Gender Research Colloquium

During the summer term 22, the research colloquium on gender theory, (queer) feminist and emancipatory issues of Hamburg’s universities takes place every third Wednesday from 6 pm to 7:30 pm (online). The following dates are confirmed: 20.4.; 11.5.; 1.6.; 22.6; 13.7. 

It aims to provide a forum that opens up an intersectional perspective on gender and considers other structural vulnerability markers such as race, class and ability.

Master’s students, doctoral researchers, and postdoctoral researchers interested in engaging in a regular, professional specialist exchange with colleagues from the field are warmly invited to attend.
Email gender-kolloquium@gmx.de to register.
In order to make the event accessible to as many people as possible, please also communicate any special access needs, questions, or suggestions you may have in advance.

Interview with the initiators of the Gender Research Colloquium, Mirjam Faissner and Mirja Riggert

MK: What is the Gender Research Colloquium?
Who is it for and how does it work?

MR: We wanted to create a space to encourage a dialogue on gender, queer, and feminist research in which we could engage in interdisciplinary discussions.
The Colloquium strives to counteract the isolation that we are increasingly experiencing as a result of the pandemic and to provide an accessible and open forum for mutual support.

Participants come from many different disciplines, including medicine, literary studies, education, social work, philosophy, and political science.
What unites us is a critical feminist and intersectional perspective on our respective research subjects.

MR: We decide on a program together.
We’ve previously read and discussed theoretical texts, then presented our own papers or draft chapters.
We also share our experiences of challenges and conflicts in the workplace or during application procedures, for example.
Sometimes, however, we also take a critical look at university life and institutional structures, or at feminist issues in pop culture.

MF: Mutual empowerment and informal dialogue are as important to us as substantive discussions—and we’d be delighted to welcome anyone else who’s interested.

MR: I find our informal gatherings with people from a wide variety of disciplines very enriching, as I have already gained a lot of inspiration for my research that I would not have obtained from within my own discipline otherwise, perhaps because it’s a slightly more biased environment.
The suggestions from the social and cultural science spheres have allowed me to make my dissertation far more political than I had initially expected it to be.

MK: How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your scientific work and what has helped you to continue to work well (or even better)?

MR: One additional challenge we’ve faced is, of course, the lack of casual and unplanned contact, even in a university setting.
Instead of communal lunches in the student dining hall or a drink at a bar after lectures, we now take virtual coffee breaks or a stroll in the drizzling rain.
Our day-to-day work as researchers is already rather isolated, so a lot of things are falling by the wayside at the moment. That being said, there are also new phenomena emerging:
being able to attend events from any location makes it easy to take part in international conferences.
I can attend conferences on three continents within a week without even having to fly anywhere.
That’s definitely an advantage.

MK: What do you find the most special or interesting about focusing on gender/diversity in academic work?
Why are you doing this?

MR: My gender-related research is actually mainly a reaction to what I perceive in contemporary cultural texts.
I think we’re currently living in times of extreme identity politics, where ‘gender’ has taken on a completely different significance.
Right now, the global balances of power and structural marginalisation in many areas are being exposed and shaken up all over again.
I find these neo-feminist discussions of gender concepts and ideas of identity as they are portrayed in the media and cultural sector really fascinating and I would love to explore them in greater depth and to critically examine them in my analyses.

MF: Differentiating factors such as gender, class, ability, or race have not been accorded adequate attention in medicine in the past.
The norm for humanity is usually assumed to be a white, heterosexual, cis male.
This also applies to some extent to medical ethics and its underlying principles.
I am interested in how our view of issues in medical ethics changes when we consider the influence of the structural positioning of people along various intertwined systems of oppression in a context-sensitive and critical manner.
I find it fascinating to critically reflect on the role of medicine, especially psychiatry, from a feminist perspective.

MK: A common saying in the academic world is ‘publish or perish’—in other words, there’s a constant pressure to get your work published.
But besides traditional specialist publications, scientific communication and a knowledge exchange are also becoming increasingly important.
Are you involved in scientific communication?
Twitter, #4GenderStudies, science slams, etc.?

MR: I’m not particularly active on social media.
However, I believe scientific communication is extremely important to ensure research findings are disseminated widely and aren’t just circulated within the scientific community.
That’s why appropriate and engaging communication is so important—and also why it sometimes isn’t so easy.
I’d actually like to see more opportunities for outreach as well as support with getting the right format.

MF: I feel much the same as Mirja.
I think it’s important to bring scientific findings into the public eye and would like to do more in this respect.
For one thing, I want such findings to be used for political purposes and to prompt changes in social practices in the relevant contexts.
What’s more, the general public is also an important lens for the critical reflection on findings and methods.
Ideally, research should always be conducted with the involvement of those affected and include participatory research.
Unfortunately, this isn’t usually the case yet—often due to a lack of funding and resources for participatory research, for example.
That’s why it’s important for the wider public to also be able to criticize the research as well as the underlying background assumptions and medical practices based on this.
For example, important input in the critique of psychiatric research and practice comes from activists from the LTGBQI+ movement and associations representing those affected.
This shows that researchers need the public in order to see and correct their own internal bias.

MK: Mirja Riggert and Mirjam Faissner,
thank you very much for your initiative and for speaking with us!

Registration and contact:

Mirja Riggert is a doctoral researcher within the “New Travel—New Media” graduate research group at the University of Freiburg. She’s working on a project on gender constructions in digital travel narratives, exploring how intersectional treatments of identity, autobiographical travel narratives, and visual-textual medialities interact. Mirja Riggert studied German, ethnology and comparative literature at the University of Göttingen.

Mirjam Faissner has been working as a research associate in the field of ethics in psychiatry at Ruhr University Bochum since January 2021. In her postdoctoral research, she’s exploring ethical issues from a feminist perspective. Her research interests include feminist theory with a focus on intersectionality, discrimination, and feminist epistemology. Mirjam Faissner studied medicine, philosophy, and French literature in Hamburg and completed her doctorate in clinical psychiatry. After graduating, she first worked in internal medicine and geriatrics as an assistant doctor before completing a master’s degree in philosophy of medicine and psychiatry at King’s College London.