, ,

Getting to know Political Scientist Marianne H. Marchand 

Best known for her academic writings and research on topics like international relations, globalisation, feminism and migration, Marianne H. Marchand is a scholar, political scientist, researcher and feminist who has pioneered the term “Global Restructuring” in the field of Gender and International Relations (IR). We connected with Marianne to learn more about her interests and the impactful contributions she continues to make in the field. Marianne H. Marchand is an Academic Editor for the journal, Third World Quarterly.

1. Can you tell us a little bit about where you grew up? What kind of hobbies were you interested in when you were a child?

I was born in a small town in the Netherlands and then moved to the Hague with my parents and spent most of my childhood there. As long as I can remember, I have always been interested in international issues since school. I found a piece from school recently where I wrote on Mexican archeology and the pyramids. In high school, I did a paper on the European Union and was picked to visit it as well. So, these kinds of things have always interested me. In fact, my grandfather was in the Merchant Marine and he would always talk about different places he visited and one of the places he often spoke about was South America, which piqued my interest even as a small child.

2. What made you interested in pursuing an academic career in international development and incorporating feminist studies in your work?

While I was studying at Arizona State University, I came across some really interesting people who were able to reflect on different kinds of critical international relations. One of them was Richard Ashley, who introduced us to more of a postmodernist thought in terms of international relations. Before I finished my PhD, I started to look into development issues in relation to gender and feminism from a more post-modern perspective. This resulted in my first book on Feminism/ Postmodernism/ Development (1995) with Jane Parpart. Ultimately, that book is what set the tone for my work to date. It is funny though, because the intersection between feminism and International Relations is still not recognised in academia.

3. Which three publication so far do you think has been one the closest to your heart? One that you felt deeply about in your heart and somewhat on a personal level?

My first book Feminism/ Postmodernism/ Development will always be the most special. It has had numerous citations. I even saw it on the shelves of people working at The United Nations (UN) and seeing my book in their offices was a realisation point for me because it meant that it was having an actual impact. The book was published in 1995 so it has been nearly 30 years, but even now people still approach me to tell me that it opened their eyes to a new perspective.

Another piece I wrote on gender and global restructuring did extremely well to my surprise. I had basically developed the notion of global restructuring, which Anne Sisson Runyan and I later used in our book, Gender and Global Restructuring: Sightings, Sites and Resistances (2011). The concept of global restructuring was strong enough to strike a chord then and even now it is still really well received.

I also wrote another piece that I’m proud of in Spanish, which required me to write something on Feminist International Relations (FIR), and even though security literature is not one of the expert areas, I did talk a little about it. I did not realise that it would have such a strong impact. When a colleague of mine was teaching at the Military Graduate College in Mexico, he made this piece part of his curriculum and told me that it really moved one particular female student in his class to the point that she broke down in class after reading my piece because it hit home for her. So, this piece was a really impactful one and it also resulted in a very strong women’s movement and mobilisation, especially amongst young women, including high school and university students.

I’d say these three publications have been the ones which have created waves and left some sort of major impact and a mark on a lot of people.

4. What kind of intersectional aspects did you come across in your studies that inspired you to research/write about feminism and development?

I was very interested in exploring the knowledge power-nexus in terms of how and what kind of literature really influences people and Chandra Mohanty’s, Under The Western Eyes: Feminist Scholarship and Colonial Discourses (1998) helped me understand a lot about this in school. 

I had been living in Mexico for a year as a graduate student when these concepts started to make a lot of sense to me and started to come together. I realised the importance of the connection between feminism and development, but at the same time I learned that imposing frameworks and ideas on people who live in different contexts and situations was not the best solution, nor was it beneficial for anyone. That’s when I started to read some literature called “Testimonials” which really struck me, especially the ones from Central America because the stories were extremely touching and strong. Rigoberta Menchú is one of the most well-known activists known for her Testimonials but I did read accounts of many individual’s  unique experiences of violence. 

