As we approach the end of 2019, we reflect on some of the past and future highlights of the GENDER.ED initiative – the University of Edinburgh’s interdisciplinary hub for gender and sexualities studies. This post is written by our outgoing co-ordinator Christina Neuwirth, who has been with GENDER.ED since the beginning. Christina was instrumental in creating the GENDER.ED directories and harnessing community engagement. She has now left GENDER.ED to focus on her research and writing. Thank you for a great two years, Christina, you have been amazing, and we wish you all the best for the future!
How do gender and sexualities scholars, students and educators connect our work across different Schools and disciplines in a large, decentralised University?
How do we make research-led teaching options more visible to students?
How do we build community and capacity as well asraise our profile?
How do we support institutional efforts to promote cultural change and decolonise the Academy?
These were just some of the questions which spurred the creation of GENDER.ED in 2017. Gender and sexualities scholarship tends to be marginalised in the Academy, and the University of Edinburgh is no different. The original idea behind GENDER.ED was to create a virtual space to showcase excellence in teaching, research and KEI in gender and sexuality studies at the University of Edinburgh, and to promote connectivity and interdisciplinarity. It sprang from the same initiative that created the undergraduate course Understanding Gender in the Contemporary World (More on the origins of that here).
GENDER.ED’s Director is Fiona Mackay, Professor of Politics, and I was its inaugural coordinator and engagement assistant. I came to the role after working at the Centre for Open Learning, the Dangerous Women Project (IASH 2016-2017) and the Institute for International Cultural Relations at the University of Edinburgh. My starting workat GENDER.ED also coincided with the beginning of my PhD in Publishing Studies at the University of Stirling, University of Glasgow and Scottish Book Trust (funded by SGSAH/AHRC), where I examine gender equality in contemporary Scottish writing and publishing.
GENDER.ED started its life as a set of virtual directories and collection of resources, bringing together information on gender and sexuality courses, researchers, research and KE projects, networks and research groups, blogs and social media, activities and events from across the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (CAHSS) and beyond. Two years have now passed since we compiled the initial directories, which began with spreadsheets detailing information on gender and sexuality studies courses and research at the University of Edinburgh. Thanks to the help of Gavin Maxwell at CAHSS, these spreadsheets became dynamic, searchable directories listing researchers and courses across more than 10 schools – anything from Chemistry to GeoSciences, Law to Business, Social Sciences to Literature, Languages and Cultures (more information in Figures 1 and 2). The researcher directory currently stands at 132 researchers (from 85 at launch), and the courses directory at 185 courses (from 80).
The content of the directories is always growing and changing – initially, we sent them to Heads of School, and to personal contacts amongst research and teaching staff, asking whether ‘their’ school list of research and teaching felt accurate to them, and if there was anyone whose work we had accidentally missed. Since their inception, both resources have grown and become not only bigger, but better – it’s direct engagement with the directories that makes them work; through using them, we can hone them and make sure they reflect the breadth of gender and sexuality studies at the University of Edinburgh.
They have also been a trigger for researchers and teachers to ‘discover’ common interests in gender. For example, the Wellcome-funded Centre for Biomedicine, Self and Societyrecently realised its gender research strength, as a result of discussions with us anddecided to make gender and sexualities an explicit research theme in its work going forward.
Personal highlights among the courses and projects I engaged with are too numerous to mention, but I will list some here:
- Getting an insight into feminist embroidery through the work of Lindy Richardson
- Finding out about Sex, Drugs, Activism and Cruising the 70s through these projects’ involvement in the first ever GENDER.ED showcase.
- Learning a huge amount by attending the Decolonising Feminist Knowledge workshop, co-hosted by GENDER.ED, and
- Co-running the 16 Days blogathon for two years running, publishing blog posts from academics, activists and campaigners on efforts to ending gender-based violence.
- Editing the GENDER.ED podcast and hearing about how Understanding Gender in the Contemporary World continues to evolve and grows – incredibly valuable for me as I grow my own research and teaching practice.
From the beginning, we’ve worked to connect gender and sexuality studies researchers and students across the University of Edinburgh, sharing information about events, opportunities and publications through our mailing list (you can join by contacting email@example.com). It rapidly became clear that there was an appetite for GENDER.ED to be more than a virtual resource but to also bring people together face-to-face.
