I’ve been meaning to do this shameless self promotion post since our book was published but somehow never got round to it. But now we are waving the summer off and are hitting the new academic year hard it seems sort of ok to do this. I’m not really keen on the ‘yay look at me’ stuff so this post is really about the book and the process of writing it. If you happen to want to persuade your library to buy a copy or two that would of course be awesome too! You can find it on the Publisher’s website here.
So the book. Well it’s basically an examination of the Court of Justice of the European Union and its work on a couple of substantive law areas and it is written from a feminist perspective. In writing the book we were interested in understanding the role gender plays in the CJEU’s work. The first half sets out our approach and the background – composition of the Court, how it works etc and the second half looks at gender equality case law, equality case law more generally and citizenship case law. If you do read it, we’d love to hear your thoughts on it.
I am really proud of this book – not necessarily because of the content and the writing, I can already see plenty of ways it could all be improved – but because it was such a genuine collaboration and joint effort which proved that collegiality is alive and well and because we were able to work with one of our undergraduate students and use sections of her dissertation as part of our research. It was such a privilege to work with Dr Sanna Elfving who I had appointed and who is an absolute star and with Sophie Mayat, a fabulous former student particularly because I missed supervising most of her dissertation while off sick with depression and anxiety just before I left Bradford. It was amazing to see the hard work she put in and the genuinely high quality research, thinking and writing that she produced.
I learned a lot during the writing of that book. First, it always takes longer than you think it will, a lot longer. Second, I need to work with people who have much more patience than I have a right to ask for. I will at some point in the process fuck up and/or fall off the wagon and I need to trust my co-authors to stick with me, call me out, catch my mistakes and point me back in the right direction. That means they need to have incredible patience and they need to be able to cope with me being a bit of a control freak (ok a lot). Sanna deserves a medal. Third, working with someone who works very differently from me is great. The writing process was really interesting. It seems I map out, Sanna inserted tons of information, I edited, Sanna sorted the references. I had the big picture in my head, she took care of the detail. We are good at different things and that means we can focus on the things we like and are good at but all of it still gets done.
I think the key thing I learned was that a book needs to be really strictly mapped out. We had way too much material and trying to work out how to do it all justice caused some of our issues about structure and the overall argument. Once we decided we would just have to leave some of it out, it actually came together well. We have a couple of ideas for some of the stuff that didn’t make it into the book and definitely have more to say on the subject.
Writing a book is a long slog and I thought that it might be like a PhD or running a marathon – you have to forget the pain before you can even begin to think about doing anything like it again – but actually I’d like to write another one, it was overall a really enjoyable experience. Sure, it had its moments but it was also fun. I have a couple of ideas but lots of research work to do before I can begin to really put pen to paper (probably actual pen to actual paper) but watch this space.
I have loads of semi-written blog posts in notebooks and on scraps of paper and I will eventually get round to typing them up and finishing them. While I have a few minutes though, I wanted to share what is now no longer really news but is still quite exciting: I won an award. Or rather my paper did. The paper I presented at the International Political Science Association (IPSA) World Congress on 24th July 2014 in Montreal won the Francesco Kjellberg award for new scholars. Ok I see you raising an eyebrow, new scholar? Well I wasn’t entirely comfortable about that either but this is measured by time since PhD and I therefore do fit the criteria. Details of the prize are on the IPSA website. I am totally blown away that anyone would think that my work is ‘outstanding and worthy of publication in a leading political science journal’ (the other criteria). I therefore wanted to say thank you publically to those who made this possible and who are responsbile for this hideous picture of me grinning like a drunk (I wasn’t!) Cheshire cat coming into existence. There are several more pictures from the conference including another of me receiving the award on the conference flickr stream.
First Heather MacRae of York University in Toronto for introducting me to the idea that political science might be fun (and being right) and for nudging me to submit the abstract; next to Yvonne Galligan of Queen’s University Belfast for nominating the paper and then for pushing me to finish it and allowing me a little extra time to do so while I was in hopsital; to Bradford University School of Management for agreeing to fund the trip and of course to the prize panel who awarded the prize.
