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Reflections on the Department

from colleagues and friends around LSE

The department is a huge resource not just at the LSE but across UK, European and global social science.

Professor Mike Savage, International Inequalities Institute

In its three decades of developing innovative teaching, leading ground-breaking research, and engaging in crucial public debates in a quest to better understand and address gender inequality, the Department of Gender Studies has relied on collaborations with and support of colleagues across the LSE. Suspecting that these have been not only reciprocal, but also significant, we asked colleagues across the School about their thoughts of working with the Department. We learned how much gender matters for the social sciences! But don’t take our word for it and read how gender has made a lasting impression, forged strong professional relationships and why it all matters. 

Professor Emeritus Anne Phillips, Department of Government, and Dr Aliya Rao, Department of Methodology, on why the Department of Gender Studies matters: 

Anne: “I joined LSE in 1999 as Director of what was then the LSE Gender Institute, a still tiny research and teaching unit, with one Master’s programme in Gender, a small cohort of PhD students, a number of externally funded researchers, and an invaluable institute manager in the form of Hazel Johnstone. 

[…] My abiding memory from those early years is of just how intrepid the PhD students were in their investigations into the gendered nature of everything from militarism to masculinity to IVF. They set off to interview male clients of sex workers; to investigate intimate partner abuse in the British armed forces; and in one especially memorable and daunting example, set off with no greater protection than a letter from the Institute confirming that the student was enrolled for a PhD, to interview women fighters in the then Tamil Tiger occupied territories of Sri Lanka.  

These days, virtually all work in gender is informed by intersections with class and race, and what makes it ‘gender’ research is often the kind of methodology applied rather than an exclusive focus on gender relations. I think this makes it even more important to have a dedicated unit for gender teaching and research at LSE.” 

Aliya: “My first interactions with the Department were with Hazel Johnstone after I was admitted as a Master’s student. That one year in the Department of Gender was extremely formative for me – setting me on an academic path studying gender, and leading me almost 15 years later back to a job as a faculty member at the School.  

 To me, this is a uniquely warm and very important department at the LSE whose graduates do wonderful work wherever they go – whether it be working in climate change, in publishing, in government service, or in academia.” 

Professor John Chalcraft, Department of Government, and Professor Ernestina Coast, Department of International Development, on the significance of having a dedicated unit for gender research and teaching at LSE: 

John: “I have been impressed by the care that faculty take with their students, by the methodological and ethical sophistication of the Department, and by its capacity to foster community and belonging. It enables a genuine cluster of research and teaching excellence on a vital and understudied set of problems.” 

Ernestina: “The research and pedagogy of LSE Gender Studies is critical, generous, caring, creative and generative – I could go on! The creative and generative work that comes from having a critical mass of gender scholars and students has never been more important.” 

Professor Irini Moustaki, Department of Statistics, and Professor Shakuntala Banaji, Department of Media and Communications, on the Department’s outstanding and expansive work: 

Irini: “While our disciplines are distinct, we have opportunities to collaborate. One memorable occasion was when Statistics Department co-sponsored an event organised by the Gender Department. They invited a group of actors to perform the Gender Equality Index on the stage of the Old Building. Some of our students participated and engaged in role-playing during the event.  

As a member of the advisory board… I have been consistently impressed by the department’s research initiatives. Their research agenda stands out for its interdisciplinarity nature and the production of rigorous academic outputs.” 

Shakuntala: “I’ve had the privilege of reading the work of so many colleagues in the Department closely in my role on the advisory board, and admire their intellectual contribution and ethics immensely. The critical and international reach of the [Department’s] research through its interaction with queer theory, critical race studies and postcolonial theory stand out. [The] work in LSE’s Department of Gender studies provides students not only with well-argued and persuasive evidence of a more capacious and compassionate set of possibilities for gender in political and social life, but also with the courage and theoretical tools to do this in diverse contexts. The care with which my colleagues in Gender Studies work with students inculcates and fosters that courage and intellectual critique further.”  

Professor Emeritus Judy Wajcman, Department of Sociology, and Dr Suki Ali, Department of Sociology, on their “pedagogical home”: 

Judy: “I would arrive in London from Australia for Michaelmas term and teach a course on Gender and Technology. I remember that the students were incredibly enthusiastic and so delighted to be in the Institute. It was relatively small then and Hazel’s presence made it a home [away] from home for staff and students.  

The institute welcomed feminist scholars from around the world and the atmosphere was amazing. I loved going to the Institute Christmas parties which featured Hazel’s mulled wine and were reliably convivial. But its real significance lies in ensuring that gender studies thrive at the LSE and beyond.” 

Suki: “When I arrived at LSE, I was immediately welcomed by the Gender Institute as it was then. I found a pedagogical home there, and being included in the research culture was an unexpected bonus. With typical generosity of spirit, I was invited by Gender colleagues to take part in a number of research initiatives.  

Such intellectual support and inspiration are rare in the competitive environment of higher education. Special mention has to go to Hazel Johnstone for her unfailing calm, kindness and wisdom. I am extremely grateful to the Department of Gender at LSE, and it is wonderful to see them sustain an outstanding contribution to research and study centralising gender. Here’s to their next 30 years.” 

Professor Emily Jackson, Law School, and Professor Mike Savage, International Inequalities Institute, on the value of the Department’s interdisciplinary work and debate: 

Emily: “It is common at LSE to talk about the value of interdisciplinary work, while many of us actually spend most of our time in our disciplinary silos. As an explicitly inter-disciplinary department, Gender Studies, and its previous incarnation as the Gender Institute, has a long tradition of bringing people together from a wide range of disciplines, often with an equally wide range of views…More than a decade ago I participated in a workshop, which became a book (Gender, Agency and Coercion). The strength of this book was its diversity. My chapter took an almost diametrically opposite position from that of another contributor (and vice versa). And it is that bringing together of diverse perspectives on a wide range of issues which is the key to the Gender Studies Department’s success.”   

Mike: “The support of Gender Studies was vital in building the momentum needed to launch an interdisciplinary Institute such as the III which could not have been so successful without this enthusiastic backing. We have regularly involved colleagues from Gender in our teaching, and in various aspects of our research and event programming. They have been unfailingly supportive and generous with their time. I really appreciate the breadth of research and pedagogy at Gender Studies, which ranges so widely from feminist political economy, through politics and human rights, sexuality, culture and families. The department is a huge resource not just at the LSE but across UK, European and global social science.” 

Professor Nicola Lacey, Law School, on what the Department symbolises: 

“For me, the department has symbolised three important things: first, a space for critical interdisciplinary thinking at the heart of the School; second, a dedicated space for research, intellectual discussion and teaching the full range of gender studies scholarship, in a context in which gender issues all too often get squeezed out of the ‘mainstream’ syllabus; and, last but not least, a marvellously collegial space marked by high levels of mutual support and intellectual engagement. I look forward to seeing it flourish in its next three decades!”