Dr Susan Carland wins 2019 Churchill Fellowship

Dr Susan Carland, Director of the Bachelor of Global Studies, knows what it’s like to encounter Islamophobia, and is determined to figure out what can be done to stop it in its tracks.

As one of the recipients of the 2019 Churchill Fellowships, Dr Carland is set to travel the world in 2020, meeting and working with the world’s leading experts in the fight against bigotry with the aim of shaping practical strategies for combating toxic anti-Muslim sentiment in Australia.

Churchill Fellowships are awarded to outstanding and passionate scholars seeking the freedom to learn from international thought leaders while striving to tackle issues that matter to Australian communities – and there’s no question that Islamophobia is one of the most challenging issues facing our region today. Dr Carland was galvanised to apply for a Churchill Fellowship after this year’s New Zealand terrorist attacks, where 51 Muslims of all ages were murdered while gathered in a Christchurch mosque.

‘Two days after the Christchurch attacks, I was at a memorial gathering and people were being so lovely to me. I just thought to myself, does this actually change anything? The people who are here don’t need to be convinced. I went away and started reading and realised there’s not actually a huge amount of work on how to counter Islamophobia. It’s a relatively new beast in terms of bigotry.’

At the same time, Dr Carland understood that, while bigotry might come in all shapes and sizes, each form carries some of the same flavour.

‘I started wondering what we can learn from other organisations fighting prejudice around the world – Jewish organisations, African American organisations? Would they say the same kinds of things about what’s effective and what’s not?’

Dr Carland will use her Churchill Fellowship to travel to the USA and UK to forge connection with individuals and groups conducting ground breaking work in the field. In addition to connecting with long-established grass-roots organisations fighting entrenched intolerance, she’s also looking forward to speaking to the researchers behind the Bridge Initiative at Georgetown University, who produce original and accessible information, analysis and commentary on Islamophobia to the general public, and scholars at Leeds University, who have produced a Counter-Islamophobia Kit that seeks to detail best-practice in countering anti-Muslim hate across the European Union.

‘I think it’s important to look both at the work that’s being done inside universities, and the work that’s taking place in different kinds of organisations over long periods of time.'

‘I’m interested in seeing if themes emerge – will organisations have the same thoughts on the effectiveness of one-on-one interviews, for example, or the value of media campaigns? And how can we use these strategies to benefit the Australian Muslim community?’

As face-to-face conversations are essential to her research, Dr Carland understands the importance of travelling in scholarship. ‘Islamophobia is a sensitive topic. You can’t just call someone and talk about harrowing things over the phone. Just by looking at me – a woman in a hijab – people can see that I understand their experience of bigotry. They can see I have a real investment in the conversation.’

Dr Carland plans to turn her research into a tool-kit for Australian institutions and organisations committed to fighting Islamophobia, filled with evidence-based strategies that have proven to be effective in different contexts around the world. Through intensive academic engagement, she hopes a roadmap to social cohesion can become a reality, rather than a dream.

‘Academic investment in the conversation on Islamophobia is essential,’ she says. ‘The approaches we take are evidence-based. They’re not just pretty band-aids that look great – they’re informed, effective and designed to show how we can have the greatest impact.’

‘Social cohesion is important to everyone. Islamophobia, like any form of prejudice, is dangerous to everyone in our society.’

Dr Carland is currently accepting PhD candidates. To find out more about graduate research with Monash Arts, click here.

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Graduate research

Bachelor of Global Studies

Churchill Fellowships