Call for Papers: Gender and Academic Leadership - Architecture in India

CALL FOR PAPERS: Gender and Academic Leadership in Architecture in India, Avani Institute of Design

CALL FOR PAPERS: Gender and Academic Leadership in Architecture in India, Madhavi Desai, Anuradha Chatterjee, Kush Patel
Call for Papers: Gender and Academic Leadership - Architecture in India

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CALL FOR PAPERS: Gender and Academic Leadership in Architecture in India, Avani Institute of Design 1

The research symposium on the topic of Gender and Academic Leadership in Architecture in India will examine the engagement of women and persons of minoritized genders and sexualities in the construction of the academy, architectural knowledge, professional identity, and academic practice. We are cognizant of the under-representation of women, non-binary genders, trans, and queer persons in the profession, especially in leadership positions, and their high attrition rates within the profession. We are interested in the structure and culture of the academy, which has one of the greatest and earliest impacts on the making of the professional.

While the academy in India is often viewed as a softer, more flexible, an almost feminized alternative to practicing professionally for women (who have the culturally pre-ordained role of being the primary carer for the family), or a possible safe space for gender minorities and queer persons (whose bodies and knowledges are otherwise invisibilized or violently erased), academic leadership roles have not

been always accessible. Additionally, opportunities for training in pedagogy, research scholarship, and leadership for individuals interested in academic careers are limited. Hence, we do not see a lot of Deans, Heads of Departments, and Vice Chancellors who are women and/or queer. But in the last decade or so, and against patriarchal leadership, we are witnessing a change. On the one hand, a lot more women are being appointed as Deans and Heads of Schools in India. And many others are leading change through teaching, as directors of research centers, and with community-engaged academic work. On the other hand, however, the vast majority of these positions are still being held

by privileged savarna academics and those with access to intergenerational wealth and social networks, while many others remain in contingent positions or as temporary and part-time hires. Therefore, instead of smugly witnessing the changes in Indian higher education, the symposium intends to critically investigate this leadership phenomena and our current moment. This question is specifically important as more and more women and gender-expansive identities and sexualities join the practice of teaching and as women and minoritized peers continue to increase, or make themselves visible in various courses relating to the built environment in the existing 500 plus

institutions that teach architectural courses.

In this symposium, we will examine the following interconnected paradoxes. First, a career in academia is seen as a lesser form of labour: it is not seen as practice. Successful practitioners are often treated as highly valued academics, floating in and out of architectural colleges. It is no surprise then that architectural academia is not professionalized. The antiquated expression ‘teaching profession’ should really give way to ‘academic practice,’ a teaching, pedagogic, research, and governance practice, whereby every (intentional / reflective) academic practitioner will delineate their own trajectory through the practice terrain. Second, while women are encouraged to enter architectural academia, and queer and gender minority peers risk to participate in academic life, not a lot of them find their way to the senior leadership positions. Third, despite changes in pay scales over the last ten years and greater institutional transparency in career progression pathways, academia is still not seen as a financially sustainable career. This phenomena may be compounded by the fact that professional design practice is upheld as an only indicator of success, because of which there are many unintentional or undecided academics, who delay the pursuit of the leadership track. The symposium speculates whether these paradoxes are in fact sustained by patriarchal social structures in order to maintain hegemony in professional practice and academia.

The symposium is interested in feminist forms of leadership, and in Amanda Sinclair’s words, the way in which “women organising consistently reject hierarchy, put effort into building relationships and empowering others, and emphasise collective achievement and responsibility, rather than the leadership of individuals (2014, 26).” This gathering is also keen to make visible how the axes of caste, class, and disability intersect with gender and sexuality to offer alternatives to patriarchal forms of leadership in architectural education. So even though we will be looking for alternatives, often unacknowledged structuring of relations, we will not ignore the positions of power sanctified by institutional designations. Rather, we will be looking to hear how those positions are transformed by people who are appointed in academic roles. The symposium will bring recognition to teaching and research as practice; highlight and discuss structural changes needed to empower co-faculty and students to be in preparation for the next generation of academic leaders; and bring focus to the importance of mentoring and continuous pedagogy learning and development.

The ambit of leadership, through thought and action, may focus on but not be limited to the following areas:

  1. Feminist Leadership (experiences and challenges of transformative administrative roles)
  2. Academic Scholarship (histories and theories of gender, sexuality, and architectural education)
  3. Critical Pedagogies (feminist approaches and frameworks of teaching)
  4. Communities and Networks (care networks for intersectional work and support)


Please submit a 300 word abstract as a word document. Please also include:

1. Paper title
2. Names and Designations of Author/s
3. References if appropriate
4. A 100 word bio of the Author/s

We invite 300-word abstracts that are critical, honest, fearless inquiries and/or disclosures of your anti-patriarchal experiences in architecture academia. Submissions should take the form of a polemical piece, a poem, a professional and personal story, or an academic paper and each modality of inquiry should be developed as a form of scholarship. Presentations can be 20 min papers, or 10 min lightning talks. The evaluation criteria will be 1) relevance to the symposium premise; 2) positioning in contemporary, global scholarship on the topic; and 3) originality, criticality and integrity of the account/story/argument/position.

The abstract should be framed along these lines.

