Feminist Theory Website

Feminism in Latvia


Internet Sites:

Women's Organizations in Latvia here.

You can reach The Network Women's Program -- Soros Foundation Latvia through Angelita Kamenska here, or write to them at this postal address: Soros Foundation - Latvia, Krisjana Barona iela 31, Riga LV 1722, LATVIA.


      The Baltic-Nordic Conference on Women's Studies and Gender Research

      by Irina Novikova

        [Copyright 1998 Irina Novikova.]

      The Baltic-Nordic Conference on Women's Studies and Gender Research: Mapping the Situation took place on October 16-17,1998, in Riga (Latvia). Women's/gender studies as a theoretical standpoint and methodology is a new perspective in knowledge-production process in the Baltic countries -- on the national as well as regional levels. Although the first women's studies centers were established in the Baltic countries already in 1992, we can state that only a couple years ago women's/gender studies became an engaging research perspective for many scholars and NGO activists across the Baltic region. The Conference was organised by the Center for Gender Studies at University of Latvia, Lithuanian Women's Informational Center, Women's Studies center at Tallinn Pedagogical Institute, Femina Baltica Network, NIKK. The Conference was sponsored by Soros Foundation-Latvija, The Gender Equality Council of The Nordic Council of Ministers, NIKK and Mama Cash Fund. We are particularly grateful to Aino Saarinen, Marianne Laxen and Carita Peltonen for facilitating the process of obtaining funding for the conference. The coordination and organization of the conference were conducted by Irina Novikova, Giedre Purvaneckiene, Barbi Pilvre. The secretary of the conference was Elizabete Pichukane.

      The Conference hosted more than 90 officially registered participants and attendants from the Baltic and Nordic countries. We were delighted to see our colleagues and friends from NIKK, The Gender Equality Council, women's studies centers in Finland and Sweden.

      The objectives and goals of the Conference were:

      1. to develop discourse on relationship between Western feminist theoretical standpoints and women's experiences in East European, specifically Baltic, contexts;
      2. to develop women's/gender studies discourse in the Baltic region and to support new theoretical and practical initiatives in this direction in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia;
      3. to integrate the individual initiatives of women-researchers in women's/gender studies from the Baltic and Nordic countries;
      4. to develop cooperation network among women's/gender studies centers in the Baltic countries in terms of regional cooperation with Nordic countries and with East European and Central European countries;
      5. to work on the agenda for women's/gender studies development in the Baltic states, on the platform of The Inaugural Conference on Women's/Gender Studies in Eastern and Central European countries in Belgrade, 9-12, September, 1998;
      6. to develop the integrated platform for the agenda of the Baltic workshop at The Women's Studies Interdisciplinary Congress in June, 1999 (Tromso, Norway);
      7. to provide our students with an access to contemporary theoretical discourses, methodological approaches in women's/gender studies;
      8. to raise issues of knowledge, education and women's NGOs;
      9. to raise issues of women's rights in our research areas and projects as related to women's access to education and academic work, to the problems of violence against women, to the problems of sexism in our societies.

      This conference aimed at developing the discussions of the categories and methodological tools of feminist theory and gender theory. The conference plenary sessions and workshop topics center around such issues as gender, identity and ethnicity; sex and gender in cultural locations; gender relations in social and political discourses; gender and health; gender relations and politics.

      Theoretical and methodological issues were presented in the papers of Katrin Kivimaa (Estonia), Rima Pociute (Lithuania), Lea Rojola (Finland) at the first day plenary session. They lay the grounds for raising the issues of women, difference and solidarity; postfeminist discourses and women's studies in the Baltic countries; gender theory and knowledge production and many other related questions of theory and practice. The second plenary session on Feminism, Gender and Culture included the papers of Dagmara Beitnere (Latvia), Ulla Holm (Sweden), Barbi Pilvre (Estonia) and addressed the issues of gender and anthropology;feminist ethics -- contextualization vs universalism; gender and mass media. The panel discussion Violence and security conducted by Giedre Purvaneckiene (Lithuania), Sandra Sebre (Latvia), Hilkka Pietila (Finland) addressed the topical issue of violence as a gendered complex process -- in everyday life, education, language, economy, and "high" politics. Workshop topics included:

      1. Women's studies, women in politics and government Women in Latvia and tolerance in society Gender, career and education
      2. Women and cooperation in crisis centers
      3. Gender and mass media
      4. Feminism and culture
      5. Gender, health and culture
      6. Gender research, knowledge and women's NGOs From domination and control -- to partnership and self-esteem

      Representatives from Baltic women's NGOs worked together with academic women for two days, and, in our view, this was the first attempt to build up mutually enriching connections between women in theory and women in practice, to challenge the politically convenient "ebony towers of women's research on women" by bringing women's voices from NGOs into gender theorizing and debating.

      A very important result is the presentation and installation of EMILJA DATABASE on Women's Studies and Gender Research in the Nordic and Baltic countries. This project has been succefully headed by Jill Lewis (NIKK) and presented at the Conference by Diana Anders (NIKK). EMILIJA is very important for everybody who already works in WS and GR as well as for those who make their first steps and are highly motivated to step into women's/gender studies in the Baltic countries. The contact person in charge if EMILJA DATABASE is Liene Chaplinska (office 133, Raina Blvd.19, Center for Gender Studies, University of Latvia, LV-1586, Riga, Latvia).

