What is to be done?

By Dr Sophia Price, Head of Politics and International Relations at Leeds Beckett.


Marx’s adage ‘first as tragedy then as farce’ seems a fitting place to start on this bleak winter post-election morning. In Zizek’s (2009) book of the same name he notes Marx’s correction of Hegel’s idea “that history necessarily repeats itself”. “Hegel remarks somewhere that all great events and characters of world history occur, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy , the second time as farce” (Marx 1973 quoted in Zizek 2009). For Marx, this second comedic version would  mark the “last phase of a world-historical form”.

Scanning social media this morning, there are a wide range of memes and posts that relate our present moment to the rise of fascism in the 1930s. The similarities are evident:  the rise of extreme and violent social movements in the wake of international financial crisis and destabilising and polarising global forces. The tragedy of that moment is now matched by the absurdity of millionaire Donald Trump democratically elected as the antidote to elite power and working class disaffection. Some farce.


Of course the analysis of the shift to extreme, right wing politics (be it the election of Trump or the vote for Brexit) has to be located within the context of the global spread of neo-liberal capitalism in which free trade and the roll back of social protection and labour rights has intensified the competition between workers. In response the elective power of disaffected labour has proved decisive, and hailed as a protest against the forces of globalisation. However, paradoxically this is a protest vote for increasing the power of capital through the reduction of taxes, social provision and business legislation and a raft of other pro-business reforms.

It is important though that within this analysis we do not lose sight of the intersections of race, gender and class within these processes. Inequitable social relations based on race, gender, disability and sexuality are not the side show to capitalist class conflict, they are the arenas by which it is played out and mediated.  This not only explains the recourse to racialised or gendered ‘others’ in both the US election and UK referendum campaigns, be they refugee ‘swarms’, ‘bad hombres’ or ‘nasty women’, but also the attractiveness of these narratives beyond blue collar workers facing the harsh realities of global competitiveness. Donald Trump was not elected in spite of his racism and sexism, he was elected because of it.

This is not a semantic difference. Those waking this morning wondering what is to be done, need to properly locate race and gender within the analysis of class relations and contemporary capitalism that have provoked these social changes, in order to be able to formulate a viable, progressive and inclusive alternative.


Sophia’s most recent publication is in the Roundtable Commonwealth Journal of International Affairs.

F= the Festival of the Body!

Guest Post from Natalia Gerodetti, Senior Lecturer in Sociology and member of the Global Inequalities Research Group.

March 8th has come to mark international women’s day and is celebrated globally many years after its origins in the early 20th century and still making claims for persistent inequalities, new forms of injustice and discrimination as well as celebrating the many achievements there have been in relation to women’s social, cultural and political roles and positions.

In 1908 a day was held to remember a strike of a Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union in New York, organised by the Socialist Party of America but by 1911 over a million people marked it in various countries. Since 1996 – and perhaps against a background of gender mainstreaming – the UN provides themes for each year with 2016 being the year to ‘Make It Happen’.

So there you go – make it happen with our local Leeds events!  The Festival of the Body will celebrate International Women’s day with a month long programme of events at Leeds Central Library, including art exhibitions, performances and talks.  There are also interactive sessions.

The Festival of the Body is organised by F= an interdisciplinary research group at Leeds Beckett University.

Find out more and get involved at http://www.fequals.co.uk.


Dr Gerodetti’s research focuses on historical approaches to the social and spatial politics of gender and sexuality in the context of law and social policy. She has an interest in the relationship of the past to the present in terms of social justice.  More recently her research interests focus around space, migration and identity both in relation to historical governance of gender and sexuality but also in relation to contemporary aspects around food production, sustainability and belonging. Her most recent publication with Dr Sally Foster “Growing foods from home: food production, migrants and the changing cultural landscapes of gardens and allotments” was published in Landscape Research in October 2015.


Exercising Human Rights?

Last month Dr. Robin Redhead launched her new book: Exercising Human Rights: Gender, Agency and Practice at the Politics and Applied Global Ethics seminar series and at the International Studies Association annual convention in New Orleans.

Exercising Human Rights by Robin Redhead

Speaking about her book, Robin explored why human rights are not universally empowering an why this damages people attempting to exercise rights. She takes a new approach in looking at humans as the subject of human rights rather than the object and exposes the gendered and ethnocentric aspects of violence and human subjectivity in the context of human rights.

An Amnesty International Publication as part of the 2004 campaign

An Amnesty International Publication as part of the 2004 campaign

Using an innovative visual methodology, Redhead shines a new critical light on human rights campaigns and practice. She examines two case studies in-depth. First, she shows how Amnesty International depicts women negatively in their 2004 Stop Violence against Women campaign, revealing the political implications of how images deny women their agency because violence is gendered.

See more about the Oka crisis at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Archives.

See more about the Oka crisis at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Archives.

She also analyses the Oka conflict between indigenous people and the Canadian state. She explains how the Canadian state defined the Mohawk people in such a way as to deny their human subjectivity. By looking at how the Mohawk used visual media to communicate their plight beyond state boundaries, she delves into the disjuncture between state sovereignty and human rights.

Her book is published by Routledge and available at: