15 May 2018

Gender and Resistance to Large-Scale Land Acquisitions in Cambodia


Last April Saba Joshi, along with many Graduate Institute professors and researchers, went to San Francisco to contribute to the 2018 Annual Convention of the International Studies Association (ISA), which was centered around “Power of Rules and Rule of Power”. Saba is a PhD candidate in International Relations and Political Science and a research assistant at the Gender Centre, where she carries out her PhD research on the emergence of women-led grassroots movements and gendered political identities in Cambodia. More details in this interview about her paper for the ISA convention.

Could you give us a brief summary of your conference paper? 

It is based on my ongoing doctoral research on gender and resistance to large-scale land acquisitions in Cambodia. I discuss the emergence of women-led resistance movements in two rural provinces, drawing on interviews and participant observation gathered over 15 months of field research. My paper argues that gender is a key element shaping contemporary protests over land in Cambodia. It demonstrates the ways in which gender norms structure political participation and how women land activists mobilised traditional gender roles to frame their claims. Situating these movements in the broader politics of repression under Cambodia’s authoritarian regime, my paper develops the links between resistance over land and regime dynamics in authoritarian states as viewed through the lens of gender politics – a theme that is largely absent in the current literature. 

What kinds of reactions did the paper get in the panel? 

The paper was well received by the discussant and audience members. Some participants informed me of other cases of women-led movements in other parts of the world where I might find parallels to my findings, which has proved to be very useful for me.

Lastly, can you share your impressions of the ISA convention? 

This convention was a valuable experience as it enabled me to meet scholars whose work I follow and to be introduced to new research that is of interest to my own work. I found the mentorship opportunities, particularly those aimed at early-career women, most helpful for learning from the experience of senior scholars. Overall, I came back inspired and energised!