      This conference is seen by us as a politically important event for bringing new perspectives and discourses into intellectual, public and political life of our countries. Thus, this conference contributed significantly to developing terminological apparatus of women's/gender studies, literary/nationalism/cultural studies in our languages. We consider the language aspect to be very significant in terms of the public impact of the conference. The conference was a publicly open event, and the closing session is intended as an open discussion of pro and contra views.The conference gave an opportunity for Baltic scholars in women's/gender studies to develop platforms for their further integrative research plans. We hope that the conference became an event to build up cooperation between gender research and women's NGOs acitivities on the national and regional levels. The conference work will result in publishing the proceedings of selected conference papers.

      The conference was viewed by us as part of preparation process for the Baltic workshop at the 7th Women's Studies International Congress in June, 1999, in Norway. As to the follow-up and/or long-term benefits of project we look forward to:

      1. publication of the collection of articles on gender and human rights issues - development of the Femina Baltica Network (coordinators Solvita Vever, Carita Peltonen)
      2. preparation for the Baltic workshop "Women and Citizenship in the Baltic countries" at the 7th International Women's Studies Congress in Norway (1999)
      3. organization of the Baltic lecturers' exchange network among Baltic women's/gender studies centers
      4. initiation of research projects and teaching programmes in Baltic women's/gender studies

      The hosting organization of the Conference was the center for Gender Studies at the university of Latvia. The Center was founded in January, 1998. Director -- Irina Novikova, coordinator -- Elizabete Picukane. The Center's office address: Room 133 Raina Blvd-19 University of Latvia, LV-1586 Riga, Latvia Fax 371 7 820113. You can reach Irina Novikova by email (A HREF="Mailto: irina@acad.latnet.lv">here and Elizabete Pichukane here.

      The Center for Gender Studies, University of Latvia

      by Irina Novikova

        [Copyright 1998 Irina Novikova.]

      The Center was founded in January 1998 at the University of Latvia. The Center -- Dzimtes Studiju Centrs (DzSC) -- is the first educational and research center in Latvia approaching various women's and gender issues including: feminist and gender theories, women and power, women and religion, gender and culture, women and history, women in the political sphere, etc. We aim at developing an interdisciplinary educational and research project, bringing together contributions from a wide range of disciplines across the social sciences and the humanities.

      The Center participates in the ongoing process of networking Women's Studies and Gender Studies programmes in and around Southern, Central and Eastern Europe. We extensively use the opportunities of the programme Gender and Culture at CEU, Budapest.

      The Center is part of AOIFE network, SOCRATES programme and a contributor to Femina Baltica Network. We have developed continual connections with women's studies scholars in the Nordic and Baltic countries. Our four-year cooperation with Kristiina Institute for Women's Studies at the University of Helsinki is a good example of a long-term productive and fruitful exchange program. Our cooperation, for example, has resulted in the successfully conducted Nordic-Baltic Research Workshop for postgraduate students Gender and Multiculturalism in June, 1998 (Latvia,Yurmala). Our cooperation with Nordic and Baltic partners has resulted in the organization of the Baltic-Nordic Conference on Women's Studies and Gender Research:Mapping the Situation on October 16-17, 1998, with more than 80 participants from the regions. The Center was honored to host this conference in Riga.

      The Center is involved in publishing activities. We are in the process of launching the project of publishing the anthology of feminist theories in the Latvian language. We are also launching a quarterly newsletter to link up issues linked to research and women's practices in the country. The first issue is coming in early december, 1998. In January,1999, we will start the publishing process of the Latvian-Nordic collection of articles as an introduction into women's/gender studies.

      In Spring, 1998, we initiated the course Introduction to Gender Studies for the students of the university of Latvia and wider audience. An excellent and highly competent team of our university lecturers participated in this course. This Fall Term we have launched the course Feminist Theory in the USA (in the English language) for the university students and women-activists from NGOs. Next Spring Term, 1999, we plan to start three courses: Gender, Religion and History (Dagmara Beitnere, Ilze Rumniece) Gender in Sociology and Psychology (Sandra Sebre, Sanita Vanaga) Feminism and Philosophy (Mara Rubene, Skaidrite Lasmane).

      Our students as well as women-activists from Latvian NGOs have the opportunity to work in the resource room of the Center (office 133). We collect publication in women's studies, gender research, on women's issues in all languages. In our resource collection you can find publications in Latvian, Lithuanian, Estonian, English, Swedish, French, Finnish, German, Spanish, Russian, Slovenian, Ukrainian and other languages. We are most interested in creating such multi-language resource collection for our students and educators to have a wider vision of women's studies and gender studies/research communities worldwide.

      You can reach the Center for Gender Studies at this postal address: Room 133, Raina Blvd-19, University of Latvia, LV-1586, Riga, LATVIA. The fax number is: 371 7 820113. The Director is Irina Novikova, whom you can email here. The Coordinator is Elizabeth Picukane, whom you can email here.

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