13/11/20
Dear ISA Executive Committee,

We write in support of the open letter by the ISA Committee on the Status of Women enquiring
about the process that led to an all-male slate for the Representative At-Large in the current
elections. We would also welcome clarification about the wider nominations and elections process. In addition to the all-male slate for the at-large posts, we are concerned about the single slate nomination process for senior roles, whereby electoral power lies with the nomination committee alone, instead of the wider membership of the organisation.

We note that this is not the first time these issue has been raised, and we are disappointed that we are, once again, in this position, having to express our concerns. As a section we reaffirm our
commitment to challenge processes that reproduce gendered, classed, racialised and geopolitical
hierarchies of power, and to advocate for the core values of inclusion, intersectionality,
decoloniality, as well as feminist ethics. In that light, we have been working to transform our own processes: notably, we have sought to increase representation within our executive committee in terms of regional coverage, race and class diversity, as well as career stages. We believe this has led to better quality scholarship as well as recognition of the different challenges faced by our members. We recognise that our own process of change is incomplete and still ongoing. In a nutshell, getting representation right can be difficult but it matters.

It is for this reason that we wish to raise concerns about the character of the electoral process and the impact it has on the representation of different interests and groups within the ISA. We in no way seek to undermine the credentials of the admirable scholars on the current slate. Rather, as international studies scholars who study and value transparency and accountability, we are concerned that the current electoral process remains opaque to much of the membership and is in danger of producing outcomes that lack accountability, legitimacy and reproduce harmful hierarchies of (epistemological) power.

We want to stress that we value the ISA’s international reach and mission, and, therefore would like to see a firm commitment to leadership and governance that reflect the broad membership of our organisation. We thus call on ISA HQ, the Executive Committee and the Nominations Committee to consider ways to reaffirm and improve the legitimacy of the process, including revising and updating the constitution to reflect its global membership and reviewing election and decision-making processes to ensure that they further reflect diversity of interest, multiple identities and regions. Equitable representation thus requires an intersectional approach whereby the diversity of women’s and other marginalised experiences are recognised and valued. We would welcome the opportunity to work closely with ISA HQ, the Executive Committee and the nominations committee to ensure that our association continues on the path to greater equality and inclusion.

In the shorter term, we request that the Nominations Committee report to the ISA membership on its decision-making process this year. Without such a commitment to open the electoral process to scrutiny and revision, we cannot in good conscience currently advise our members to take part in a process that does not offer them a choice in terms of the most senior position in the organisations, and that seems to actively exclude underrepresented groups from both senior leadership positions and the members at large.


Yours sincerely,
The Members of the Executive Committee of the Feminist Theory and Gender Studies Section

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