Saturday
Nov112017

Reflecting on the "Conditionally Accepted" series about sexual violence

Earlier this year Eric Anthony Grollman put out a call for contributions. Eric wanted to use their column "Conditionally Accepted" as a space to interrogate sexual harassment and assault and higher education.

Eric writes:

Apparently, we do not want to hear survivors, we do not want to believe them, we do not want to recognize them as credible sources on their own experiences. So they have to find their own spaces to share their stories. (See also this Washington Post series.)

So in the spirit of amplifying the voices of the marginalized, “Conditionally Accepted” will feature guest blog posts about sexual violence over the next six months. Yes, we are devoting half the year to this oh-so-important topic, though we know six months is hardly enough. Several guest bloggers from different career stages and academic and social backgrounds contributed to our call for blog posts on rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, stalking and intimate partner violence in higher education. Some people reflect on a personal experience, some offer teaching and research tips, and others offer advice for effectively supporting survivors and ending campus sexual violence.

This series of blog posts will certainly not solve all the issues, but it is at least one way to amplify the voices of survivors -- and, to be certain, that is an important first step.

My contribution to the column was published earlier this month. In my piece I wrote about how assumptions about gender must be challenged in discussions about survivors and perpectrators of sexual violence. But after it was published it made me curious to look back at all the pieces published following the initial call for contributers. Here is what I found 

About halfway through typing this list I had to stop and take a break because I was brought to tears.

I was moved to reflect on the space created for so many victims/survivors and allies in higher education. I was moved to see that Eric persisted with the series even after being asked to stop publishing so many pieces on the topic. I was moved to see stories shared, challenges acknowled and solutions suggested. But I also had the wind knocked out of my by some of the comments: people continuing to reject rape culture, people who dismiss the trauma of sexual violence on campus, people totally unwilling to acknowledge white supremacy and privilege in how sexual violence persists.

Yet these essays say that we resist this ignorance and silencing. They say I am not alone and nor are you. And perhaps most importantly they also say we need to listen, learn and acknowlege the toll that sexual violence is taking on our campus community including students, faculty, and staff. Navigating this road at our various instittutions can be very lonely and challngeing, but for today in visiting these essays I'm reminded of how many of us are in this together and grateful to call myself a part of this "Conditionally Accepted" series. 

Monday
Sep182017

Round-up: citations of International Affairs "Queering Women, Peace and Security" article

A defining moment in my career as a doctoral student was publishing my International Affairs article "Queering Women, Peace and Security" in January 2016. Working with editors to bring the piece to life and then seeing the article publish was life changing as a writer and an academic. Since then I've learned from a number of professors that they're teaching the article to their students which is exciting! The article has also been cited in a few places by folks working on queer international relations, feminist security studies and those working in emergency humanitarian response. Here I want to give a shout-out to a number of those places that have referenced my work.

First up is a fantastic report (accessible here) by International Alert. Authors Henri Myrttinen and Megan Daigle report about sexual and gender minorities in conflict. From the summary:

Peacebuilding, in its essence, is about building more inclusive and less violent societies, with gender often being one of the most salient factors impacting on social exclusion. Questions of sexual orientation and gender identity that do not fall into the binary categories of women and men or do not adhere to heterosexual norms have been largely absent from gender and peacebuilding research, policy and programming. Based on our research conducted in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, Lebanon and Nepal, as well as a review of secondary literature, we demonstrate how identifying – or being identified by others – as belonging to a sexual and gender minority often adds additional layers of vulnerability, precariousness and danger to lives already under threat. 

I also see that the article is referenced in the piece "Sexual minorities in conflict zones: A review of the literature" though I haven't had a chance to read it yet. 

In May 2017 Melanie Richter-Montpetit and Cynthia Weber published an overview of the 20 years of Queer International Relations for Oxford Research Eynclopedia. The entry which is freely accessible online includes a section about gender, peace and security where Queering WPS is cited.

