Gender Institute 4th anniversary

To mark our 4th Anniversary and to celebrate International Women's Day, we invite you to a public lecture from Professor Sally Engle Merry, NYU, with a panel discussion to follow.

A reception with our prize awards and book launch will complete the occasion.


Erasing Women’s Differences? Global Essentialisms and Intersectionality in Gender Research and Policy
Professor Sally Engle Merry, New York University

This talk examines the ongoing tensions between claims to women’s rights as a group and recognition of the vast diversity of women’s lives across class, race, nation, religion and culture.

Recognising such diversity impedes making simple political claims but at the same time reflects more accurately the complexity of women’s experiences. Prevalent global forms of counting and measuring tend to homogenise women.

Global movements to redress violence against women and sex trafficking are two examples of movements premised on seeing women as the same. Both have been very effective, but at the price of erasing difference. Concerns about the complicity of women in regimes of criminalization in both of these fields also ignore the highly diverse positions of women and expose the hazards of gender essentialism.

Sustaining a feminism for the future demands a politically more complex but also more real recognition of the diverse contexts of women’s lives.

Sally Engle Merry is Professor of Anthropology, Law and Society at New York University. Her work explores the role of law in urban life in the US, in the colonizing process, and in contemporary transnationalism. She is author of Human Rights and Gender Violence: Translating International Law into Local Justice (University of Chicago Press, 2006 J.I.Staley Prize) and Gender Violence: A Cultural Perspective (Blackwells, 2009).

The Law and Society Association awarded her the Kalven Prize for overall scholarly contributions to sociolegal scholarship in 2007. She is President of the American Ethnological Society and an adjunct professor at the Australian National University. Her earlier work on women’s human rights and the process of vernacularization has led to her current research focus on the impact of technologies of measurement and counting on human rights law and global governance.


Christine Stewart Name, Shame and Blame, ANU Press 2014
Hyaeweol Choi and Margaret Jolly (eds) Divine Domesticities: Christian Paradoxes in Asia and the Pacific, ANU Press 2014
Hilary Charlesworth and Emma Larking (eds) Human Rights and the Universal Periodic Review: Rituals and Ritualism, Cambridge UP 2015