowship. Previously, she has taught courses on race, ethnicity, gender and immigration at the Trinity College Dublin and Brock University, St. Catharines, Canada. She was affiliated with the Free University, Berlin Program for Advanced German and European Studies as a post-doctoral fellow. She has published books and articles on immigrant integration, citizenship Islam in Europe and issues of Muslim women in Western Europe and North America. She has written articles for scholarly journals, such as “Annual Review of Sociology, Ethnic and Racial Studies, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies” and “German Politics and Society”. She has been working on policy reports fort he Canadian Council of Muslim Women and the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development. She is currently Professor of Diversity and Social Conflict at Humboldt-University Berlin, Institute for Social Sciences.

Renate Wilke-Launer

Renate Wilke-Launer is a free lance journalist. After getting her degree (social sciences) from the University of Göttingen she worked for many years as a freelancer in adult education, especially with working class people. After moving to Hamburg in 1979 she went to work for a small “alternative” bimonthly magazine on development issues and contributed to other journals as well, mainly related to the liberation struggle in Southern Africa and the UN’s World Conferences on Women in Copenhagen and Nairobi. She joined the Association of Protestant Churches and Missions in Germany in 1986 and edited their journal (now under the title “Eine Welt”). She moved on to edit “der überblick” in 1988, a renowned quarterly for ecumenical encounter and international cooperation and acted as its editor-in-chief until it was closed down at the end of 2007. With its background in the Protestant Churches “der überblick” focused on the world’s religions in quite a few issues (e.g. the fundamentalisms in all major religions, the growth of pentencostalism). Contributions came from all corners of the world and people from all walks of life, be it professors or practitioners, theologians and lay persons, church leaders and their critics, journalists and activists. The thematic issues allowed for articles from various angles and often challenged the conventional wisdom of the development community. After leaving the (protestant) Churches Development services Renate Wilke-Launer is a free lancer again. She serves on various committees, e.g. the North German Foundation for the Environment and Development and the Berlin Institute for Population and Development.