Support a Position in Islamic Feminisms at Queen’s

Do you support the creation of a tenure-track position in Islamic Feminisms at Queen’s?

If so, then consider writing a letter to the Dean of Arts and Science, Allistair MacLean and to the Queen’s University Provost and Vice President Academic, Bob Silverman    to tell them!

You can fine the full proposal from the Department of Gender Studies below.


Submitted with the unanimous support of the Department of Gender Studies

Signature, Department Head

Document contents:


Relevance to Imagining the Future:  Towards an Academic Plan for Queen’s University

Relevance to Departmental Academic Plan.

Relevance to Diversity and Equity / Inclusivity Report.

Relevance to Queen’s culture and the Henry Report.

Conclusion: Broader Implications of the Position



The Department of Gender Studies proposes that Queen’s University’s interests and international reputation would be best served at this time by the creation of a full-time, tenure track position in Islamic feminisms, with additional emphases on social justice, anti-oppression, and intersectional scholarship. The strategic impact of such a hire would be immense.  The growth of scholarship in this area is evident in recent hires and ongoing searches in Islamic Studies at major universities such as the University of Chicago, the University of Sydney, Australia, the University of Missouri-Columbia, Northwestern University, the University of Toronto, Wesleyan University, Georgia State University, and Harvard University.  It is also evident in the development of new curriculum priorities internationally; see Harvard’s list of fall courses on Islamic Studies at:

An appointment in Islamic feminisms centres the job search on one of the most urgent areas of debate surrounding Islam in contemporary culture, offering as it does an academic home for intersectional approaches to gender, sexuality and race in Islamic and feminist thought and praxis.  This job search could not be more topical, both in terms of Queen’s University culture — the Queen’s community is committed to eradicating racist, sexist and Islamophobic incidents on campus, as well as aware of the implications of the Henry report — and in terms of crucial national and international debates, such as those surrounding Bill 94 in Quebec or the recent burka/niqab ban in France. A tenure-track position in Islamic feminisms would position Queen’s internationally as a leader in engagement with Islamic thought, with critical race studies, and with emerging trends in gender studies and feminism.  The Department of Gender Studies (formerly Women’s Studies) has a long history of commitment to social justice, and the evolution of feminism from a white, middle-class set of concerns to an inclusive project is essential to our Department’s academic plan and to our Department’s continued participation in international feminist debates.

A hire in Islamic feminisms would continue and extend and expand our Department’s current commitments to anti-racist and inclusive feminist discourses in both undergraduate and graduate teaching.  Undergraduate courses in our Department such as 120: Women, Gender and Difference (currently 218 students),125:  Sex, Gender and Popular Culture (250 students), 215:  Introduction to Sexual and Gender Diversity (170 students), 212: Racism, Colonialism and Resistance,  326: Gender, Diaspora and the Arts, 311: Contemporary Feminist Thought, 401: Debates on Feminism and Islam – as well as our graduate theory and methodology courses – are all responsive to strong student demand at every level of the program for debate surrounding issues of colonialism, violence, racism, diaspora and resistance. Our Department is about to lose a non-tenure-track position that services several of these courses (this year, for example, both 326 and 401) and the loss to the department is tremendous, not merely in terms of bodies on the ground but of commitment to these urgent issues in teaching and in scholarship. These debates are a “pre-existing” condition in our Department and in our University.

The Department of Gender Studies is a growing, thriving entity; we have a new and highly successful MA program in which our students have performed outstandingly in major grant competitions, e.g. five of six of our very first entry year of students received awards from SSHRC, CIHR, OGS and McLaughlin.  We are an interdisciplinary, intersectional program committed to cooperation with other departments (e.g. cross and joint appointments, cross-listed courses, co-sponsored and multiply-sponsored events) and to raising consciousness and self-consciousness about race, gender and identity at every level at Queen’s. It is our position that this hire is both an ideal offshoot of our Departmental academic plan and an ideal match with the University’s broader ongoing investments in diversity and equity, academic planning (e.g. curriculum reform, interdisciplinarity, richness of undergraduate experience), and strategic planning (e.g. increased enrolment, international exposure, competitiveness with other major institutions).

Relevance to Imagining the Future:  Towards an Academic Plan for Queen’s University

A hire in Islamic feminisms is responsive to numerous points from the University’s academic plan for the future.

The hire speaks to Goal 1.2, creating a unique Queen’s experience, through fostering global learning and learning across differences.

The hire speaks to Goal 2.1, which is the development of Queen’s as a research university that offers both high-quality graduate and undergraduate degrees in selected fields, and a rich undergraduate experience. The benefits of attracting an outstanding scholar in such an important emerging field are obvious in terms of both undergraduate teaching and supervision of graduate projects, e.g. we already have one MA student working on Turkish Islamic feminisms.

The hire speaks to Goal 3.1, fostering a rich, innovative and dynamic research environment, by attracting an outstanding researcher in a key emerging field.

The hire speaks to Goal 4.2, curriculum delivery with efficiency, in that both engages with our current curriculum and offers new opportunities.

The hire speaks to Goal 4.3, interdisciplinarity, by reinforcing Queen’s commitment to recruiting and retaining interdisciplinary scholars, and thereby supporting Queen’s interdisciplinary programs, of which Gender Studies is perhaps one of the most interdisciplinary, consisting of faculty from nine different research fields.

The hire speaks to Goal 4.4, international engagement, by promoting teaching and scholarship involving non-western thought and paradigms, by increasing opportunities for collaborative work with other institutions committed to the study of Islamic thought, e.g. take the model of Queen’s ongoing involvement with Birzeit University in the West Bank (see, and by creating the potential for increased foreign enrolment and for new student and faculty exchange programs (e.g. consider the model of the Matariki network of universities).

The hire speaks to Goal 4.7, integration of inquiry, interdisciplinarity, internationalization, imagination, innovation and inclusivity, by providing an academic space for intersectional scholarship.

The hire speaks to Goal 5.1, community, by responding to Queen’s culture of whiteness with a hire attuned to anti-racist work.

The hire speaks to Goal 5.5, sustainability of academic units, by reinforcing the strengths of a growing, thriving, interdisciplinary program.

Relevance to Departmental Academic Plan

The Gender Studies Department is committed to interdisciplinarity, intersectionality, social justice, and engagement with non-western forms of knowledge.  These commitments are demonstrated through our recent response to the Faculty of Arts and Science Planning Document and more fully explored in our Departmental Academic Plan.

i) Interdisciplinarity

From the very beginning our vision was one that embraced interdiciplinarity, with faculty from the sciences, social sciences and humanities involved in teaching our first course in 1985.  We have maintained this commitment through our departmental hirings, the active participation of 35 cross-appointed faculty and through our course offerings.   We have faculty who teach courses in areas as divergent as health care, politics, literature, history, theory, visual arts and textile studies, and we attempt to incorporate a number of these areas within every course; our courses also routinely offer possibilities for alternative and multi-media assignments (e.g. posters, film and book reviews displayed on a national web-based health module, journals, feminist shoes).  Some courses include elements such as office hours at Four Directions, modular teaching with faculty in other departments, and in the case of the practicum, extensive field work.  Our commitment to interdisciplinarity is highlighted in our response to the Faculty of Arts and Science Planning Document, as follows:

* Study of Gender as an analytic category requires interdisciplinarity.  But interdisciplinarity does not require a consideration of gender.  This positions us in a unique relationship to interdisciplinarity that is not attended to by most other disciplines/departments/faculties.

ii) Intersectionality

Early on in our development we stated a commitment to hire faculty who had their primary research in critical race scholarship.   We soon learned that adding this scholarship into our curriculum challenged the very pillars of our discipline and required that we transform the very nature of our program.  To this end we have embraced the intersectionality of race, class, gender and sexuality in our curriculum, our departmental vision statement, our Brown Bag Series, our visiting scholars and our new graduate program.  Our most recent Departmental Academic Plan of 2008 crystallizes our focus on intersectionality, as follows:

* One of the great strengths of our department is our commitment to critical race and intersectional scholarship and future hirings and curriculum changes will be built upon this priority.

* We agree that all departmental faculty will demonstrate their commitment to critical race and intersectional scholarship by ensuring that all courses offered will have this as a focus.

* We agree that the focus of our new graduate program will include critical race and intersectional scholarship.

* We are aware of our weaknesses within the fields of critical race and intersectional scholarship, namely in the areas of Aboriginal and Middle Eastern feminist research and teaching.  We are determined to make this a priority in future hirings.

Our response to the Faculty of Arts and Science Planning Document also states our commitment to this intersectionaltiy of race, class, gender and sexuality, as follows:

* Our longstanding anti-racism and activism is integrated into our curriculum.

* Intersectionality: power, race, sexual and gender diversity

* In a culture of whiteness, the paradox is that the Department of Gender Studies at Queen’s University is producing TAs who go to other institutions and generate an identity and reputation for Queen’s.  The whole campus benefits from the work of our TAs.

iii) Social Justice

Our department was founded as a result of an international feminist social movement.   Thus, we have an enduring allegiance to incorporate social justice praxis into our vision, methods and pedagogy.  This is outlined in the preamble to our departmental vision of 2001, as follows:

Our students, academic and non-academic staff focus on women’s issues and experiences but in all facets of our work we strive to address more general issues of equity, power and social justice in ways mindful of the complexities of a diverse society.

This commitment is embraced in the everyday functioning of our department.  Our fourth year practicum ensures that our students make meaningful connections to the larger social justice community and produce research that meets community needs.  Our faculty are amongst the most popular on and off campus as speakers on social justice issues.   Our staff have strong allegiances to social justice work in their communities.  Our faculty work closely with social justice communities locally, nationally and globally, through their on-going research projects.  And our students learn to balance academic and community engagement in their undergraduate and graduate programs in Gender Studies.

iv) Global and Non-Western knowledges

Due to our critical stance toward knowledge in the traditional disciplines, we in Gender Studies are open to self-critique for our Western-dominated understanding of knowledge, politics and social justice.  In the last few years our Department has undergone considerable soul-searching about how we can best challenge our Western-based foundations and transform our knowledge, theory and praxis to reflect more global perspectives.  Our hiring of a scholar in Aboriginal global HIV/health movements in 2009 demonstrated our desire to reposition our understanding of feminist knowledges.  And our desire to hire a scholar in Islamic feminisms helps solidify our goal of being a leader at Queen’s and in the larger academic community to develop a discipline that reflects the increasingly an interactive and global world.

Our decision to host Queen’s Arab Studies program is part of this desire to reconfigure our department and our discipline.  And our 2008 Departmental Academic Plan addresses this concern, as follows:

* We are committed to a global understanding of feminist research methods, feminist social movement politics and feminist theory.

* Feminism is a study of emancipation and must be global in perspective.

* Throughout our curriculum at the undergraduate and graduate level we will include Western and non-western cultures in our examples of feminist theory, methods and praxis.

Relevance to Diversity and Equity/ Inclusivity Report

Headed by Dr. Adnan Husain, the Diversity and Equity Task Force (DET) published the “Diversity and Equity Task Force Action Plan, 2010-2011” in September 2010. Offering an action plan on how best to implement recommendations made by previous equity and diversity reports, DET renders apparent some ways to engage with Academic Planning at Queen’s, presenting a five-point scheme, as follows:

  1. the importance of defending equity and diversity “as Core Undergraduate Competencies”;
  2. diversifying  curriculum;
  3. piloting “interdisciplinary courses” which specifically address “equity, diversity, and social justice”;
  4. reviewing Queen’s National Scholar program with a focus on its “equity component”;
  5. reviewing current capacities and support for internationalizing “research and curriculum” in the areas of “social justice/social difference” and “global/non-western cultures”

In proposing a position in Islamic feminisms, the Department of Gender Studies addresses all five of DET’s recommendations for reform.

1. The position will make an important contribution to Queen’s curriculum, specifically in the areas of equity and diversity. By offering courses on the nexus of gender, religion, race, and social justice, the incumbent scholar will create space for addressing issues of diversity and equity in relation to Muslims in general and Muslim women in particular. His/her courses will attract students from diverse educational, racial, and social backgrounds and will respond to growing demand for such courses at every level of the university.

2. By introducing courses that educate students around relationships between Islam and feminisms (and, more broadly, gender, race, and religion), the incumbent will fill a gap in current curricular offerings at Queen’s. To date, there is only one course on offer at our university that explicitly addresses Islam and feminism (GNDS 401); this is in spite of a vast increase in academic research and scholarship on the topic and the necessity for exposure to such materials for students at Queen’s at all levels. Therefore, by offering and creating courses in the area of Islam and feminisms, a hire in this position will meet the goal of “diversifying” the Queen’s curriculum.

3. Research in the field of Islamic feminisms is interdisciplinary by its very nature, drawing on academic expertise from a number of areas, including Sociology, Politics, Gender Studies, Literature, Religion, Development Studies, Cultural Studies, etc. The incumbent will likely have an interdisciplinary academic background, with research and scholarship agendas that showcase a strong commitment to issues of equity and social justice.

4. The Queen’s National Scholar program attracts the best and brightest academic talents from across the world. While in suspension, DET’s recommendation that the program be reinstated with a focus on “global and non-western cultures” can be met through the creation of this position in Islamic feminisms. Islam remains configured as outside of “western cultures.” A hire with expertise in contemporary Islam as it is globally understood and practiced will meet the above stated goals. To ensure a “global” and non-western focus in its hire for a scholar in the vast area of Islamic feminisms, the department will highlight the importance of having a global focus and experience in teaching and research in “non-western cultures.”

5.  DET speaks of the importance of identifying “institutional and endemic challenges to teaching and research” in social justice and global/non-western cultures. One challenge to meeting this goal is the lack of expertise in the field of Islamic feminisms in the Gender Studies Department specifically and Queen’s more generally. Teaching for social justice, equity, and diversity from global and non-western perspectives requires specialized academic cadre.

Relevance to Queen’s culture and the Henry Report

The Henry Report states that Queen’s University should challenge a “culture of whiteness” that has been ensconced in a “Eurocentric” curriculum, and has presented barriers to the success of faculty of colour in departmental culture, relationships with students, and review, tenure, and promotion procedures. A position in Islamic feminisms housed within the Gender Studies Department directly addresses these concerns by creating a position focused on global and critical race studies and specifically Islamic feminist studies, producing a more diverse curriculum and an open and inclusive atmosphere.

Our Department has a track record of hiring, retaining, and tenuring internationally-recognized and highly-successful faculty women of colour who are leaders in their fields and, most importantly, who specifically focus their teaching and research at Queen’s on critical race studies. However, we remain aware that the conditions that in part led to the commissioning of the Henry Report – in which faculty women of colour working on critical race studies left the University because of an environment unwelcoming to them not only personally or culturally, but in their respective departments – require constant ongoing self-criticism. The Gender Studies Department is strongly committed to being/remaining an effective and welcoming home for faculty of colour to be supported in developing their national and international recognition as intellectual leaders in their fields. When filling a position in Islamic feminisms, we will strive to present a working environment in which, regardless of self-identification (racialized, minority, person with a disability), any new hire can feel confident he/she will not confront the unmarked structural barriers to a healthy working environment that led faculty women of colour to leave the University prior to the report.

Conclusion:  Broader Implications of the Position

9/11 showed the Western world that new engagement is needed with the Middle East, with Islamic thought, and with non-western knowledges. Queen’s historic leadership in the realm of policy means that Queen’s must confront the new realities of the 21st century in its academic planning and hiring praxis, continuing Queen’s mission to prepare leaders and citizens for a global society, as our letterhead boldly asserts. We understand the dilemma of numbers in the University at this difficult time. But numbers are not everything; sometimes, a bigger vision is more important.  Marginalization of non-western work happens at the foundational level (curricular) and the instructional level across this university.  We expect that this appointment will be transformative for our own Department and for Queen’s.