PhD student earns coveted Trudeau scholarship to study gender and security in Palestine

Posted on Tuesday, June 27, 2017

What do changing notions of masculinity have to do with prospects for peace in the Middle East?

Emma Swan, a recently announced recipient of the prestigious Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation doctoral fellowship, is hoping that her PhD research will help us to tackle this question.

Emma Swan

Swan became the Faculty of Social Science’s third recipient of the prestigious scholarship from the Pierre ElliottTrudeau Foundation since 2003. Valued at $60,000 per year, the scholarship allows students to join a network of outstanding scholars in a range of fields, in addition to providing an opportunity for scholars to interact with senior leaders in academe, government, business and civil society.

Completing her second year in the PhD program in international development and global studies, Swan is eager to join this community of scholars. The Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation is recognized nationally and internationally for supporting research related to its four priority themes: human rights and dignity, responsible citizenship, Canada in the world, and people and their natural environment.

“One of the points that really attracted me to this was the mentorship that the foundation provides,” Swan said in an interview. “It’s the community that really makes a difference. I am having lunch listening to (former federal minister) Lloyd Axworthy speak!”

Professor Rebecca Tiessen, Swan’s thesis supervisor, praised Swan for her nuanced understanding of gender inequality and peacebuilding in Palestine, and her ability to communicate this complexity so effectively in her writing and speaking.

“When Emma presents her research, her passion for her topic shines through,” Tiessen added. “This really allows her to connect with her audience in a highly compelling fashion.”

Swan plans to begin her fieldwork in the West Bank in Fall 2017, once she obtains ethics approval from the University.  Conducting fieldwork in an environment where military checkpoints and searches are commonplace presents its own ethical challenges.

Over a one-year period of immersion in the West Bank, she plans to conduct a series of qualitative interviews with men and women who are engaged in peacebuilding. Swan is eager to build on her MA research, in which she learned that the overwhelming majority of the male-identified peacebuilders she interviewed then had a history of engaging in violent resistance. “The men spoke about how they had proven their commitment to the resistance and were now in a position to talk about non-violent ways of supporting the Palestinian resistance,” Swan added.

Tiessen is excited at the prospect of Emma’s research expanding the field of gender and security studies, and how it complements women, peace and security initiatives nationally and internationally. 

“Emma's thesis research is on the cutting edge of feminist scholarship in peace and security studies,” said Tiessen. “In particular, her focus on masculinities will shed new light on the opportunities and challenges of addressing masculinist norms, patriarchy and engaging men in gender programming. Documenting these stories is essential for expanding feminist scholarship to highlight the role that masculinist norms and alternative masculinities can play in shaping gender equality, security and peace.”

Back to top