I used this knowledge to understand that it was imperative to give a voice to and hear first-hand about people’s everyday stories. I was always very interested in uncovering and understanding which groups, in particular women, were being marginalised and how. For example, indigenous marginalisation, language barriers, access or lack thereof to education were all intersectionalities that needed to be considered in realising how their voices have been silenced. The process of figuring out how to give a voice to these women but also acknowledging the problem of “choosing” and “picking” which groups to amplify or allow to speak about particular issues. This intersection in terms of voice and silence has always been very interesting to me.

What I have tried to do in my Spanish language contributions is basically to contextualise my work and explore how my personal intersectionalities, being a Western, educated European woman, can allow me to pursue a certain kind of postcolonial track and what is my role in all of this? One essential aspect to always remember is to focus on the process rather than on the end product because the process is where all the learning takes place.

5. What kind of advice would you give to aspiring academics like yourself who are on a similar path as yours especially young women exploring the relationship between gender, development and globalisation?

That is always a difficult question because it depends on so much – on who the person is and what they want to do. I’d advise them to really think and follow their own instincts; do not let yourself be pushed into something that you don’t want to do. You need to have a creative perspective on the issues that really grab your attention and form meaningful alliances and connections with other people who may be interested in exploring the same topics. However, don’t let yourself be stopped by what the discipline tells you – you need to look outwards to create something impactful.

6. What made you move to Mexico and how has your experience been so far teaching there?

I moved to Mexico for my sabbatical and stayed, although I tried to combine my position at the University of Amsterdam with the one in Mexico. However, I have recently retired from the Universidad de las Américas Puebla in Mexico, but that is not to say that I have retired from academia. Currently, I’m serving as a visiting professor here in Canada for the semester. 

My time in Mexico, I feel, was one of luxury in the sense that whereas other professionals in this field may only get a few weeks to do their research, I spent quite a lot of time there which gave me ample opportunities to further my academic intellect. 

At the university, I was given a lot of liberty in pursuing what I wanted so that was extremely helpful. My time teaching in Mexico introduced me to wonderful students with whom I’m still in touch with even now, some of whom I met 15 years ago. I think that is the most gratifying bit. In particular, I’ve had a lot of female students who have gained a lot of courage from my support and it makes me so happy to provide that guiding light to these young women, especially about what being a woman in academia may look like. As a professor, I believe in encouraging my students to follow their own path and itinerary. Now, I see them out there leaving their mark on the discipline. The Mexican International Relations Association now has a gender, feminist and queer intersectional section, a first of its kind and 90% of the members are my ex-students.

It gives me great satisfaction knowing that I was able to have this kind of impact on the women while I was teaching in Mexico so in that sense the purpose or goal that I went in with has been fulfilled. 

7. What are your thoughts on the term ‘Global South’? In your opinion, where or what is the Global South? What are some of the limitations of this catch-all term?

I often use the term “Global South” in Canada more so than I did in Mexico. I think it is important to think about the Global South as a tool to visualise some issues that are happening outside of this narrow geographic and cultural context of The United States, Canada, and the European region. However, the concept implicitly still creates a certain kind of hierarchy. The “south” is always seen as a little less than the north or is understood to be dependent on the north. It also created a huge container of a huge group of countries, peoples and societies that are very different, and so this leads to homogenising something that should not be homogenised. Which is why I am always very careful using the term and understanding that there is a discourse or discursive embedding going on that still creates or continues to create certain kinds of hierarchies and homogenisation. So, it is not the greatest of terms, but I’m not sure what other term could be used instead. 

8. What do you think has been your biggest achievement so far in your career?

I believe one of my biggest achievements so far has been to be chosen as a recipient of the Feminist Eminent Scholar Award for the Feminist Theory and Gender Studies sub-field (FTGS) in 2017. The FTGS annually honours an eminent scholar in the international relations sub-field of feminist theory and gender studies. Through their research, eminent scholars have made a significant impact and have pushed the boundaries of the sub-field. Many FTGS eminent scholars also have distinguished themselves through their commitment to the section and have advanced feminist scholarship through their teaching, mentoring and leadership.

This interview is part of ‘Meet the Editors’ series where we interview members of the TWQ and Central Asian Survey editorial teams about the career, work, achievements as well as covering hot topics in the field.