In addition, GENDER.ED organises, hosts or sponsors a range of activities to promote and support our community. In 2019 alone, activities included:
- Our Anniversary celebrations showcasing research and teaching from across the University
- An annual international blogathon to raise awareness of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence, delivered in collaboration with Ambedkar University, Delhi and the Australian Human Rights Institute, University of New South Wales
- Anoversubscribed feminist methods workshop for postgraduate research students delivered on behalf of the Scottish Graduate Schools (SGSSS and SGSAH Spring into Methods programme) in partnership with Strathclyde University
- Promoting Inclusion, Equality and Diversity in the Curriculum: In April 2019, we were commissioned to contribute an online case study based on the innovative introductory undergraduate course Understanding Gender in the Contemporary World as part of a wider University project
- Co-hosting or co-sponsoring several high-profile public talks and important research seminars and networking activities, including:Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw Distinguished Scholar Lecture (with SPS/PIR, May 2019); Decolonising Feminist Knowledge workshop (with SPS/ Sociology/ Centre for South Asian Studies, May 2019); Transgender: Intersectional/International Conference (with Edinburgh University IS, IAD, LLC, Law, SGSAH, SGSSS, May 2019); 2019 Postgraduate Gender Research Network Scotland (PGRNS) Intersections Conference (with SGSAH, Fran Trust, June); and Fatima Bhutto & Regina Porter with DeRay McKesson at the 2019 Edinburgh International Book Festival (August 2019)
- Uncovering and recording the history of women’s, gender and feminist studies teaching at the University through our ongoing oral history project ‘Voices from the Early Days’
- Providing research-based advice to the University on equality and diversity, including supporting a university Working Group to meet new UKRI requirements to integrate gender equality into GCRF and Newton Fund research proposals and projects (ongoing).
Upcoming highlights for 2020 include a research workshop on Balancing Work and Life in the University organized in collaboration with the EPSRC Inclusion Matters E-Base team at the University of Edinburgh, and a collaboration on Feminist Open Government with the Scottish Government and WISE Glasgow Caledonian University.
One of the best things about GENDER.ED has been seeing how it brings people together. Over the two years of its existence, the resource has grown thanks to the tireless engagement of service, research and teaching staff whose engagement in gender and sexuality studies demonstrates theirreal passion. It is so exciting to see the gender resource at the Library and Special Collections, observe new networks being created, like SEXES, and reflect on four years of Understanding Gender in the Contemporary World in our recent podcast.
We also conducted our first stakeholder survey in 2019, completed by 120 respondents across 12 schools. It has demonstrated the health of gender and sexualities research at Edinburgh, and the reach and relevance of GENDER.ED. Respondents highlighted the need for increased awareness and visibility of gender and sexualities research, researchers, and teaching. This was reflected both by early career and later career stage respondents who want more opportunities and forums to showcase their work. Two-thirds of respondents were interested in promoting their work through GENDER.ED. Having this information is vital for improved and better connected gender and sexualities research and understanding.
At our soft launch event, a student asked me whether they could hypothetically use the directory to find a supervisor for their Masters thesis. It then became apparent that GENDER.ED was a tool for collaboration, not for one person on their own.
Collaboration has been key for GENDER.ED from the beginning, incubated by staff and students across the University, and catalysed by EUSA -the student association, co-hosted by SPS (the School of Social and Political Science) and IASH (Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities). Collaboration with UNSW in Australia and Ambedkar University Delhi in India has been so important for the 16 Days of activism project. Sharing badges with others has been a central way for usto be involved with events. At every step of the way, collaboration and community has made GENDER.ED special.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone I met over the course of the last two and a half years, especially the kind people who gave up their time to be interviewed for the 16 Days blogathon, who offered to help with the GENDER.ED platform, and who showed genuine enthusiasm and belief in the initiative. I look forward to finding out where GENDER.ED goes next! Many thanks especially to my colleagues Fiona Mackay, Tatiana Cary and Abrisham Ahmadzadeh, Sarah Moffat at EUSA, and Patricia Erskine, and the IT and Facilities team at Chrystal Macmillan Building B.07 for their kindness and support.
About: Christina Neuwirth is theoutgoing co-ordinator and engagement assistant for GENDER.ED at the University of Edinburgh. She is the recipient of the Arts and Humanities Research Council/Scottish Graduate School for Arts and Humanities Creative Economy Studentship “Women of Words”, and is currently completing her PhD in Publishing Studies at the University of Stirling, the University of Glasgow and Scottish Book Trust. More information on her research findings to date can be found here: www.roar.scot
Christina’s fiction and non-fiction writing has been published in various anthologies, journals and magazines in the UK, including 404 Ink’s bestselling book Nasty Women(2017). Her debut novella Amphibian (Speculative Books) was published in 2018 and shortlisted for the Saltire Society First Book Award. She was one of Queer Words Project Scotland’s 2018 Emerging Writers. In recognition of her creative and academic work, she was included in The List Hot 100 in 2018. @ChristinaNwrth www.christinaneuwirth.com