However, the prize wasn’t the highlight of Montreal, far from it. The highlight was actually having dinner with colleagues from a handfull of different countries chatting away, partly about our work, partly just about life. I was again struck by how much real academic work and thinking happens when you just start talking to people who are interested in similar things. So dinner was great and our panel session really just formalised some of those discussions. Political scientists do things differently to lawyers in terms of conferences. There is an overuse of discussants which apparently is normal and I’ve never been to a conference without coffee breaks before. There was also a lot I just didn’t know anything about or understand but I did like the atmosphere generally. Heather said, as we left ‘I’ll never turn you into a political scientist, will I?!’ – well Heather, you may be closer to that than you think!
Oh and if anyone actually cares what the paper was – it was on Gender and the Court of Justice of the EU and the draft (yes I know about the typos etc) can be downloaded below. I’ll let you know what I do with it next! but if you have comments let me know.
I have spent the last two days at the Centre for Research on the European Matrix Annual Conference in Surrey. The conference was titled Sex Gender and Europe and was run in conjunction with the ESRC International Network: Unintended Gender Consequences of EU Policies. The programme is online here
I am writing this on the train home as I reflect on the last two days and just let my – rather full – mind wander. It might therefore be the case that I change my mind about the thoughts captured here, that I think differently in a few day’s time when I have slept, processed ideas and reflected further. For that I make no apologies, it’s all part of the process!
Day one was long and intense but at the same time inspiring and encouraging in the sense that it created a really productive environment for sharing ideas. As Roberta Guerrina introduced the Gender network and the work it had been doing over the last two years it struck me (not for the first time recently!) how creative, innovative and productive a bunch of people with similar interests can be when given the time and space to talk to each other, to think, to challenge and to support. The work that comes out of these collaborations have had the benefit of feedback at all levels – from basic idea to finished paper and it is amazing work for it. What that means is that the network is significantly more than the sum of its parts and this is something to really think about in research funding. Academics, or at least this bunch of academics and I suspect many others too, need to be able to engage with each other in a meaningful way over a sustained period of time to be able to produce their best work
The papers on day 1 were all great, many given by PhD students who are engaging in some really interesting work which made me more hopeful that there is a bright future for gender and EU studies. I really enjoyed Muireann O’Dwyer (University College Dublin) speaking on the EU democratic deficit and although I am still grappling with her use of some of the concepts (like intersectionality) I am sure she has tapped into something which can push our understanding forward – I am looking forward to reading the full paper. I also enjoyed Gill Allwood on the prostitution debates and whether we should construe prostitution as sex work or violence against women. While I have on occasion picked this theme up in discussions in my Law and Society module, I hadn’t particularly thought about this in an EU context but I think it might be worth re-visiting some of the worker case law involving prostitutes in the light of the discussions we had. Koen Slootmaeckers spoke about Pride in Serbia which made me think about Pride and what it means – this will continue to whirl through my head for a while because here the personal does turn into the political. I can so absolutely see the political and symbolic importance of Pride in some contexts and yet Pride is not something that I have ever particularly engaged with. On day 2 the panels related mostly to gendering the economic crisis and I found Rosalind Cavaghan and Emanuela Lombardo’s paper helpful because it pointed me in the direction of literature which will help me get my head round some of these issues more. Denise Amram presented from Italy via Skype and by outlining the legal position of married couples where one spouse changes their sex in several European Countries, she made me think about what a European Union response might be and how this might then play out in a free movement context. Wow!
The highlight for me however was Carl Stychin who gave the plenary paper on Day 1: Status Symbols: European Same-Sex Couples on the Move. The absurdity that can arise where people marry in one state, live in another, move to a third, potentially divorce…. It’s complex for heterosexual couples who usually do not have to worry about their marriages being accepted as valid (although of course, these issues could also come up!) For same sex couples these questions are even more complex. I started trying to reason this out in a paper published in 2011 but Carl’s reasoning takes this debate further and is rather more sophisticated than I managed!
So, here I am on the train reflecting on a really packed but great 2 days which were full of conversations, excitement and a mutual belief that the work we are doing is important and worth persevering with and that is something to hold on to as we all go back to the everyday grind of the academic job.