Welcoming Clara Fischer to the Centre for Gender in Politics: An interview

Welcome! You have recently joined HAPP as an Illuminate Fellow. Can you tell us a bit about the focus of your research in this role?

My research is broadly concerned with Irish feminisms, embodiment and reproduction, theories of emotion and affect, and feminist-pragmatism. My current interests lie specifically with reproduction and abortion rights on the one hand, and gendered (economic) precarity on the other – both viewed through the frame of the politics of emotion. Emotions and affects have long been recognised in feminist work as being of political significance and there is now a renewed interest in emotion/affect reflecting recent developments in critical thought. My research positions itself within these developments and examines emotions for their political value.

You recently undertook an EU project GENDEMOTION, looking at gender, shame and economic disadvantage in austerity Ireland. What was one of the most interesting/surprising outcomes of that research project?

The research examined the 2008 financial crisis and its gendered fallout. It included interviews and a survey with lone parents in ROI (the vast majority of whom are women), and explored the role of shame in women’s experiences of austerity measures and the crisis more generally. I suppose one of the more surprising outcomes of the project was the diversity of “sites” of shame that survey and interview participants shared. While it is not entirely surprising that social welfare offices can be experienced as sites of shame, participants highlighted many other sites of shame, including maternity wards, which were experienced as shameful owing to gendered and heteronormative norms  – especially around motherhood. This raises important questions for future research,  eg on the delivery of maternity care. 

Much of your work has been with the NGO sector and civil society. Can you tell us a bit about how you think about connecting with civil society organisers while also working in academia?

This presents both challenges and opportunities.I’ve been fortunate enough to work with several engaged activists and grassroots organisations whose work at the feminist “coal face”, if you like, I greatly admire. I think it’s really important for feminist academic work to be responsive to such civil society work and to build alliances between civil society and academia to achieve feminist ends. This can be tricky sometimes, though, as such collaborative work has not always been considered “academic”, especially within certain disciplines – although this seems to be, thankfully, changing. Feminist thinking and practice of course takes place both in civil society organisations/grassroots groups, as well as in academia, and one can greatly enrich the other through collaborative and responsive work. 

Who is one of the most influential feminists in your life (academic or otherwise) and why?

This is quite a challenging question as  I’m really lucky to know – or know of – many impressive feminists, so having to choose just one is really difficult! I’ve been personally and professionally supported by several more senior women in academia – women who model feminism for the rest of us. And of course I am greatly influenced by feminist thinkers ranging from Jane Addams to Sara Ahmed. I suppose the primary feminist influence in my life, however, would have been my mother. She has always been strong willed and unconventional, and fostered in me the need to pursue one’s passions and a desire for independence. 

Recent work:

Feminists redraw public and private spheres: Abortion, vulnerability, and the affective campaign to repeal the eighth amendment; Fischer, C., 01 Jun 2020, In : Signs. 45, 4, p. 985-1010.
Abortion and Reproduction in Ireland: Shame, Nation-building and the Affective Politics of Place; Fischer, C., 01 Jul 2019, In : Feminist Review. 122, 1, p. 32-48 17 p.
Gender and the Politics of Shame: A Twenty-First-Century Feminist Shame Theory; Fischer, C., 11 Aug 2018, In : Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy. 33, 3, p. 371-383 13 p.

The Irish Abortion Referendum Is A Chance To Change A Culture Of Shame, Huffington Post, 2018

Philosophical Perspectives on Contemporary Ireland  book cover

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