Tensions in Movement Building


We are pleased to invite submissions for issue 5.3 of Kohl: a Journal for Body and Gender Research, slated for publication in December 2019. Young activists, independent researchers, graduate students and fresh graduates are particularly encouraged to apply. We also welcome submissions from seminal contributors in the field.

How do we read the current politics of movement building and knowledge production against global NGOization? The process of NGOization cannot be dissociated from a neoliberal globalization, from gig economy to reliance on grants. At the same time, NGOs provide care labor that makes up for the shortcomings of the dissolved state. While alternatives to this model exist, they are mostly discouraged and prevented from accessing resources. Feminist organizing has to contend with the NGOization of movements and knowledge production. While these tensions are sometimes perceived as external, they seep through and overlap with tensions that remain invisible within and without feminist movements, as well as in the dynamics of our own work. Calls to move past these tensions cannot evade the process of working through them, which makes for a feminist praxis that identifies the institutional and organizational as sites of struggle.

For this issue of Kohl, we are looking for papers centered in feminist, queer, and intersectionality theories that articulate the tensions between different forms of organizing in the MENA: institutional, non-governmental, and grassroots. We are also interested in papers that look at tensions within feminist movements in the MENA as possibilities for accountability and movement building. We are looking to understand and contextualize instances of feminist complicity and solidarity against instances of cooptation and silencing. We would want for this issue to be an imaginative act that envisions the ways in which cross-movement and/or transnational solidarities are built and tensions are acknowledged. We will hence also consider a limited number of transnational submissions.


Potential topics include but are not limited to:

  • Systemic and structural tensions with the state (secular and religious), NGOization, the strategies of organizing and reformist politics, and within “civil society.”
  • The economy of NGOization and its effects on knowledge production: care labor, means of production, access to resources.
  • Tensions in the process of knowledge production: challenging the traditional understanding of “informants” as subjects of research.
  • Contextualizing complicities, nuancing criticisms: NGOization and movement building.
  • The intersections of accountability and power within feminist organizing: how do respectability politics manifest themselves within feminist organizing across difference?
  • Working through tensions and discomforts as community work and feminist praxis.
  • The tensions and discomforts of solidarity work: citizen/non-citizen feminisms, Arabs/non-Arabs in the MENA, migration and borders, transnational and cross-movement organizing.
  • The place of anarcha-feminist politics in feminist movement building: tensions among feminists, states, and feminists who work for/with the state.
  • The emotional labor of tensions, whether acknowledged or invisible.
  • Challenging the framing of narratives as “sides:” how can we acknowledge each other’s experiences?
  • Tensions, taboos, and accountability within movements: sexual harassment in queer women and trans communities, misogyny in gay men’s monopoly of LGBT movements, generational clashes and ageism.
  • Undoing tensions: strategies, contexts, and historical processes.

Additionally, this issue of Kohl will see the onset of two new sections: with “In Dialogue,” authors can respond to or reflect on previous issues of Kohl. We are also adding a non-themed section.


To submit a paper, please send your blinded piece to kohljournal@gmail.com as a .doc or .docx file, with “Submission Issue 11” as the subject of your e-mail.

We accept work in progress, provided full drafts are submitted. If accepted for inclusion, please note that your paper will be translated to a second language by our team.