The composition of the PhD group reflects the interdisciplinarity in the field of gender studies; there were PhD students from Sociology, Psychology, Gender studies, Physiotherapy, Computer science, Law, Children and Youth studies, Ethnology, Religious studies, Industrial design, Sexual and Reproductive health, Science Education and more!

Genusakademins doktoranddag 2019 gästades av Umeå genusforskarskola och doktorander från Södertörn och Uppsala universitet.

The morning started with a workshop in which the PhD students discussed key concepts in their on-going projects. Nine small groups had been formed on the basis of the pre-sent keywords: Intersectionality; Ethical Dilemmas & Interdisciplinary Challenges; Race, Sexuality and Borders; Temporality; Place, Class and Capitalism; Using Feminist Methods in Traditional Fields; “Norm critique”, organizations and change; Narrativity and Subjectivity; Queer Theory and Performativity. To summarize briefly, discussions about being interdisciplinary and how to handle that double and shifting position of insider/outsider (“having many hats”) was a recurring theme, as was ethics in relation to research participants and the question of how political/activist it is possible to be as a researcher. Discussions also revolved around the usefulness and problematization of certain theoretical concepts – Queer, Race, Narrativity, Subjectivity, Borders and Intersectionality; how to present analyses that provide critique but at the same time are constructive enabling organizational change; possibilities for challenging academic structures and survival strategies for the handling of negative responses to feminist research. The conversation continues, and one group started an e-mail list on Temporality.

Next in the program were presentations by researchers and a writer/journalist about feminist research on #metoo and homonationalism. Professor Hillevi Ganetz (Gender Studies, SU) presented preliminary results from the ongoing project Metoo. Development, consequences, strategies on #metoo activism in Sweden. The project concerns various petitions published by different professions, following the media depiction in traditional media in Sweden in relation to that in other countries. The four researchers involved from different disciplines (Media Studies, Computer Science and Psychology) provide different perspectives and use mixed methods – interviews, quantitative analyses, surveys, and analyses of participation in social media networks. The project analyses the organization behind the headlines, how the #metoo petitions developed, how it was legitimized and what consequences resulted. In Sweden there was a synchronization between the petitions in social media and traditional media. In Denmark, the media reports concerned mainly celebrities. Check out the most recent petition that comes from female hunters #vi gör patron ur. The research project has a homepage where you can follow its progress:

Klara Arnberg, ekonomisk historia, Anna-Maria Sörbom, journalist/författare och Hillevi Ganetz, genusvetenskap föreläste om #metoo och homonationalism på doktoranddagen den 23 oktober.

In her presentation When hindsight is impossible: experiences from writing a contemporary #metoo history, associate professor Klara Arnberg (Economic History, SU) talked about her experience of writing about the contemporary  #metoo movement in a history book (Könspolitiska nyckeltexter/Sexual political key texts). When Könspolitiska nyckeltexter was to be published in a second edition, a chapter by Klara Arnberg and Helena Tolvhed was added that  treated  the ongoing #metoo movement together with other #activism – #prata om det and #svart kvinna. Compared to the other chapters, this one was not written in hindsight – so how do historians decide what to write into history when the events unfold in the very moment of writing? The chapter starts with a sentence on the movement’s importance because of its capacity to change history, although at the time of writing it was impossible to know what the long-term consequences in terms of change were going to be. To a question of whether there has really been any noticeable change, Arnberg answered that even if the consequences may be deemed small in hindsight – people are still committing sexual harassment – it was still an important movement for the people involved at this specific time.

Anna-Maria Sörberg (writer and freelance journalist) presented her book Homonationalism about the Nationalist and far right appropriations of LGBT rights. Being an insider in the queer community and being engaged in activism for LGBT rights, Sörberg’s book started with a feeling of being alienated as the rainbow flag became more and more appropriated as a sign of urban progressiveness at the same time as the far right started using LGBT rights as a motivation for the war on terrorism. Based on interviews with LGBT activists and researchers in the Netherlands, Russia, Israel and France, Sörberg’s book explore three themes: national self-images as gay friendly, the forceful marketing agenda in the neoliberal era to commercially exploit the gay world and the gay/LGBT branches of radical national movements/parties. Sörberg also mentioned the new conservative movement against what they call “gender ideology” which has a long history from the Catholic church. Complexity is a radical thing in this political era, says Sörberg. We need to understand more of the complexities, therefore journalists should take more advantage of academic knowledge by contacting researchers and academics need to reach out more to the world outside of academia. For example, how can homonationalism exist simultaneously as threats by the far-right towards gay activists? 

When asked what their take-home-message was from the day, PhD students said that it had been very useful to discuss central concepts with peers that use the same concepts but have different perspectives. They also agreed with Anna-Maria Sörberg’s statement that it is very important to provide analyses that demonstrate complexity. PhD students commented that in academia today one is often told to present research in a concentrated and simplified “elevator-pitch”,  something which can make the researcher lose sight of the complex analyses and deepened knowledge that is essential to research quality. 

In the concluding discussion, the participants outlined some issues that will continue to be discussed after the workshop, such as: Is it possible to combine being an activist and a researcher? Do we use certain concepts within the academy and others when we communicate our findings to a public audience? How should the new conservative movement and their hate of “gender ideology” be analyzed in depth? Is there a risk that the yearning for a history writing of Nordic progressiveness come to ignore histories of struggle? How can researchers challenge the norms of academic writing or academic structures that inhibit the growth of knowledge? How should the insider/outsider positions in interdisciplinary research be dealt with?

Political scientist and professor of Gender Studies Cecilia Åse summarized the day: “We need to look at the past and the present and not shy back from complexity”.

Reported by Malin Ah-King, Gender Studies.