In this blog for International Women’s Day 2018, Grantham Scholar Mira Lieberman explains how the Grantham Centre has helped her become both an early career researcher and an activist for animal rights.
This year’s theme for International Women’s Day – #PressForProgress – urges feminists to commit to progressive action. As Gloria Steinem once explained: “The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organisation but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.”
For me, this collective is represented by various academic communities and the generous opportunities I have been exposed to.
Growing up in an immigrant refugee family and the sociocultural constraints that accompanied this status was a defining tone of my childhood. In a country made up of refugees fleeing religious and ethnic persecution, multiculturalism and multilingualism did not carry high cultural capital in Israel.
The strong political and ideological drive to construct a unified people and nation (while undeniably excluding others) erased avenues for self-exploration, individualisation and reflexion. For me, these were only made possible upon emigrating to Europe and entering higher education. Thinking about my place in Israeli society, British society, and the wider European community as a female has only become possible thanks to my higher education and the opportunities that were given to me by other female academics.
Education in Israel was imbued with tradition in which religious studies served as historical scriptures for legitimacy. When I began my Sociocultural Linguistics MA at Goldsmiths, University of London I began to question the place of women in this ideology.
The MA, the most transformative of experiences for me, not only allowed me to develop criticality, but also my knowledge about the world, the way I positioned myself, and the way I was positioned in it.
Awareness of my own oppression as an immigrant (here in the UK at the time) and as a woman led to compassion that extended beyond the human race. I began to appreciate the colossal nonhuman animal exploitation, destruction and oppression. And through my MA I was able to conduct small-scale research on animal welfare and animal rights activism, combining my passion for ecolinguistics, sociolinguistics and the natural world.
The Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures scholarship is an exemplary programme for driving change towards parity. Through the scholarship, and under the supervision of Professor Jill Atkins and Dr Robert McKay, I have the opportunity to contribute not only to the representation of women in academia, the field of accounting and linguistics, but also effectuate a true change. It is here that I became and early career researcher and activist.
The Grantham Centre’s training provides me with the tools to meaningfully and actively engage with public policy, politics and public opinion. This valuable opportunity is directly linked with my own epistemological approach to my research project. An interdisciplinary PhD, it is situated within environmental accounting and ecolinguistics, and aims to transform business organisations’ activity. Therefore, my PhD is emancipatory and activist in orientation, aiming to protect animals from extinction and exploitation.
Specifically my PhD to explores how an accounting for extinction of species framework could be implemented in companies’ reports.
How quickly can early career researchers can make an impact? Already in my first year, thanks to the support and opportunities available through the scholarship and the encouragement of my supervisors, I was invited to the University of Toulouse. There I delivered a 2-day training in Critical Discourse Analysis to the environmental accounting research department.
In addition, I have co-organised an event for the Sheffield Festival of Debate this May. For this, I will bring together experts from various fields to discuss overpopulation and sustainability.
Given the current species and biodiversity loss rates, named as a 6th mass extinction, there is great urgency to change policy to protect and value all life on Earth. Human rights, women’s rights, gender equality and animal rights are interlinked. We must build a more just society and reverse climate change to assure the survival of all living beings. It is only through the unity of all communities and individuals to act and be all-inclusive that true social change can happen.
Find out more about being an activist in our 2021 interview with Mira. Read: Hedgehogs, ecosophy & extinction accounting – Mira Lieberman interview.
Edited by Claire Moran. Main image is of Mira and is by Dora Damian.