Intersectional Experiences in Academia
In this workshop, several scholars will discuss their perspectives and experiences with disability, ethnicity, gender, and social class, insights that provide a backdrop for a conversation about how we can create a more inclusive academic workplace.
Photo: Getty Images
Intersectionality, a term coined by the legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw, is a productive lens to understand how individual experiences and identities mesh and meld with broader power structures in ways that generate or hinder access to social spaces. This workshop consists of two parts: The first part includes a talk, a panel, and a conversation about the intersectional ways that individual scholars gain (or not) access to academic careers. In the second part of the workshop, participants will join one of the six different group discussions (outlined below the program). The fundamental aim of the workshop is to produce concrete measures to improve the inclusivity of the academic workplace for scholars of all backgrounds. These proposed measures will be brought back to the University of Oslo’s Faculty of the Humanities, which has financed this workshop through the Equal Opportunity and Diversity fund.
More information about the speakers and discussion groups can be found below.
10:00 -10:05: Dean of the Faculty of Humanities Frode Helland: Opening remarks
10:05 -10:30: Ramona Vijeyarasa: Women's intersectional identities
10:30 -11:15: Panel: Intersectionality and inclusion in the academic workplace
11:15 -11:30: Break
11:30 -12:30: Conversation between panelists & Q&A
12:30 -13:45: Break
13:45 - 15:15: Discussion groups (led by the speakers)
15:30-16:00: Pro-rector (UiO) Åse Gornitzka: Closing remarks
Introduction: Women's intersectional identities
Ramona Vijeyarasa is the Chief Investigator behind the Gender Legislative Index, a tool designed to promote the enactment of legislation that works more effectively to improve women’s lives. Her work innovatively combines law, engineering and data science to reinvigorate decades-long debates about the law’s role in addressing gender inequality. A Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Law at the University of Technology Sydney and the 2020-2022 Women’s Leadership Institute Australia Research Fellow, she is editor of International Women’s Rights Law and Gender Equality: Making the law work for women (2021) and author of Sex, Slavery and the Trafficked Women: Myths and Misconceptions about Trafficking and its Victims (2015). Her upcoming book, The Woman President: A study of law, leadership and legacy on women’s lives based on experiences from South and Southeast Asia will be published by Oxford University Press this year. Ramona’s research is informed by a decade working in civil society.
Individuals carry their identity wherever they go. Indeed, there is no way to address gender inequality in today’s world without understanding intersectionality. As a human rights activist and scholar, Dr Ramona Vijeyarasa will share her first-hand experiences of how women’s intersectional identities have informed the lives, rights and lived realities of the women she has worked globally. She will draw from her experiences working with female and male victims of human trafficking, survivors of gender-based violence, adolescent women and girls facing barriers to reproductive health and women politicians from all areas of politics. Dr Vijeyarasa has conducted legal empirical research globally, including in Vietnam, Ukraine, Ghana, The Philippines, Sri Lankan and Indonesia. Ramona brings to this talk her experiences of being a first-generation Australian legal scholar of Sri Lankan origin.
Speakers & discussion leaders
Gender presentation and gender nonconformity
Esti Blanco-Elorrieta is a post-doctoral fellow in the Psychology department at Harvard University working on unveiling the neural underpinnings of language processing. Prior to joining Harvard, they completed their PhD at New York University and a Master's degree at the Basque Center on Cognition, Brain and Language.
Gender is ubiquitous in our society: the way we speak, the way we walk, the way we sit or smile or argue, every action that we perform is ruled by expectations based on our anatomy. Having been assigned female at birth, presented as male for a period of my life, and finally settling for a gender non-conforming appearance, my fluid gender identity has been a constant source of curiosity and struggle. In this workshop I will discuss the questions most people ask, and the ones they do not dare to ask, whenever they are confronted with a body that does not align with their templates, as well as what can be done to break the gender barriers and build a more equitable society.
Halvor Hanisch is a senior researcher at the Work Research Institute (Oslomet), and associate professor at VID specialized university. He has been involved in disability studies for many years, working primarily with disability theory, disability representation, and the various societal, institutional and affective forces driving the exclusion of people with disabilities.
In my presentation, I will briefly speak to three aspects of my intersectional position as an academic. I will address the significance of productivity and time in academia, what one might call “academic pace”. I will also address the relation between access (being able to do something) and barriers (being positioned as unable to do something), and the grey area between these two positions. Finally, I will address what I call “intersectional shielding”, that is, how other aspects of my social position sometimes reduce the adversive impacts of disability-related exclusion.
