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International Standing Working Group on Medialization and Empowerment

Christina von Hodenberg / Jane Freeland

Since their emergence in the late 19th century, mass media have been instrumental for activists fighting against inequality. They have provided a platform for voicing dissent, enabled the mobilization of marginalized groups, and accelerated social and value change. Yet they have also perpetuated harmful norms and contributed to the on-going exclusion of social groups.

The International Standing Working Group on Medialization and Empowerment explores this relationship by examining how the rise of the mass media has shaped discussions of women’s rights in the long 20th century. Using the concept of ‘medialization’ – a term that refers to the way spaces of communication have become increasingly dense and interlinked, as well as the increasing pressure for other social sectors to conform to the conditions imposed by the media – we consider the agency of the media and media users in shaping women’s emancipation. In doing so, we focus not only on the function of modern media in spreading knowledge that guides action, but also on the limits to the circulation of knowledge and their consequences.

Alongside three international conferences, the ISWG is developing a travelling exhibition on Feminism and the Media to be shown in Delhi (October 2021), Berlin (November 2021), and London (January 2022), along with two online modules offering training in digital humanities research methods, focusing on corpus linguistics and statistical methods.

The research group is led by Christina von Hodenberg, and involves partners at the India Branch Office of the Max Weber Foundation, the GHI Rome, the GHI Washington, the Orient Institute Beirut, and scholars from German, Indian, and British universities. It is part of the project ‘Knowledge Unbound: Internationalisation, Networking, Innovation in and by the Max Weber Stiftung’ and funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

Related publications

Christina von Hodenberg, ‘Writing Women's Agency into the History of the Federal Republic: ‘1968’, Historians, and Gender’, Central European History, 52/1 (2019), 87–106

Christina von Hodenberg, Das andere Achtundsechzig: Gesellschaftsgeschichte einer Revolte (Munich, 2018)

Christina von Hodenberg, Television’s Moment: Sitcom Audiences and the Sixties Cultural Revolution (New York, 2015)

Jane Freeland, ‘Domestic Abuse, Women’s Lives and Citizenship: East and West Policies during the 1960s and 1970s’, in Friederike Brühöfener, Karen Hagemann, and Donna Harsch (eds.), Gendering Post-1945 German History: Entanglements (New York, 2019), 253–73

Jane Freeland, ‘Women’s Bodies and Feminist Subjectivity in West Germany’, in  Joachim Häberlen, Mark Keck-Szajbel, and Kate Mahoney (eds.), The Politics of Authenticity: Countercultures and Radical Movements across the Iron Curtain, 1968–1989 (New York, 2019), 131–50

Related events and presentations


‘The History of Medialization and Empowerment: The Intersection of Women’s Rights Activism and the Media’, Final Meeting of the International Standing Working Group on Medialization and Empowerment, German Historical Institute London/Online, 20–22 January, 2022
Call for Papers



‘Archiving, Recording and Representing Feminism: The Global History of Women’s Emancipation in the 20th Century’, Second Meeting of the International Standing Working Group on Medialization and Empowerment, London (online event), 10–11 Dec. 2020

‘Feminism in the Media/Feminism and the Media in the 20th Century’, First Meeting of the International Standing Working Group on Medialization and Empowerment, German Historical Institute London, 21–23 Nov. 2019