Director Fiona Mackay reflects on the highlights of 2019-20 for GENDER.ED – the University of Edinburgh’s interdisciplinary hub for showcasing gender and sexualities studies. GENDER.ED is hosted by IASH (Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities) on behalf of the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (CAHSS), supported by Edinburgh University Students Association (EUSA), and powered by the School of Social and Political Science (SPS).
Now approaching our third birthday, GENDER.ED has grown to around 160 researchers (from 85 at launch) and has more than 180 courses listed in our directory (from 80 at launch). This demonstrates the breadth and strength of work at Edinburgh in this widely dispersed and often overlooked interdisciplinary field.
The COVID-19 crisis disrupted everyone’s lives – and GENDER.ED’s programme of activities was no exception. We were very disappointed to have to cancel or postpone several planned events in Spring 2020. These included a joint international seminar with the Scottish Government on Feminist Open Government, our annual Feminist Research Methods PhD workshop with Strathclyde University (as part of the Scottish Graduate Schools’ Spring into Methods), and collaborations with Women’s International League of Peace and Freedom (WILPF) and Edinburgh Women’s Aid.
We have continued to be busy on social media and will be delivering events digitally in Academic Year 2020-21, including the annual showcase. Our website is currently being re-developed for launch in Autumn 2020.
It was a year of changes: we said a sad goodbye to our inaugural coordinator Christina Neuwirth and our PhD intern Tatiana Cary. Thanks are due to Abrisham Ahmadzadeh (Summer intern 2019), Natasha Dyer, Elena Pollot, Iz Gius (Summer intern 2020) and the SPS Comms Team for their contributions in 2019-20, and to Becky Moody (SPS) who provides administrative support.
Key highlights in 2019-20:
Highlighting research, teaching and campaigns: GENDER.ED’s annual showcase
“Fascinating interdisciplinary stuff, great to see gender research across the university” (attendee, GENDER.ED showcase 2019).
We held a successful second anniversary showcase in October 2019. The interactive showcase of research, teaching and institutional initiatives and campaigns attracted more than 100 attendees to learn about gender and sexuality studies work across a wide range of disciplines. A total of 18 projects were presented, plus a wall of ‘postcards’ and ‘mini posters’ of PhD projects. The showcase drew upon projects from all three Colleges, IS, Library, EUSA, and the student initiative UncoverED.
Topics ranged from interactive maps of the Scottish witch trials to the gender dynamics of Japanese Kabuki; from Black masculinities to Dangerous Women; and from Women and Peace Agreements (PAX-Women database) to action-research to transform the institutional culture in science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects (STEM). We are planning to deliver our third anniversary showcase digitally in Autumn 2020.
International collaboration to address gender-based violence
Working with our partners at Ambedkar University Delhi and the Australian Human Rights Institute (University of New South Wales), GENDER.ED curated its third international blogathon to raise awareness of gender-based violence during the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence (November 25-December 10 2019). It opened with a post from the award-winning author and feminist activist Eve Ensler. A total of 26 posts over 16 days covered topics ranging from dowry abuse to on-campus campaigns addressing sexual harassment and violence; from textile testimonies on GBV to the ongoing impact of the failure of the Northern Ireland peace process to include the voices of LGBT+ people. Contributors included academics and practitioners from UK and Europe, North America, Africa, South Asia, and Australia and Asia Pacific. In 2020 we plan to focus on arts-based approaches to addressing GBV and will be working closely with Edinburgh College of Art.
Putting knowledge to use
GENDER.ED (Prof Fiona Mackay and Dr Rosalind Cavaghan) and Edinburgh Research Office (International Development Research Hub) have worked together in 2019-20 to create a suite of resources to support academics to integrate gender equality considerations into Global Challenges Research Fund and Newton Fund research projects, including a new toolkit and Guidance. The work, funded through the Scottish Funding Council / Global Challenges Research Fund, continues in 2020-21.
Supporting the study of gender and sexualities
The cross-university pre-honours undergraduate course Understanding Gender in the Contemporary World (led by SPS) was successfully run for the third time in 2019-20 (Convenor Dr Meryl Kenny and Dr Sarah Liu); and Introduction to Queer Studies (led by ECA) ran for the second time (Convenor Dr Glyn Davis). Proposals for a new interdisciplinary undergraduate course on Gender and Visual Cultures (Dr Idil Akinci and Prof Nacim Pak-Shiraz, LLC) have been approved for delivery in 2021-22. A podcast by 2019 Summer Intern Abi Ahmadzadeh with staff and former students from Understanding Gender can be found here.
We were pleased to co-sponsor (with the Principal’s Student Experience Grant) an exciting project by PhD students, ‘Feminist Struggles in the Academy: in India and the UK’ webcomic. Kamya Choudhary and Cat Wayland (PhD students in SPS, supervised by GENDER.ED steering group member Radhika Govinda) worked with illustrators to create a webcomic based on roundtable discussions undertaken as part of a University of Edinburgh – Ambedkar University Delhi project on Teaching Feminisms and Transforming Lives.