Issue 41 – Gender and Identity

In Britain, the women’s liberation movement brought women’s history from the margins into the mainstream of historical thinking, seeking to trace both inequality and oppression through the past and to rediscover female experiences left out by traditional historiography. As the field developed, a gendered approach to history has provided a new lens through which to analyse a wide range of topics from sexuality, race, citizenship, and nationhood, to power and the construction of sexual difference. In this issue we are spotlighting gender and also hope to bring in questions of identity: in what ways is identity constructed and expressed, either by individuals or collective communities? Prompts below reflect some of these questions but feel free to tailor the theme to your own interests! We encourage article suggestions that are not on this list, including book reviews. Submissions from students outside of the history department are more than welcome. :) 

Articles can either be 450 or 900 words and you do not need to include references or sources.  Don’t think of it as a lot of extra work!  Please email to reserve/suggest an article title, along with a brief plan of its content before 11pm on Friday 4th November.  The final deadline for article submissions is 11pm on Friday 11th November. 

Kerry and Sarah 


Special Feature Articles:

  • Why study gender history? How does thinking about gender improve our understanding of history? Or, what can gender history teach us about wider themes like colonialism, class etc. [Reserved]
  • Gendering the nation: does the gendering of nations impact national identity? (e.g. Motherland brings connotations of origins – birth, hearth, home, roots. In contrast, fatherland has conventionally appealed to ideas of Bruderschaft, filial duty, fraternity and paternity). [Reserved]
  • How should we think about sexuality- can any model of gay identity be applicable universally? [Reserved]
  • Decolonising the Manchester Museum, why is repatriation of cultural artefacts important to identity? [Reserved]

Added 26/10/22: We’d welcome a piece in memory on Mike Davis, his life and/or work.

African, Islamic and Arabic History:

  • Was the war of independence a liberating experience for Algerian women? [Reserved]
  • ‘There is no true social revolution, without the liberation of women’ Thomas Sankara. To what extent was Pan-Africanism a feminism movement? [Reserved]
  • To what extent was the Ottoman Empire a tolerant place for Minorities? (or Women?) [Reserved]
  • The Aba Women’s rebellion: the ‘first major challenge to British authority in West Africa?’ [Reserved]
  • A cultural piece on Afghanistan pre-1979.
  • How does Black Dandyism (i.e “La Sapologie” in the Democratic Republic of the Congo) continue to challenge gender performativity and binaries?
  • Simon Nkoli – South African Anti-Apartheid and gay activist (founded GLOW, worked to destigmatize HIV/AIDS). [Reserved]

Non-Western American History: 

  • “Maria Rural”. Either an article on the life and legacy of Arlen Siu or generally on the significance of female Sandinistas in the Nicaraguan Revolution. [Reserved]
  • Frida Kahlo – using art to portray female sexuality, pain and feminine beauty standards. [Reserved]
  • Indigenismo, Bolivian radicalism and the celebration of Indigenous culture and resistance.
  • Eva Peron: A champion of the people or a self-obsessed star?  [Reserved]
  • Dividing colonial subjects: the effects of the Spanish American caste system.
  • Recovering Indigenous Viewpoints; to what extent can we recover indigenous reactions to European colonisation in the Americas? (or a different place of your choosing).  [Reserved]
  • Reclaiming the Two-Spirit identity, or, the impact of colonialism and inseparable sexual prejudice on Native American communities. [Reserved]
  • Female soldiers (soldaderas) in the Mexican Revolution. [Reserved]
  • What is the significance of the The pañuelo verde (green scarf) as the emblem of the Argentine campaign for legal, safe, and free abortion? [Reserved]

Asian History:

  • Women and the Chinese revolution. [Reserved]
  • How the ‘queue’, or braid, became a symbol of gender identity rather than a symbol of Manchi oppression under the Qing dynasty in China. [Reserved]
  • From Kama Sutra to now: How has colonial rule impact south Asian queer identity and literature? [Reserved]
  • Religious identity and buddhist conversion as a strategy of upward mobility in Indian society 1850-1960. How was national identity constructed in colonial India? (was it inclusive of class, caste and gender?) [Reserved]
  • How and why did tolerance towards male homosexuality disappear in Meiji Japan?                                                                                                              
  • Geisha – How the West’s image of talented women demean their identity. [Reserved]
  • Hujum: the implications of Soviet gender policy in Central Asia.