Kven, Sámi and first generation university student
Pia Lane is a Professor of Multilingualism at the Center for Multilingualism in Society across the Lifespan (MultiLing) at the University of Oslo. Her research focuses on multilingualism in Northern Norway, with a particular emphasis on language policy, language shift and revitalisation in relation to Indigenous and minoritised languages. She serves as a member of the Norwegian Truth and Reconciliation Commission (2018-2023).
I grew up in a multilingual family, where adults spoke Kven (a minoritised Finnic language) and Sámi (an Indigenous language), but children were spoken to in Norwegian only. I am first generation with Norwegian as a dominant language and also first generation to attend university; like Linda Tuhiwai Smith, I “was born into one world and educated in another” (2012: ix). In my presentation, I will reflect on my journey into the academic world and my attempts to take a more reflexive stance in my more recent publications.
Immigrant descent and the democratic importance of diversity
Feroz Mehmood Shah is a senior lecturer in philosophy at the University of Oslo, doing researching within the fields of moral and political philosophy, education and the history of philosophy. He is currently a member of the Academy for Young Researchers, the Fulbright Alumni Board Norway and the Faculty Board of the Faculty of Humanities, NTNU. He has been engaged in questions of diversity in academia, particularily in the epistemic opportunities of diversity and the way in which it can provide democratic legitimacy to educational institutions. In looking at the epistemic and democratic importance of diversity, how we recognize diversity becomes crucial. He will share experiences from being a descendent of immigrant parents, in a field where this group is critically underrepresented.
Motherhood and career development in Academia
Evelina Leivada is a psycholinguist, currently a Ramón y Cajal Senior Research Fellow at Universitat Rovira i Virgili in Spain. Her fields of study are language variation and development in monolingual and bilingual/bidialectal populations. She is an associate editor in the Diamond Open Access journal Biolinguistics.
How good and effective are our policies related to maternity, pregnancy loss, stillbirth, and caring for minors with and without disability? What is the 180-day gestation benchmark and how does it affect the tenure clock of early career researchers? How do you justify a sick leave to your employer when you are miscarrying, and it is still too early to report a viable pregnancy? Do all scientists have the right to go on a maternity leave? What percentage of scientists succumb to the motherhood penalty? In this talk, I will bring to the surface matters that are frequently left in the margins, through telling my own story of three pregnancies: one very early pregnancy loss, one stillbirth, and one extremely preterm infant. I envision this interaction as a safe space where we can recount even those experiences that we are often explicitly discouraged from discussing.
Internationalization in Academia
Rafael Lomeu Gomes works as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at MultiLing—Center for Multilingualism in Society across the Lifespan, Department of Linguistics and Scandinavian Studies, University of Oslo.
In my recent and ongoing sociolinguistic research projects, I have investigated family multilingualism and urban speech styles. My publications include articles published in Multilingual Margins, Multilingua, and the forthcoming volume Decolonial Voices, Language and Race (Multilingual Matters), co-edited with Sinfree Makoni, Magda Madany-Saá, and Bassey E. Antia. I am one of the co-organisers of the “Global Virtual Forum: Decoloniality and Southern Epistemologies”, a collaborative initiative that seeks to decentre hegemonic epistemologies and to decolonize the Western canon to facilitate other ways/waves of knowing. As an elected member of the Faculty of Humanities Board at the University of Oslo, I represent the temporary academic staff. Drawing on my experiences being academically socialised in Higher Education Institutions in the Global South and the Global North (i.e. Australia, Brazil, the UK, Norway, and South Africa), in this workshop I aim to facilitate a discussion on internationalisation in Academia.
Tony Sandset is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare Education (SHE) at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Oslo, where he received his PhD. His current research focuses on knowledge translation within the field of HIV care and prevention. Specifically, his focus is on how medical knowledge is mediated, how evidence is generated in HIV prevention and how new medical technologies informs subjectivities, desire, and sexuality. Another of his research areas pertains to the intersection between race, gender, class and HIV care and prevention. Relating race, class and gender to how medical knowledge is disseminated and translated from research to clinical and community usage is of particular interest here as is the question of health equity and equality in health care. Sandset is currently part of the working group on diversity and gender equality both at the Faculty of Medicine and centrally at the University of Oslo. Here he is contributing to developing the next strategy plan on diversity and gender equality both for the university at the central level and at the Faculty of Medicine.
Summary and closing remarks
Åse Gornitzka has since 2017 been part of the academic leadership of the University of Oslo. First as Vice-Rector for Research and Internationalisation and from 2021 as Pro-Rector. She is Professor at the Department of Political Science. Gornitzka heads the national strategic unit for research of Universities Norway (UHR-Research) and is member of The Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities’ Vice-presidents’ group. Gornitzka holds a doctoral degree in Public Administration from the University of Twente, the Netherlands. Her main research interests are on governance at national and European level and the role that organisational factors play in the governance process and the link between expertise and policy making.