Sexuality, Gender, and Power

In December 2006, Örebro University and Linköpings University were awarded a major five-year grant from the Swedish Research Council to establish a Centre of Gender Excellence— Gendering Excellence (GEXcel): Towards a European Centre of Excellence in Transnational and Transdisciplinary Studies of Changing Gender Relations, Intersectionalities and Embodiment. The purpose of the Centre is to carry out new research and become the foundation for a more permanent Sweden-based European Collegium for Advanced Transnational and Transdisciplinary Gender Studies.

That’s an excerpt from a letter of invitation that Anna G. Jónassdóttir and I sent to several scholars inviting them to participate in this new GEXcel initiative. I had been asked to serve on the international board of advisors, who were helping steer the course of the project and were involved in its events. Anna and I organized the first events for the initial phase of the project, which included a Visiting Fellows Program, designed to “attract excellent senior researchers and promising younger scholars from Sweden and abroad and from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds, who will carry out thematically organized, joint gender research under the direction of one of the six professors in Sweden who are responsible for the program…”

Once again, I found myself regularly in Sweden, a country I more or less consider a second home. I have traveled to Örebro, Sweden so frequently that I can tell you what shops used to exist in the place where newer ones are now housed! (The most exciting time, perhaps, was even before this project got underway, when I was awarded an honorary doctorate from Örebro University, in the cold, cold February of 2003!)

In 2007-08, Anna directed the research theme, “Gender, Sexuality, and Global Change,” and coordinated a series of workshops and meetings at Örebro University. The kickoff event was a major conference held on that topic in May 2008. We had organized the event in the manner of the ECPR conference of workshops. This format allows for scholars to get together in small groups of researchers who share a common interest. Each person presents a paper and has a formal discussant assigned to give comments and enable dialogue. Then, the discussion opens into the whole group. The conference takes place over some days, with keynote addresses interspersed and a final plenary session, where “recorders” (I was one) present synthesized summaries of the topics under discussion.

After the conference ended, Anna and I met with Valerie Bryson, who had been one of the fellows, to begin the difficult task of selecting among many excellent papers those that would be included in a new anthology, Sexuality, Gender and Power: transnational and intersectional perspectives.

To be honest, I had been reluctant to take on another editing project. It’s a lot more work than it appears. And, with many essays in our collection from authors for whom English was not a first language, the editing task included language as well as content editing, a formidable one indeed!

Yet, with Valerie joining the team, and sharing the work, including the writing of the introductions to the collection and its sections—and adding also her good humor and calm focus, the task became lighter. And, in the end, a lot of fun!