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GRACE: Gender and Cultures of Equality in Europe

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - GRACE (GRACE: Gender and Cultures of Equality in Europe)

Reporting period: 2017-10-01 to 2019-09-30

The GRACE (Gender and Cultures of Equality in Europe) project researches how the idea of ‘gender equality’ has come into being across Europe. Gender equality is considered by the EU to be a desirable objective, but rather than assessing how successful they have been at achieving it we instead ask the question of what gender equality really means, how it is understood by different publics, and how it might or should be understood differently.

To do this we take ‘gender equality’ not as an obvious and self-evident ‘thing’, but rather as an idea that is historically and socio-culturally constructed. While people may assume that they are talking about the same thing when referring to ‘gender equality’, there is actually a considerable cultural variation—many gender equalities and inequalities, rather than one which can be easily measured.

This research will benefit society through producing a more accurate account of the wide variety of understandings across the EU of what ‘gender equality’ is, should and could be. This knowledge can be used in policy making across Europe and beyond to achieve justice and enhanced well-being for people across genders.

The research for the project is being conducted by 15 Early Stage Researchers (ESRs), who are undertaking PhDs across the 7 universities of the GRACE network, alongside non-academic beneficiary Associazione Orlando (Image 1). These 15 ESRs are all conducting research that is designed to meet the GRACE Project’s objectives through aiming to address the following three core questions:

1. How have cultures of equality been produced, embodied, objectified and visualised in art, media, material and popular culture, as well as ‘official’ discourse in Europe?
2. How might cultures of equality in Europe be produced and performed differently?
3. In what ways do changing and contested cultural productions shape and constrain people’s awareness about, perceptions of, responses to and deployments of equality discourses within specific social contexts?

These ESRs have been assigned to five research Work Packages (WPs), each of which examines the ways that the idea of gender equality has been constructed culturally in different cultural areas, which we refer to as ‘sites’:
1. ‘Mediated cultures of gender equality’ looks at the way the media has constructed the idea of gender equality historically and in the present day through the work of 2 ESRs;
2. ‘Urban cultures of gender equality’ focuses on the specific ways that cities and their inhabitants construct the idea of gender equality through 4 ESR projects;
3. ‘Intellectual and activist cultures of gender equality’ takes a more theoretical approach, and examines the ways in which intellectuals and activists have constructed the idea of gender equality through the work of 4 ESRs;
4. Textual and artistic cultures of gender equality’ examines the ways in which literature, poetry, film and digital images have constructed the idea of gender equality historically, and continue to do so in contemporary times through the work of 4 ESRs;
5. ‘Employing cultures of gender equality’, through the work of 1 ESR who focuses on the ways in which the idea of gender equality has led to employment opportunities in the labour market.
To enable them to succeed in their tasks, and to enhance their likelihood of securing employment in rewarding careers after the project, the staff across the network are providing guidance, supervision and training at several levels:
1. Supervisory Teams who guide the ESRs individually through their research (Image 2);
2. Institutional courses, modules and seminars which develop their research skills and competencies;
3. The Work Packages within which ESRs benefit from the expertise of staff in partner institutions (Image 3);
4. The network-wide level, through GRACE training schools (Image 4).

Our objective is to equip this new generation of ESRs to play a leading role in developing advanced techniques for investigating the production of cultures of gender equality; translate creative and critical capacities into innovative cultural practices within and beyond academia; and enable them to take up positions as experts in producing new gender equalities cultures. Key to making this possible are the bespoke Employability Enhancement Plans (EEPs) developed with Employability Mentors (Image 2). EEPs are based on audits of the skills and competencies held by the ESRs, appraisals of their preferred career trajectories, and an assessment of how to build on existing skills and competencies with training, internships, and experience.
The research being conducted by the ESRs is ground-breaking and impactful within the sites that they are focusing upon, but perhaps the greatest impact is likely to come through 3 collective projects in which they are engaged:

1) GRACE APP – We are designing and constructing a gender equality smartphone app, designed to be downloaded free and used by the general public. We have conducted extensive consultations with expected users of the APP, which has determined: the purpose of the APP; the design and features of the APP; the platforms on which the APP should be available; user experience; and user contribution to content.
Following consultations we have decided upon an APP named ‘Quote-idian Revolution’, which brings together quotes relating to feminism and issues of equality. ESRs coded and programmed and trialled a prototype which generated feedback from communities of potential users. We are now refining our plans and assessing the kinds of professional and technical assistance needed in order to roll out the GRACE APP in 2019.

2) GRACE Museum of Equalities – The ESRs together are curating a ‘GRACE Museum of Equalities’ with both a virtual and a physical exhibition being planned. Both iterations will invite visitors to think critically about the meaning of equality in the European context through creative display. The exhibition is being curated to be an inclusive space of encounter for researchers, artists, activists and communities. It is designed for dialogue and reflection on how contemporary socio-cultural manifestations and productions shape and constrain people’s awareness about, perceptions of, responses to and deployments of equality discourses within Europe. Moreover, the exhibition creates a space for the collaborative creation of techniques of critique and resistance, as well as enacting alternative world-building.

3) Filming GRACE - The main goal of Filming GRACE is that the Early Stage Researchers create individual or collective videos that expand on and share their research projects with a broader public. These videos will potentially be included, either partially or entirely, in the physical and in the digital Museum of Equality. All the ESR’s have so far developed a concrete concept and a plan to shoot and deliver these videos. Rough cuts are to be ready by the next GRACE School, which will take place at Central European University in 2018. The final cuts of those videos selected for the Museum will then be considered as objects to be curated within the larger physical and/or virtual exhibition.

These three collective projects are unique and highly innovative means for disseminating the results of the research that the ESRs are conducting to audiences far beyond the standard academic field.
Map of institutions in the GRACE ITN network
Structure of GRACE Supervisory Teams
GRACE Work Package structure
GRACE Training Schools locations and Schedule