Published 18 August 2020
What does it take to look violence in the eye and to ask others to do the same? Immense courage, and an openness to the discomfort that sometimes accompanies the truth. Megan Mackenzie has spent her career paying close attention to realities most of us don’t know about, don’t need to know about, and don’t really want to know about. As a Professor of Gender and War, her gift is to locate and elevate the human stories within the power politics of war, and in doing so to hold up a mirror to the fundamental confusion that defines violence in all its forms. In her academic career, she has turned an unflinching scholarly eye on the hidden dimensions of violence beneath and beyond the battlefield, in the wars of silence, of invisibility, and discarded knowledges and lives.
And yet behind that unflinching scholarly eye is a heart that is open and vulnerable. In the long tradition of feminist scholarship, it is only through the meeting and melding of an apparent duality that confusion can be held and comprehended. It is this openness that led to her participation in the experimental Composing Self workshop run by SEI Deputy Director and LRT Director Michelle St Anne. This workshop asked researchers to step outside their professional and personal comfort zone and into the dramatic process of improvised theatre, and in doing so to open up new avenues of intellectual and emotional insight and possibility. Megan’s research, participation and support shaped the success and profound nature of that first experience, and her continued engagement in this process of radical multidisciplinary is woven into the very fabric of the projects it paved the way for. As a central member of the Sites of Violence project, she has been a champion of the value of this approach and has enriched the foundations of the research group with her time, insight, and experience. Her voice recounting her own war stories and those that stay with her echoes through the foul in the air, an artistic offering that points to the heart of her research but speaks to an entirely new audience.
“The creative development work that I did with Michelle St Anne and other scholars at the University of Sydney at the Rex Cramphorn studio in May 2019 was one of the most inspiring, enriching, and intellectually rejuvenating experiences I’ve had as an academic. I was way out of my comfort zone during the development work, for sure…The work has fuelled my further thinking on violence, gender, and what it means to have intellectual conversations.” — Megan Mackenzie
As Megan’s time in Sydney draws to close and her career and lifepath shifts hemisphere, we thank her for her courage, in this collaboration and in all her work. We thank her for her presence, for always listening, always believing, and always fighting for change. And finally, we wish her huge success in her new role as Professor and Simons Chair in International Law and Human Security at Simon Fraser University, Vancouver. Megan will be continuing as a Research Fellow with the Sydney Environment Institute and as a research lead on the Sites of Violence project.