Excerpt from Oxford Encyclopedia entry

In August my article was referenced as part a BookForum omnivore "Gay rights human rights" blog post. Quite the crowd to be sharing a paragraph with here! 


Finding time to reflect on the way the research is finding a home in the field is a heartening motivator to keep on keeping on with this lifesived project that is the dissertation. As the fall semester gets underway I'm beginning what, if all goes as planned, is my fifth and final year in the PhD program. My dissertation continues to build on the work I began to explore in that IA article.  I can only hope my future will also prove to be relevant to the academics, students and the policy community. 

Monday
Sep042017

Publication of Interventions piece: Queering WPS in Colombia

The current issue of Critical Studies on Security (CSS) includes an Interventions section about Queer/ing In/Security. I was invited submit a piece to the issue by Cai Wilkinson and took the opportunity to reflect once again on the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity in the Colombian peace accords. 

Others who participated in the Interventions section of this issue include Catherine Baker, Julia Richardson, and Paul Gordon Kramer. All of the pieces take a queer security approach to a specific policy question.

The Interventions section of CSS provides a rare opportunity to respond to questions of security in a short and acccessible format. In this way the section, of this issue as well as others, is likely of interest to those who are engaged in questions of queer policy as well as queer theory in the international arena. I'm pleased I was able to take the opportunity to connect to on-the-ground organizing by lesbians unfolding in Nigeria, specifically organizing for same-sex marriage. 

 

Read more. 

Monday
Jun262017

Let's talk about mental health in academia

 

This month I was interviewed for a piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education about the "summer slump." The piece "More Than a ‘Summer Slump’: How the Loss of Structure Affects Academics" published on the 15th and highlighted my interview. The piece draws on a conversation started on Twitter by queer, feminist, academic Stephanie McKellop‏ (@McKellogs) who regularly engages in conversations about the academic environment. I replied to the tweet with thoughts from my experience as a doctoral candidate and was contacted for an interview.  

I wasn't sure how much I'd have to say but had no problem talking for almost 40 minutes about the mental health challenges that come with academia and the difficulty in knowing what is reasonable to expect for yourself in terms of self-care. This is something I've talked with many women about during my time as a doctoral student (see footnote) and is cetainly something that is magnified during the time as an unfunded doctoral candidate and during the summer months.

I'm incredibly grateful to see people participate in this frustrating and difficult conversation. As I said in my interview, the system doesn't incentivise people to speak-up about these challenges. And as is clear from the comments on The Chronicle FB page, as well as the Twitter harassment Stephanie McKellop faced, those who decide to talk about it often face a negative backlash including being told things like: "What a bunch of whiners! They have three months of completely free time to pursue their research programs, acquire new skills, study and learn anything they want. Isn't this what you go into academia *for*? It's a bit like a partner at a big mergers and acquisitions law firm complaining they don't quite know what to spend all that money on..." or "Oh shut up. It was a rare summer when I didn't write an article or most of a book." or "Made-up problem," as exemplified by the aforementioned FB page. Where to begin with the privielge and assumptions tied up in some of those comments!

As the article notes, I've been planning for this time of my career since before I started the doctoral program. I also have the financial support from my family, a loving parter and the ability to move to a more affordable city while I'm finishing my dissertation. Some folks in my cohort have children. Not everyone is white. Some people are living with disabiliites. Given that I have so many privileges working in my favor and still can recognize the gaps and challenges that students and professors face when it comes to mental health care, I'm aware it hits many marginalized folks even more severerely. This is not a made-up problem, it's an ignored or minimized problem.

After the article published I had many folks contact me on social media and over text to say that this story hit home for them, that they'd thought they were the only ones who faced this isolation and "slump". Importantly the article explains, "Many professors who spoke to The Chronicle learned to cope on their own, but are sharing ways young academics can create and attain their own social structure." Praise the digital age and social media!This article and responses to the article makes it clear why finding ways to communicate about mental health as a larger part of the experience of working in academia continues to be a risky but valuable endeavor.

