International Women’s Day Reading List

From feminist theory, to history and contemporary politics, these are some of Pluto’s best books, old and new, that celebrate radical women.


Revolutionary Learning: Marxism, Feminism and Knowledge by Sara Carpenter and Shahrzad Mojab Carpenter T03129

Revolutionary Learning by Sara Carpenter and Shahrzad Mojab explores the Marxist and feminist theorisation of knowledge production and learning. From an explicitly feminist perspective, the authors reconsider the contributions of Marx, Gramsci and Freire to educational theory, expanding Marxist analyses of education by considering it in relation to patriarchal and imperialist capitalism.  The reproductive nature of institutions is revealed through an ethnography of schools and pushed further by the authors who go on to examine how education and consciousness connects with the broader environment of public policy, civil society, the market, and other instruments of ‘public pedagogy.’

The book’s use of work by feminist, anti-racist and anti-colonial scholars means it will have significant implications for critical education scholarship, but its use value extends beyond educational praxis; providing the tools dissect, theorize, resist and transform capitalist social relations.


Captive Revolution: Palestinian Women’s Anti-Colonial Struggle within the Israeli Prison System by Nahla AbdoAbdo T02851

Throughout the world, women have played a part in struggles against colonialism, imperialism and other forms of oppression, but their vital contributions to revolutions, national liberation and anti-colonial resistance are rarely chronicled.

Nahla Abdo’s Captive Revolution seeks to break the silence on Palestinian women political detainees. Based on stories of the women themselves, as well as her own experiences as a former political prisoner, Abdo draws on a wealth of oral history and primary research in order to analyse their anti-colonial struggle, their agency and their appalling treatment as political detainees. Through crucial comparisons between the experiences of female political detainees in other conflict; a history of female activism emerges.

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‘Feminism is for Everybody’ bell hooks for International Woman’s Day

bell hooks’ Feminism is for Everybody is the antidote to every ‘when’s international men’s day?!’ tweet. Designed to be read by all genders, this short, accessible introduction to feminist theory, by one of its liveliest and most influential practitioners, seeks to rescue feminism from esoterism and academic jargon; simplifying, arguing and convincing.



Everywhere I go I proudly tell folks who want to know who I am and what I do that I am a writer, a feminist theorist, a cultural critic. I tell them I write about movies and popular culture, analysing the message in the medium. Most people find this exciting and want to know more. Everyone goes to movies, watches television, glances through magazines, and everyone has thoughts about the messages they receive, about the images they look at. It is easy for the diverse public I encounter to understand what I do as a cultural critic, to understand my passion for writing (lots of folks want to write, and do). But feminist theory — that’s the place where the questions stop. In- stead I tend to hear all about the evil of feminism and the bad feminists: how “they” hate men; how “they” want to go against nature — and god; how “they” are all lesbians; how “they” are taking all the jobs and making the world hard for white men, who do not stand a chance. When I ask these same folks about the feminist books or magazines they read, when I ask them about the feminist talks they have heard, about the feminist activists they know, they respond by let- ting me know that everything they know about feminism has come into their lives thirdhand, that they really have not come close enough to feminist movement to know what really happens, what it’s really about. Mostly they think feminism is a bunch of angry women who want to be like men. They do not even think about feminism as being about rights — about women gaining equal rights. When I talk about the feminism I know — up close and personal — they willingly listen, although when our conversations end, they are quick to tell me I am different, not like the “real” feminists who hate men, who are angry. I assure them I am as a real and as radical a feminist as one can be, and if they dare to come closer to feminism they will see it is not how they have imagined it.

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Reflections on State use of sex and deception – Eveline Lubbers

Eveline Lubbers, author of Secret Manoeuvres in the Dark: Corporate and Police Spying on Activists (Pluto, 2012) has written a piece this week on the State use of sex and deception in the context of undercover operatives. It reflects on a 1999 article by the American sociologist Gary T. Marx, now Professor Emeritus of Sociology at M.I.T. He has been writing about infiltration, protest and surveillance since the 1960s, and he is still going strong.

Lubbers critiques his discussion and invokes the recent Mark Kennedy court case in an interesting piece on the ethically abdicated practice of  state-sanctioned rape. We’ve reproduced the article below, but you can check it out in its original context by navigating to the book’s web page here.

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The stories that have come out about under covers having had long term relationships with women in activist groups, make you wonder if nothing has been written about this before. The questions around this issue are many, they are complicated and intertwined. It is difficult, for instance, to separate the question of how the women involved deal with what has happened to them on a personal level, and the problem of which legal steps to undertake, when the law is in fact inadequate as an instrument – since no rules have been written to address this.

However, as the case of the eight women who launched legal action against the Metropolitan Police for the harm caused shows, there is evidence that under covers have been engaged in intimate relations with women active in the groups the officers infiltrated, again and again in a period of at least 30 years – in the UK only. This implies that there was something of a strategy behind it, or at least that supervisors and those higher up responsible for the infiltration operations did not have a problem with state use of sex.

My project researching Secret Manoeuvres includes locating existing literature, and providing it to those interested.

One of the few academic articles I have found so far, is written by the American sociologist Gary T. Marx, now Professor Emeritus of Sociology at M.I.T. He has been writing about infiltration, protest and surveillance since the 1960s, and he is still going strong. His writing was an inspiration for my PhD, Secret Manoeuvres is the popular version.

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Activists blockade Scotland Yard over police use of sex as subterfuge

Chris Browne reports from the blockade of Scotland Yard by activists protesting against the use of sex by undercover officers who infiltrated environmentalist groups.

Every movement and social group has its own stories, the ones they tell, and retell, and that are gradually sculpted into little anthropological myths. The alterglobalisation movement is no different. Young, bright-eyed activists will hear the same stories of outrage and intrigue from the movement’s near past. Like the one where an anti-MacDonalds action group transpired to have been infiltrated by a number of undercover police. No real story there, perhaps, were it not for the fact that the number of undercover agents vastly outnumbered the genuine activists in the group. Continue reading