  1. Professional and personal journeys (go beyond a positivist narrative, picking out situations, actors, times that were empowering, and reflect openly on social/familial limits and how you overcame them)
  2. Development of Leadership styles (without resorting to known characteristics of feminist leadership, reflect on what you see leadership to be. Ask whether it depends on designation, or presence, or both?)
  3. Role of Mentors (unexpected and expected), and mentoring peers and students to become academic practitioners
  4. Leadership allies (persons involved in critical inquiry and change through activism and advocacy)
  5. Institutional structures that enable, encourage, and support (reflecting on infrastructural limits and organizational and management structures that are enabling or disabling)
  6. Institutional and regional cultures that either support or provide a challenge
  7. Intentionality, commitment, and professionalism in pursuing academic and/or research practice.
  1. Networking, collaborating as a way forward (reflect on when, why and how you have set up professional networks, and to what extent have they been useful)
  2. Imagining the Future (Where do you want to be, what is your limit, how do you see this to be the limit)

Key Dates

Symposium: March 21-22, 2020
Abstract Deadline: Monday, 16 December, 2019 at 5:00 PM Announcement of Abstract Acceptance: 13 January, 2020
Abstract Length: 300 words Bio Length: 100 words

Please submit the abstract as a Word Document to Dr. Anuradha Chatterjee [email protected] [with cc to Prof Madhavi Desai at [email protected] and Dr. Kush Patel (they/he) at [email protected]]

Symposium Committees

Symposium Convenors and Organizing Committee: Professor Madhavi Desai, Dr. Anuradha Chatterjee, and Dr. Kush Patel.

The symposium organizing committee will review submissions and co-lead in the development of the proceedings as well.

This conference is generously supported by Avani Institute of Design Governing Council and Avani Institute of Design Academic Council

Introductory Reading List:

Baker, Kelly J., Sexism Ed.: Essays on Gender and Labor in Academia, February 2018:

Barac, Matthew. “Women in Architectural Academia,” The Architectural Review, October 2013:


Choquette, Éloise. “Queering Architecture: (Un)Making Places,” The Site Magazine, 2018:

Desai, Madhavi. “Architectural Education In India: Women Students, Culture And Pedagogy,” Matter, November 2015: pedagogy/

Hong, Sukjong. “Project tackling gender-restricted bathroom access wins AIA Innovation Award,” The Architect’s Newspaper, October 2018: award/

Hu, A.L. Opinion: “You Might Think You Know Me,” Architect Magazine, October 2018:

Rendell, Jane. “Only Resist: A Feminist Approach To Critical Spatial Practice,” Architectural Review, February 2018: to-critical-spatial-practice/10028246.article

Stratigakos, Despina. “Why Architects Need Feminism,” Places: Public Scholarship on Architecture, Landscape, Urbanism, September 2012: feminism/

Vettese, Troy. “Sexism in the Academy: Women’s Narrowing Path to Tenure,” n+1 Magazine, Issue 34: Head Case, Spring 2019: academy/

Co-Convenors Brief Bios:

Professor Madhavi Desai

Madhavi Desai is an architect, researcher, writer and a teacher. She was an adjunct faculty at CEPT University, Ahmedabad, India (1986-2018). She has had Research Fellowships from ICSSR, Delhi, the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture, MIT, USA, Sarai, Delhi and the Getty Foundation, USA. She is a founder member of Women Architects Forum. She is the co-author of Architecture and Independence, OUP (1997), Architectural Heritage of Gujarat, Gujarat Government (2012) and The Bungalow in Twentieth Century India, Ashgate (2012). She the editor of Gender and the Built Environment in India, Zubaan (2007) and the author of Traditional Architecture: House Form of the Islamic Community of the Bohras in Gujarat, Council of Architecture (2007) and Women Architects and Modernism in India, Routledge (2017). Her academic interests include gender and architecture, colonial architecture and modernism in the Indian context. She is a member of the nominating committee of the Berkeley-Rupp Professorship and Prize at UC Berkeley since 2012. She was also a visiting scholar in the department of gender and women’s studies at the University of California at Berkeley, USA in 2014.

Dr. Anuradha Chatterjee

Dr Anuradha Chatterjee is Dean Academics, Avani Institute of Design. She is an architectural academic based in India and Australia, and a registered architect in India. Dr Chatterjee is the author of three books Surface and Deep Histories: Critiques, and Practices in Art, Architecture, and Design, (Cambridge Scholars Publishing); Built, Unbuilt, and Imagined Sydney (Copal Publishing); John Ruskin and the Fabric of Architecture (Routledge); and contracted as the Area Editor for South/East Asia for the Bloomsbury Global Encyclopedia of Women in Architecture 1960-2015. Dr Chatterjee is Companion to The Guild of St George; Member of Editorial Board for Architecture, Cambridge Scholars Publishing; and Senior Research Fellow (Honorary), Centre for Architecture Theory Criticism History at the University of Queensland. She has 18 years of experience as an academic and has taught at top institutions in Australia, China and India. Dr Chatterjee’s research interests are in architectural theories in history, feminist discourses, textile tectonic theories of architecture, potentialities of theories, generative processes in design, gender and academic leadership, and student learning cultures. See:

Dr. Kush Patel

They are an architect as well as a theorist and historian of social space, participatory politics, and engaged pedagogy, working at the intersections of architecture and the digital public humanities. Dr. Patel has taught seminars on place and power, and on “spatial agency” in architecture at academic institutions in India and the US, and has developed critical pedagogy initiatives in the context of architecture and anti-colonial, queer, and feminist digital humanities within and beyond these networks. Dr. Patel is also the academic editor of PUBLIC, an international peer-reviewed, multimedia journal focused on humanities, arts, and design in public life. Prior to joining Avani Institute of Design, Dr. Patel held academic appointments as Associate Faculty Librarian of Digital Pedagogy, as an Adjunct Lecturer in Interdisciplinary Humanities, and as Institute for the Humanities Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Michigan. They received their Ph.D. in Architecture from the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Michigan, and hold professional degrees in Architecture and Urban Design from South Gujarat University, Surat and CEPT University, Ahmedabad respectively, as well as a Master of Science in Architectural Design Studies from the University of Michigan. See:

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