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Chair: Dr Amanda Chisholm, Senior Lecturer in Security Studies / Researcher in Gender and Security

Speaker: Sarah Gharib Seif, doctoral researcher at the University of St Andrews

Discussant: Professor Caron Gentry, Pro Vice-Chancellor for the Faculty of Arts, Design, and Social Sciences at Northumbria University

In 2015, the ‘phenomenon’ of women traveling to join the Islamic State seemed to have taken over the news, with regular mentions of disbelief of why they would decide to leave their ‘ideal’ Western lives to join a ‘barbaric’ terrorist group. Various attempts to engage with the roles these women have played (and media coverage of it) has focused on a shallow interpretation of agency, and depictions thereof.

Moreover, much of the existing literature on women involved in terrorism not only focuses on the personal, but it treats the women themselves as the challenge for the existing parameters and policies set by the state, whilst simultaneously avoiding how these policies are inherently gendered. Feminist security studies has argued against the dismissal of women using gendered language which erases their agency. However, this still exists within the shallow binary of “having” agency.

Using the case study of the UK government and media narratives of the women who joined IS, and building on postcolonial and decolonial feminist theorisations, this talk  aims to uncover the racialised and gendered nature of these narratives and to take a step towards a deeper conceptualisation of agency.

About the speaker

Sarah Seif

Sarah Gharib Seif’s doctoral research focuses on the (re)production and perpetuation of colonial, racialised and gendered constructions of women who joined the Islamic State through media and government narratives in the Anglosphere, with a particular focus on the United Kingdom.

Sarah’s research interests include postcolonial, decolonial and feminist approaches to International Relations, critical approaches to terrorism, the politics and creation of narratives and discourses, the intersections of gender, race and religion, and the colonial nature of citizenship. Sarah received her undergraduate degree in International Relations from the University of St Andrews and holds an M.A. in International Peace and Security from King’s College London.

She previously worked as a researcher on Preventing Radicalisation and Extremism Leading to Terrorism at the Cairo International Center for Conflict Resolution, Peacekeeping and Peacebuilding (CCCPA), with a focus on the intersections of gender and terrorism, and of DDR and counterterrorism. She also previously worked as a geopolitics and social media intelligence analyst.

FTGS Global Voices Seminar Series

This event is part of the Feminist Theory and Gender Studies (FTGS) Global Voices Seminar Series. 

At this event


Reader in Gender and Security

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