Modern Western History:

  • Something on Sección Feminina, the fascist women’s organisation who supported Franco’s Spain. [Reserved]
  • “Noi Donna”, Women and Women’s Defence Groups in the Italian Resistenza. [Reserved]
  • Gender and the Holocaust – gendered identities being erased by starvation versus gender norms being reasserted in the postwar period to symbolise survival and continued existence of Jewish tradition [Reserved]
  • Bread and Roses: Something on women and socialism:
    • Could be a profile of a female revolutionary thinker e.g., Rosa Luxemburg, Clara Zetkin, Angela Davis, Simone de Beauvoir. [Angela Davis Reserved] [Simone de Beauvoir Reserved] [Valarie Solanas Reserved] [Bernadette Devlin Reserved]
    • Or, pieces on women-led strikes e.g., 1912 Lawrence textile strike (the ‘bread and roses strike’), Matchgirls’, Dagenham, Grunwick, Cleaners Action Group etc. [Matchgirls’ Strike reserved]
  • The life of Josephine Baker – the first black woman to star in a major motion picture, who then went on to aid the French Resistance during WWII.
  • The Harlem Renaissance – A radical expression of racial identity. [Reserved]
  • At one point in time, around ⅔ of the Black Panther Party (BPP) were women. Why is there a notion that thehas already b BPP was overwhelmingly masculine? [Reserved]
  • William Dorsey Swann: From Slavery to ‘The Queen of Drag’. [Reserved]
  • A piece on black feminist scholars or their work, e.g. Zora Neale, Patricia Hill Collins, Akasha Gloria Hull, bell hooks. [Reserved]

British History:

  • A profile of Mary Wollstonecraft and the birth of Western Feminism. [Reserved]
  • The Female Malady? How have cultural ideas about proper feminine behaviour have shaped the definition and treatment of madness in women? [Reserved]
  • Introduction to Edward Carpenter: poet, philosopher, utopian socialist, and a pioneer of gay rights amid the repression of Victorian England. [Reserved]
  • Elizabeth Gaskell:
    • Could look into how she presents women and the influence this may have had on early feminist movements in Britain. [Reserved]
    • Or generally, look at the emergence (?) and reception of women writers or thinkers in C19th Britain [Reserved]
  • What role did mid-Victorian feminists play in campaigns to repeal the Contagious Diseases Acts? [Reserved]
  • Live and Let Live? Did the Wolfenden report signal a liberalisation in cultural attitudes towards homosexuality in the UK? [Reserved]
  • To what extent did consumer culture help women break from the private sphere? Was it open to all women? [Reserved]
  • Women’s Liberation Movement: Why was the notion of liberation so important to the Women’s Liiberation Movement? i.e. why WLM not Second Wave Feminism
  • Margaret Thatcher: ‘an example to our daughters’ or the feminine face of patriarchal politics? [Reserved]
  • The squad from England Women’s first international game finally received their caps last month. We’re open to any submissions on women’s football, whether you want to write about its heyday pre-1920, the FA ban, or more recent history.  [Reserved]
    • Other ideas around women’s sport are also welcome.
  • Antisemitism and masculinity in Victorian literature (centrality of masculinity to negative images of Jews in Victorian novels and literary culture).
  • Manliness, masculinity and the Second World War. [Reserved]
  • Who was Charles Wotton?  Remembering the victims of the 1919 Race Riots. [Reserved]

Early Modern/Medieval History:

  • Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe: A predominantly female crime?  [Reserved]
  • Lucrecia de Llión – aka Lucrecia the dreamer – prophetic peasant in 16th-Century Spain. Accurately foresaw the defeat of the Armada, she was arrested by the King during the inquisition. [Reserved]
  • 300 years since variolation against smallpox in the US – Cotton Mather learnt about variolation from one of his slaves, Onesimus.
  • Christianity as a disrupting force: forced conversion on Europe’s frontiers:
    • You could examine how Christendom expanded its borders (e.g. Saxony, Hungary, Spain, Scandinavia), and how this affected/destroyed/bolstered indigineous cultures. [Reserved]
  • Joan of Arc: military leader who transcended gender roles. [Reserved]

Prehistory and Ancient History:

  • Ever since Eve: How and why has the Bible been used to justify women’s oppression? [Reserved]
  • Boudicca’s legacy? [Reserved]
  • The Queen of Sheba: A legendary figure of Islamic, Christian and Jewish design? [Reserved]
  • Can androgynous deities like Esu Elegba, the Yoruba god/ess of the crossroads, or Mawu Lisa, the Dahomey creator god/ess, be viewed through a contemporary lens as possible patrons for LGBTQ+?
  • Hunters vs Gatherers: changing perceptions of women in prehistory.
  • Women in Mesopotamian or ancient Egyptian society.
  • Persians in the Greek imagination, before and after the Greco-Persian War. 

Film and Book Reviews:

  • The Secret History of the Mongol Queens by Jack Weatherford
  • Only Paradoxes to offer by Joan Wallach Scott
  • City of Dreadful Delight by Judith R. Walkowitz
  • The Image of Man by George L Mosse [Reserved]
  • Matthew Warchus, Pride (2014) [Reserved]
  • Nigel Cole, Made in Dagenham (2010) [Reserved]
  • Marc Karlin, Nightcleaners (1975) [Reserved]
  • ​​Daniele Segre, Nome di battaglia Donna (2016)