 

Footnote:

My program funds the first three years for most students in the program during which we have classes as well as teaching assistant or research assitant placements. Most students finish their dissertation proposal by the beginning of their fourth year, and then begin/continue their research and writing of the dissertation until completion which hopefully is sooner rather than later but varies greatly as you can imagine! I plan to finish the program in five years, dedicating two years to the research and writing of the the dissertation. This means I'll be unfunded for two years of the program. 

 

Thursday
Mar232017

A trip to Baltimore with my favorite scholars: ISA 2017

This year the International Studies Association (ISA) Convention was held in Baltimore with the theme Understanding Change in World Politics. The name was apt from the perspective of this American citizen considering the state of turmoil the country has been in since the Trump election upset. To this point, the impact of the travel ban on who was able to attend or not was taken up by a reporter from Inside Higher Ed who came to the convention and also spoke to some ISA members who weren’t able to attend or chose not to attend as a boycott of the location for the convention. While in the past the bylines restricted ISA to only hold conventions in the US or Canada, this year they were changed to allow other locations.

My convention experience began with a pre-convention workshop with fellow Women, Peace and Security scholars and practitioners. I was especially excited to connect with Henri Myrttinen, Head of Gender in Peacebuilding, who shared with me a new report from International Alert “When merely existing is a risk: Sexual and gender minorities in conflict, displacement and peacebuilding.” It was fantastic to learn there are other folks concerned with refugees and the WPS agenda, a topic I’m just beginning to research for a possible chapter in my dissertation. I also got to see a hard copy of the Working Paper I wrote for the LSE Centre for WPS! 

I was fortunate to be on and attend some fantastic panels about queer scholars and queer subjects in international relations. On Friday I presented my conference paper on the panel Queer Subjectivities: Human Rights, Identity, and Political Agency. This presentation was an early draft of a possible chapter for my dissertation that will pertain to how sexual orientation and gender identity matters to asylum seekers using the WPS framework as a way of looking at this question. I also attended a panel/workshop hosted by LGBTQA caucus about being queer in the academy and future work the caucus might take on to support LGBTQA faculty and students. The founders of the caucus Mike Bosia, Cai Wilkinson and Sandy McEvoy reflected on what it took to start the caucus at ISA and what it's like being openly queer in the current political climate. In addition to the panels and workshop I attended a number of the Feminist Theory and Gender Studies (FTGS) events including the business meeting and awards banquet. The FTGS section at ISA has been an incredible resource to me. I’m now serving on the Executive Committee and attended my first meeting with the group right before catching a plane back to Boston. 

Due to the aforementioned post-election climate, at the last minute three panel sessions were added to the conference schedule to address questions of international studies in the age of Trump. I participated in the final of the three sessions. At this session, participants were particularly invested in findings ways to continue to have late-breaking panels like this at future conferences and to bring in local practitioners/activists to the convention which until this point has been a challenge or impossible. Throughout the conference in different sessions the question of how to engage with students in a time of increased hate crimes and discrimination was a topic from many scholars concerned with supporting students in this stressed environment. Faculty were able to share experiences and best practices they use on different campuses but it was clear most are overwhelmed and in need of more support for students.

After a few days of intense convention days I took an afternoon to explore Baltimore. I was able to check out the Baltimore Museum of Art that had a fantastic exhibit of Guerilla Girls art! A group of us also went to Red Emma’s Feminist Bookstore and Coffeehouse full of amazing books, activists and vegan food.

These conventions are overwhelming, but it’s always fantastic to have a chance to sit down with scholars who I otherwise only engage with through social media or academic email chains. I spent time with too many amazing people to list but every year I feel more welcome in a community of scholars doing important queer and feminist scholarship and I’m very much looking forward to seeing many of them again in San Francisco!