The Feminist Theory and Gender Studies section has long been cognisant of the role taken by scholars in activism, advocacy and community engagement. In 2016 the section established an Early Career Award for Community Engagement to recognize those efforts to build communities and forge conversations about issues that are relevant to the FTGS but which often go unacknowledged or unrewarded by academic institutions.

The 2017 FTGS Early Career Award for Community Engagement was awarded to Dr Melanie Richter-Montpetit, Lecturer in Politics and International Relations at the University of Sheffield, UK. The Awards Committee recognised the commitment that Dr Richter-Montpetit has shown to promoting queer, anti-racist and de-colonial approaches in all aspects of her work and the dedication she has shown in raising awareness of these issues.

Some key examples include her work with the ISA-LGBTQA Caucus, in particular efforts to supporting struggles around stigmatized sexualities and gender expression beyond LGBT rights narrowly understood. As a result, the LGBTQA Courage Award 2014 went to No More Silence, a community group working to break the silence around the hundreds of missing and murdered Indigenous women and Two-Spirit people across Canada/Turtle Island. This included organizing a fundraiser to finance a community-run database documenting premature and violent deaths, and honouring the victims. Together with Dr Alison Howell, she co-organized a similar fundraiser along with a special panel for the recipient of the 2015 LGBTQA Courage Award, the New Orleans-based group BreakOUT, an organization of and for queer and trans youth that works to stop the criminalization of LGBTQ youth.

To help promote more diversity in the discipline, Dr Richter-Montpetit has taken an active role in the mentoring of junior colleagues, and has been vocal in her support of colleagues facing sexual harassment. At ISA 2015, her social media criticism of the All-White line-up at the high profile ‘Sapphire Series’ prompted much debate about diversity and equity within the discipline. Most recently, Dr Richter-Montpetit co-organized a set of Special Panels at ISA 2017 on challenging oppression in the discipline. At her home institution, she has been involved in two major cross-departmental teaching and learning projects on equity and diversity. Dr. Richter-Montpetit currently serves as the Chair of the LGBTQA Caucus as well as the LGBTQA Caucus Program Chair for ISA 2018.

Honorable mention for the 2017 was given to Dr Zoe Marks of the University of Edinburgh.

The 2018 award will be announced in advance of the International Studies Association annual conference in San Francisco, USA.