Spectacular PhD Defense Samira van Bohemen

27 05 2015

My Rotterdam PhD candidate Samir van Bohemen succesfully defended her PhD thesis last week. She has conducted ethnographic research among Dutch chapters of The Red Hat Society; a wordlwide network of women over 50 who enjoy their collective leisure activities dressed in purple clothes and a Red Hat.The idea is that there is life after 50, and that you don’t cease to be an attractive woman just because you get older. Samira participated in the events organised by several Dutch chapters (joining them on a cruise for instance), conducted in-depth interviews with them, spoke to their husbands and significant others, and analysed news coverage about the groups. Her conclusion was that the RHS can be seen as a form of play that leaks into everyday life, while vice-versa every life streams into the experiences of the RHS. Sociologists will recognize the articulation with the work of Johan Huizinga and Erving Goffman here. For feminist theory, I found Samira’s concept of ‘ radical femininity’ interesting: by performing femininity in an extreme form, its nature and boundaries become clear. While for the Red Hatters, the main individual effect of such play is fun and pleasure, on a wider cultural scale the practice also entails critique and mild subversion of gender and age discourse. Which is then turned innocent by bystanders and participants themselves by claiming it is just a bit of fun.

To all of our suprise and excitement the Red Hatters turned up in large numbers to witness the defense, and cheered loudly in protest to a question of one of the committee members; hence lightly breaking the rules of academia as well, in style!




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: