2019-2020 IRW Global Scholars Call - This is What Democracy Looks Like: Feminist Re-imaginings

Each year, the Institute for Research on Women (IRW) invites several individuals to join us as IRW Global Scholars for four to nine months. While Global Scholars are expected to provide their own funding, IRW offers office space, institutional affiliation, access to the Rutgers library, and participation in a lively interdisciplinary feminist community. The theme for our discussions from September 2019 through April 2020 will be “This is What Democracy Looks Like: Feminist Re-imaginings.” We invite applications from university-based scholars and scholar/activists whose work is compatible with the theme.

About the IRW

IRW promotes innovative scholarship on women, gender, and sexuality through interdisciplinary forums, lectures, and conferences. IRW’s weekly seminar allows Global Scholars to discuss drafts of their work with Rutgers faculty and graduate students, all of whom are working on writing projects related to the annual theme. In addition, our Global Scholar Program provides an opportunity for postdoctoral scholars and activists to benefit from Rutgers’ unique resources related to the study of women and gender. The IRW is a member of the Institute for Women’s Leadership (IWL), a consortium of 9 different Rutgers units focused on women and gender, also including Douglass Residential College, the Women’s and Gender Studies Department, the Center for American Women and Politics, the Center for Women’s Global Leadership, the Center for Women and Work, the Center on Violence against Women and Children, the Center for Women in the Arts and Humanities, and the Office for the Promotion of Women in Science, Engineering and Mathematics.

IRW Global Scholars

IRW Global Scholars typically hold jobs or academic appointments elsewhere but wish to be in residence at the institute for a semester or a year. Global Scholars do not receive any financial support from Rutgers or the IRW, but we are happy to arrange access to university libraries and recreational facilities, provide private or shared office space, and extend invitations to participate in university lectures, colloquia, and seminars. Scholars also receive university email accounts and modest photocopying and long-distance telephone support. Former IRW Scholars have received funding through Fulbright, IREX, other local foundations, and their own institutions. University regulations limit our ability to accept applicants who are not funded through their home institutions or through external grants, fellowships and awards, but we can usually accept one scholar in this situation per academic year.

We invite applications from prospective scholars whose individual research or activism is compatible with the theme of our interdisciplinary research seminar. We expect that Global Scholars will participate in the weekly seminar along with Rutgers faculty and graduate students whose work explores the seminar theme from a variety of disciplinary and methodological perspectives. We also anticipate that Global Scholars will attend the events in our Distinguished Lecture Series on the same theme.

IRW Interdisciplinary Research Seminar

In January 2017, when millions of women took the streets to protest the Trump presidency, they chanted “Show me what democracy looks like! This is what democracy looks like!” But what does democracy look like? And what should it look like?

Today democracy is under attack across the globe. The weakness of traditional political parties has enabled the rise of aggressive and stridently nationalistic strongmen. At the same time, politics increasingly takes the form of positional warfare, making compromise impossible. We will reflect upon democracy’s history and potential futures during the Institute for Research on Women’s twenty-third interdisciplinary seminar, “This is What Democracy Looks Like: Feminist Re-imaginings.” How do we imagine democracy, construct it, critique it, and defend it? How can feminism help us to think through, and reclaim a sense of common purpose, cultivate empathy, and care for the most vulnerable?

While enabled by electoral mechanisms and constitutions, many argue that democracy is much more than that: it is a way of thinking, a set of values, and even a way of being. For the political philosopher Hannah Arendt, the right to act and speak in public in ways that matter  is the essence of democracy. Others focus on ideals of equality, fairness, or justice, or on processes such as deliberation and protest. Feminism has reinvigorated such discussions by enlarging the scope of the political imagination to include women, people of color, as well as the economically vulnerable, engaging many of those who have long been marginalized. But a focus on identities, without a sense of the common good, can also lead to fragmentation and the shrinkage of the “demos.”

What is the role of democratic citizenship in a global world that is now rife with nationalism? How can we acknowledge the role of gender, race, class, sexual, and other differences, while reclaiming a sense of our commonality?

Studies may examine any time period(s) or geographical location(s) and be rooted in any disciplinary or interdisciplinary approach(es). Some possible topics relevant to the seminar theme include, but are not limited to:

  • The ethics and politics of democracy
  • Classical and contemporary democracies in perspective
  • Facts, falsehoods, and the erosion of trust
  • Borders, belonging, and citizenship
  • Democracy in art and the literary imagination
  • Money, corporations, and politics
  • Psychology, therapeutic culture, and technologies of democratic selfhood
  • Sexuality and citizenship
  • Civic education and political socialization
  • Exclusion as a threat to democracy
  • Elections and electoral processes 
  • Environmental democracy
  • Nationalism, transnationalism, and the mass media
  • Women and social movements on the left and right
  • Community organizing, movement building, and transformative politics
  • Emotions, apathy, and participation
  • Social media, political ideologies, and public opinion

Application Procedures

Postdoctoral scholars working in any discipline may apply. Applications should be sent by email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with “Global Scholars” in the subject line. They should include the following: letter of intent specifying project title and proposed dates of visit; project description (five pages maximum, double-spaced); curriculum vitae and email address; names and contact information of four professional references. Prospective global scholars are invited to discuss the relevance of their project to “This is What Democracy Looks Like: Feminist Re-imaginings” as part of their application. Applicants interested in further information about this program or the IRW are invited to visit our website or contact the institute by email (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) or phone (848-932-9072). The deadline to apply is rolling but please note that space is limited and fills up fast.