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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‘Love and Sex in the Age of Apartheid’ – Alice Rothchild in Palestine and Israel, 18/06/2013

Alice Rothchild is a physician, activist and writer based in Boston. She is the author of Broken Promises, Broken Dreams (Pluto, 2007; 2010) and serves on the regional steering committee for American Jews for a Just Peace. The following blog post is the fifth of several documenting her current work in Palestine as part of the American Jews for a Just Peace – Health and Human Rights Project.


UPDATED: 24/06

We arrive in the stunningly beautiful port city of Haifa, a muggy heat descending over steep hills winding to the port, towering cranes like gigantic blue  flamingos perched along the shore, the over the top Bahai Temple and Gardens shimmering up the terraced mountain at the end of the German Colony area where we are staying.  Our first stop today is with a group of dynamic women from Muntada: The Arab Forum for Sexuality, Education and Health, and Aswat, Arabic for ‘Voices’.

Safa Tamish  (  is the intense and lively director of Muntada, a community based, feminist group founded in 2000, devoted to working on sexuality and sexual rights for Palestinians in Israel.  This started as a project within an Israeli family planning organization, but became independent due to the complex intersections of sexuality, national identity, cultural sensitivity, occupation, and the consequent spoken and unspoken dynamics of power.

I suspect that most readers share the Western view of a repressive patriarchal Palestinian/Arab culture where women are characteristically dominated by their fathers and husbands and sexual issues, let alone queer issues, are off the agenda.  We learn quickly that the culture is far from monolithic and there is a tremendous amount of nuance and complexity that needs to be understood.

Safa has a huge dose of chutzpah and creative energy.  She describes going into different settings, starting with student councils, working on projects based on listening and respect for the local community, learning from each other.  Once there is obvious mutual respect then much is possible.

Working in a Bedouin community, she understood that every mother has to explain to her child the predictable questions about sex, birth, etc. Using non-threatening interactive training, with techniques such as role playing, she never encountered opposition, despite working in conservative villages.  In the course of her work with girls in tenth to twelfth grade, she found that almost 90% of the tenth grade girls were engaged and by twelfth grade, many were married.  After Safa’s program, none of the girls married while still in school.  She believes in community empowerment, done respectfully and quietly.

The projects and conferences grew and by 2006 Muntada became an independent Arab association.  She found that Zionist funders had no interest in Arabic projects and Arabic funders had no interest in working with Israelis.  The original name was associated with family planning, but due to all the talk about the demographic threat from procreating Palestinians, this name also became political poison.  Additionally, contraceptives were already available through the national health insurance.  The group also wants to work with Palestinians in the West Bank and Arab world and thus became an independent organization with 28 volunteers.  Their first funding came in 2007 through the Global Fund for Women and later other internationals, the European Union, Oxfam, local ministries for social welfare, and the Ministry of Education.

They are now developing culturally sensitive school programs; there are no models in the Arab world, and the western models are sometimes useful but culturally tone deaf.  So how does this work in the real world?  Safa told us that it is often tough, men are often gender insensitive; they need to be challenged without being imposed upon.  The tolerance of the women gets tested and this then challenges the men.  Last year, there was a two day training on sexuality in Nablus.  All the men sat on one side, all the women on the other, two women were completely covered and two men were sheikhs with long beards.  They stated that Sharia Law has all the answers and this project is funded by the west, with a western agenda.  Safa thanked them for their comments and began the program unintimidated. The next day they were role playing and she asked the sheikh to explain to his daughter, “What is  masturbation?”  When he refused, “I cannot do this!” she explained, “But she is your daughter, do you want her to learn this from the internet?” He replied no, blushed, and then finally did the role play. Others in the program reported that this experience has created dramatic changes in the school and the sheikh is now recommending the program to everyone!

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Perryman’s Books for New Year Revolutions including ‘How a Century of War Changed the Lives of Women’ in the Huffington Post

As we wrote in a post a few days ago, Mark Perryman’s blog ‘Philosophy Football’ included Lindsey German’s new book in his list of ‘books for New Year Revolutions’. As is now traditional, the HuffPo has syndicated the list – meaning that if you type the words ‘Huffington’ and ‘Lindsey German’ into Google you’ll likely get a delightful selection of search results taking you to this bonanza of free publicity…

As Perryman notes, ‘finding the time for a good read to provoke both thought and action is as good a New Year resolution as I can think of. And despite the mind-numbing dullness of the political mainstream in the margins there’s thankfully still plenty to savour.’ Of How a Century of War Changed the Lives of Women he writes:

Lindsey German’s new book … takes a similarly long historical sweep to Hann, this time with a focus in particular on the political experience of, and resistance by, women to militarism and imperialism. This is a much neglected aspect of women’s lives and politics, by redressing the balance this book provides a pleasingly different, and necessary, read.

Lindsey’s book is out next month, launching our new Counterfire series. To find out more see the purchasing details below.

How a Century of War Changed the Lives of Women

Lindsey German

“Lindsey German links two major forms of women’s involvement in war: as activists opposing conflict and as workers during it. Seen through the prism of women’s experience, German tells a fascinating and important story.” – Nina Power, Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at Roehampton University and the author of One-Dimensional Woman (2009)

£16 only £14.00 on the Pluto site