Call for papers for special issue of the journal MAI: Feminism & Visual Culture

Melaw Nakehk’o is Dehcho Dene and Denesulene from Liidlii Kue, Denendeh Northwest Territories. She is a Mother, Artist, Moose hide tanner, Actress and and co-founder of the Indigenous organization Dene Nahjo. From the series, “Resilience and Resistance”, by Kali Spitzer, 2015. Image courtesy of Kali Spitzer


for a special issue on photography and resistance of the journal MAI: Feminism & Visual Culture

Special issue editor: Kylie Thomas

Authors with expertise in visual and cultural studies and related disciplines are invited to contribute to a special issue on photography and resistance of the journal, MAI: Feminism & Visual Culture. The special issue will be edited by Dr Kylie Thomas, Marie Skłodowska-Curie Research Fellow at the Netherlands Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide studies.

Of particular interest are contributions that illuminate the lives and work of women and non-binary photographers and that draw on the insights and practices of anti-racist and intersectional feminism.

Photography, as Yvonne Vera writes, “has often brought forth the most loaded fraction of time, a calcification of the most unequal, brutal, and undemocratic moment of human encounter” (Vera, 1999). Photography has also been used as a form of resistance to repressive regimes, to oppose war and violence, and as a means to challenge heteronormative patriarchy. Photography offers both a means of critique and a way of making visible events and forms of power that are not intended to be seen. Feminist and LGBTQ+ photographers have taken up cameras as a way to produce entirely new visual vocabularies, to reimagine the world otherwise, and to challenge hegemonic ways of seeing.

The ways in which women and non-binary photographers made use of photography as a form of resistance comes into clear view at the time of the Second World War. Among the photographers who worked at this time is Claude Cahun, whose photomontages reinvent the human form and refuse normative conceptions of the body. In 1937, Cahun moved to the Isle of Jersey with her partner Suzanne Malherbe (who practiced as an artist under the name Marcel Moore). From the time of the German occupation of the island in July 1940, until they were arrested in 1944 and sentenced to death for their resistance activities, Cahun and Moore produced pamphlets and visual material that they distributed across the island in defiance of the Nazi occupation (Thynne, 2010). Photographers Emmy Andriesse, Eva Besnyö and Violette Cornelius formed part of the Dutch resistance movement, De Ondergedoken Camera (the Hidden Camera). Once she obtained forged papers, Andriesse, who was Jewish, documented the occupation of Amsterdam at the risk of being murdered by the Nazis (Baring, 2013).

Doris Derby; Diana Davies; Ruth-Marion Baruch and Maria Varela are among the women who documented the Civil Rights Era in the United States (Speltz, 2016). In the 1980s, Lesley Lawson, Deseni Moodliar, Zubeida Vallie and Gille de Vlieg were among the women who joined the anti-apartheid photography collective Afrapix. Many of their images draw attention to the key role played by women in the struggle for freedom in South Africa (Lawson, 1985; Comley, Hallett and Ntsoma, 2006).

Nan Goldin’s intimate portraits of her friends over several decades and through the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the United States refuse state-prescribed moralising and the silencing of alternative forms of kinship (Junge, 2016). Visual activist Zanele Muholi has used photography as a way not only to honour the lives of LGBTQI+ Black Africans, but also as a form of advocacy in campaigns against homophobic hate crimes (Baderoon, 2011; Lewin, 2019). Nona Faustine’s “White Shoes” series (2014), consists of photographs of the artist in locations around the city of New York that evoke the repressed history of slavery in the United States and that reclaim the Black female body as a source and site of resistance against the violence of both the past and the present (Diabate, 2020). 

Her Pixel Story in Kashmir, the Thuma Collective in Myanmar, and the Kaali Collective in Bangladesh, are instances of contemporary photography collectives making use of the medium to resist repressive regimes.

In the last decade, women and non-binary activist-photographers have taken part in resistance movements across the world, from the Arab Spring to Black Lives Matter. While recent exhibitions such as “Still I Rise: Feminisms, Gender, Resistance, Act 2”, at the De La Warr Pavilion (2018); Another Eye: Women Refugee Photographers in Britain after 1933 at Four Corners (2020); and a major solo show of the work of Zanele Muholi at the Tate Modern, (2020), testify to a growing interest in this field, the ways in which women and non-binary artists, writers, (art) historians, thinkers and activists have made use of photography as a form of resistance remains under-researched.

Suggested topics include:

  • How feminist/ LGBTQI+ / anti-racist artists and activists have mobilized photographs as a form of resistance
  • Women and non-binary photographers documenting conflict, protest and political violence
  • How feminist, anti-racist and LGBTQI+ activists and activist collectives have produced photographs and/or made use of photographs
  • The ways in which women and non-binary people have used photographs during times of conflict and war (feminist publications/ posters/ activism/ resistance archives)
  • Women and non-binary photographers who participated in resistance movements during the Second World War
  • Women and non-binary photographers who formed part of and documented anti-colonial struggles and the struggle against apartheid
  • Photographers who have photographed their own bodies as forms of resistance to racist hetero-normative patriarchy (such as Berni Searle; Nona Faustine; Zanele Muholi)
  • Photographers whose work provides a form of resistance to cultural amnesia and erasure
  • Contributions that focus on the under-researched topic of the work of women and non-binary photographers from Africa and other parts of the majority world

300-500 word Abstracts due: 12 December 2020

The due date for completed work is: 30 May 2021

MAI considers submissions in the following formats:

  • academic research articles (6000-8000 words)
  • interviews (1000-3000 words)
  • creative writing (poems, short stories, creative responses, max 3000 words)
  • video essays (5-10 min + a brief supporting statement 800-1000 words)
  • photographs, visual/audiovisual or interactive art

Academic articles will be peer-reviewed.

The special issue will be published in early 2022.

Please consult the MAI submission guidelines before submitting:

Please send your abstracts to Kylie Thomas:

And to: