Best Dissertation Award 2018 II

The winner of the EISA´s Best Dissertation Award 2018 is Akanksha Mehta for her thesis “Right-Wing Sisterhood: Everyday Politics of Hindu Nationalist Women in India and Zionist Settler Women in Israel- Palestine”


The abstract of the thesis:

Right-Wing movements have gained political momentum in the last few decades, drawing within their ranks women who not only embody their exclusionary and violent politics but who also simultaneously contest everyday patriarchies. This thesis examines the everyday politics of women in two right-wing movements, the cultural nationalist Hindu right-wing project in India and the settler-colonial Zionist project in Israel-Palestine. Based on fourteen months of ethnographic, narrative, and visual ‘fieldwork’ conducted with women in both these movements, I argue that through a politics of the everyday, right-wing women  argain and negotiate with patriarchal communities/homes, male-formulated ideologies and discourses, and maledominated right-wing projects and spaces. These mediations replicate and affirm as well as subvert and challenge patriarchal structures and power hierarchies, troubling the binaries of home/world, private/public, personal/political, and victim/agent. I assert that dominant literature on rightwing women focuses on motherhood and family, ignoring various other crucial subject positions that are constituted and occupied by right-wing women and neglecting the agential and empowering potential of right-wing women’s subjectivities.

I use four themes/lenses to examine the everyday politics of right-wing women. These are: pedagogy and education; charity and humanitarian work; intimacy, friendship, sociability and leisure; and political  violence. By interrogating the practices that are contained in and enabled by these four locations of Hindu right-wing and Zionist settler women’s everyday politics, this thesis highlights the multiple narratives, contradictions, pluralities, hierarchies, power structures, languages, and discourses that encompass 4 right-wing women’s projects. By capturing the processes of subject formation of right-wing women, I encapsulate how my interlocutors shape the subjectivities of those in their communities, transforming the local and international landscapes of the Hindu right-wing and the Zionist settler project. Drawing together ethnographic narratives, ‘story-telling’, visuals,methodological and ethical reflections, and inter-disciplinary theoretical engagement, this thesis also asks what the many-layered textures of everyday politics of right-wing women might mean for feminist scholarship in gender studies, politics, and international relations, for feminist methodologies, for feminist ethics, and for feminist activism.

The committee comment:

The committee found this dissertation most impressive in terms of originality, creativity, intellectual analysis, and independent thinking. The comparative account of the religious right and the everyday in India and Israel provides an impressive account of the power of populist politics, colonial practices and gendered violence that speak beyond the topic of the dissertation. By bringing together feminist IR with gender and queer studies, critical geography, nationalism and political violence, this dissertation provides an outstanding analytical intervention in both theoretical and methodological terms, thus contributing to critical IR scholarship in general and feminist IR and its focus on the lived everyday experiences of violence, war and conflict, in particular.