Feminist economics posts

IAFFE: A Home with a Garden

My life in North America began when I started writing my Ph.D. dissertation at McGill University on gender and development. McGill was the only university in Canada that admitted me – a woman from Iran, who wanted to write her thesis on Iranian women at the height of the Iran–Iraq war. However, it did not take long to discover that there was extremely marginal interest in the area of gender and development throughout North American universities and the McGill Sociology department was no exception. This worsened my situation as I had to carry myself through the program intellectually and academically isolated – figuratively homeless.  Painful as it was, I came to discover that my feeling was not unique: others from around the world have expressed similar experiences.  Luckily, soon another revelation came; the existential quest to go beyond mainstream academic interest is common, especially among those working on women and development, many of whom are yearning to reach beyond academia into policy advocacy.

Discoveries such as these, when it comes to one’s career, can be a shock. It can leave one feeling alienated and displaced, but it also forces one to seek others and reach out. My search brought me to the International Association for Feminist Economics (IAFFE). I joined the organization in the late 1990s, and traveled with their conferences to many different parts of the world, meeting my wonderful colleagues who speak various languages and come from different disciplines, have had mixed careers, and kept a foot in two worlds, both policy and advocacy. Yet, they have all had something in common – a deep preoccupation with socioeconomic justice. Traveling with IAFFE has created a home. Though fluid and shifting, this home always brings a sense of sanity to a world that otherwise seems insane.

IAFFE Annual Conference, Buenos Aires, Argentina - 2010

IAFFE Annual Conference, Buenos Aires, Argentina – 2010

Every conference brought pieces of a home where one dared to be inventive and think outside of the box, but also provided a place to meet like-minded colleagues, some of whom have become life-long friends; others became mentors and many became inspirational. For this reason, when members’ books were announced during the book celebration at the July 2013 IAFFE Conference at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, I impatiently sought the microphone to thank the association. I thanked IAFFE for providing me with the support I needed to write my books. I have seen IAFFE as a home with a garden in which every member has planted a tree and so had I; my tree had a new fruit – the last book.

By bringing three domains together – academia, policy, and advocacy for socioeconomic justice – IAFFE creates a synergy far more powerful than the simple sum. As IAFFE conferences move from one country to another and create a dialogue among academics, policy makers, and advocates, each conference also generates a unique dynamic, the long run effects of which have yet to be discovered. My sense of belonging was validated in a toast given on the last evening of the Palo Alto conference dinner, during which one of the wonderful women at our table exclaimed, “to economic justice for all!” Everyone repeated the call and cheered her at the table while the California sun still shined with glittering effects on the beautiful crystal vase against the red tablecloth at the Stanford Faculty Club.

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