On November 4 and 5, Central European University (CEU) students from the CIVICA Gendering Illiberalism course joined their peers at The National School of Political Science and Public Administration (SNSPA) in Bucharest for a two-day intensive skills development workshop.
The CIVICA Gendering Illiberalism course is a joint Master’s course that aims to equip students with the tools needed to define the increasingly popular concept of illiberalism, identify existing gaps in scholarship, and investigate the gendered processes animating democratic erosion and the rise in illiberal tendencies globally. It does so by bringing together students from two different institutions with diverse academic and cultural backgrounds. The transnational structure, a key and unique feature of CIVICA, allows students to exchange ideas, compare different contexts, and pinpoint methods for scholarly and civic interventions.
The class, which is being organized and taught by CEU GENS Faculty Andrea Pető and SNSPA’s Alina Dragolea for the third year in a row, incorporates weekly guest lectures from experts spearheading the research into this field, like Paula Villa, Katalin Parti, and Weronika Grzebalska. Over the term, students have been able to engage with leading scholars studying gender and illiberalism, hear from and interact with its authors directly, and pose their questions. Such an approach allows for the opportunity to explicate the contexts, debates, and theories shaping a dynamic, fast-developing area of research.
The field trip to Bucharest provided the first and only opportunity in the term for the students from the two universities to come together in person and build a community beyond the reach of their screens. Through a series of workshops, students were able to elaborate further on the concepts, theories, and research methodologies discussed in the class. The workshops further focused on applying existing literature to the students' final research projects, which will be written and published as blog posts to broaden the public reach of academia and its accessibility.
Students appreciated the chance to not only receive the invaluable input of the distinguished team running the class but also to dive deep into their topics with their peers and learn more about the areas of inquiry they each aim to pursue. SNSPA’s Iris Giguet remarked that the workshops’ and the course’s combining of theoretical and practical knowledge production was the most effective way to illustrate how strong voices are developing in illiberal states to attack gender studies as an academic field.
Interacting beyond the classroom in informal settings was also valued as a way for class participants to get to know each other better. CEU’s Bengisu Koşarhan felt that the field trip created the opportunity to build cultural bridges with her peers at SNSPA through their workshops and the extracurricular visit to the Romanian National Museum of Art, a walking tour of the city, and the ever-important occasion to sample local cuisine.
Having finally made each others’ acquaintances in person, students professed their enthusiasm to further enrich their understanding of the intersection between anti-gender politics and illiberalism globally for the remainder of the term.