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Hi IGALA-ers!

Ben and I are happy to celebrate the upcoming conference in Gaborone with a special issue of the blog dedicated to the history of the association. We have collected the views of the past and future of IGALA from some previous presidents and the current one. We are thrilled to share with you their memories of and visions for the IGALA community. In the past 18 years, IGALA has had 9 presidents and we will soon have our 10th! If you are in Gaborone for #IGALA10 please do not hesitate to engage with past and current members of the Advisory board, you will get to know more about the association and all the work done behind the scenes. IGALA is an open community and the contributions of all of those who attend the conferences or participate in any other capacity (the blog being one of these) is paramount for it to thrive.

Our slogan is: GET INVOLVED!

Dr. M. Agnes Kang, IGALA President 2016-2018

Associate Professor Lingnan University

What changes has IGALA seen in the last 18 years?

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the IGALA biennial conference, which will be held in Gaborone, Botswana in June 2018 (IGALA10). This is the first time IGALA will be taking place on the African continent, and we are very excited to take part in this historic event. For the hosts of all IGALA conferences, it presents an opportunity to bring international expertise in the field to the host institution as well as to highlight the research and contributions of a particular region and to share that research with the world. The biennial conference is a vital means by which the organization seeks to fulfil its goal of creating and supporting international and national research networks. Like the diverse interdisciplinary field of language, gender and sexuality itself, IGALA as an interdisciplinary organization contains multitudes in terms of research approaches, methodologies, and perspectives but all contribute to a greater understanding of how language, gender and sexuality intersect and inform our understanding of societies. In the past 18 years, it is no surprise that GALA has seen continual changes in the makeup and diversity of the Executive and Advisory Councils, as well as its general membership. In fact, at this moment, members of the IGALA Board hail from every continent boasting a university, attesting to the geographic diversity of the Executive and Advisory Councils. The use of social media and how we communicate within IGALA have also changed. IGALA now has a Facebook page (, a new website (, and a Twitter feed (, in addition to the IGALA Listserv, which continues to bring email updates to all members. Advisory Council members Federica Formato and Benedict Rowlett also curate the IGALA Blog, featuring writings on a range of topics. The blog has been developing since 2015, adding to the social media presence of IGALA today.

Where do you see IGALA going?

There have been so many changes in the field since Robin Lakoff’s pioneering work, including all the interdisciplinary connections that have developed within the field. As IGALA continues to respond to and be shaped by the dynamic field it represents, I do hope IGALA will continue to grow to reflect its growing and diversifying membership, take on research challenges in an increasingly interdisciplinary field, and continue to debate global and transnational issues and how these affect situated, local communities. I also hope that IGALA will continue to do what is unique about IGALA. One of the strengths of IGALA has always been in the dedication of its members—members of IGALA have always had a deeply personal connection to the organization, and that has sustained the organization over time and created strong and lasting ties. IGALA is also perhaps one of the most dedicated professional organizations in serving their graduate student membership, prioritizing graduate student mentorship, development and advocacy.

Which is the fondest memory of your time as the president of IGALA?

I have so many fond memories of IGALA, especially since my involvement with the organization dates back to before IGALA even began, when it was known as the Berkeley Women and Language Group. In the past year I have enjoyed being part of the process of vetting bids for hosting conferences, planning various events and awards (including graduate student bursaries!), and working together with the IGALA board and the IGALA10 organizing committee. After all of this exciting planning, I am very much looking forward to this tenth anniversary conference, IGALA10 in Gaborone, and hope that the best memories are yet to come.

What advice would you give to the newest members of IGALA?

To the newest members of IGALA, I would say, share your expertise and talents with IGALA. The organization is always in need of new members and leaders, and this may be a good opportunity to talk about the various pathways to leadership in IGALA. Participation in the biennial conference is just one way (and a very important way) to take part in IGALA. But there are other ways of contributing to IGALA. Often the most personal gestures lead to big changes. I have so often heard the story that IGALA members became members or board members because a current member invited her or him along to attend a conference or run for an office. I myself got involved because someone took the time to ask me, and getting that personal invitation was very compelling. Students can get involved in so many ways, including applying for travel bursaries to IGALA conferences or joining the Best Graduate Student Paper Award competition. Non-student members can encourage their own students to get involved, or even get involved in one of the ‘graduate students’ workshops’ that take place during the IGALA conference. In terms of more formal positions within GALA, the organization needs a wide range of talent to do everything that it does, and the organization can only be as strong as its members. The practicalities of an international organization mean leaders must be able to work independently and be self-starters but also must be able to work as part of a team. The Advisory Council has been evolving over the years to include specialists in media and communication, graduate student representatives, and those in charge of specific awards, including the Best Graduate Student Paper Award, which in the past has awarded a two-year membership to IGALA, including a subscription to the journal, Gender and Language, and a chance to work with the editors of the journal to prepare the paper for publication. If you are interested in getting more involved with IGALA, running for an Advisory Council position is a great option. Elections for the Advisory Council will be coming up soon after IGALA10, so now is the time to consider running. Working on the Advisory Council is also a great way to learn more about IGALA as an organization and further consider a position on the Executive Council. Yet another pathway to getting involved with IGALA is by hosting an IGALA conference. This can be an amazing experience to bring the IGALA biennial conference to your department, university, city and country. Proposal bids are presented at the IGALA Board meeting the day before each biennial conference begins, and the decision of the site of the next IGALA conference is announced during the conference itself. Visit our website for advice on how to prepare a bid for hosting a conference (

Dr Lia Litosseliti, IGALA President 2012- 2014

Associate Dean, International and Senior Lecturer in Linguistics, City, University of London

What changes has IGALA seen in the last 18 years?

It has been a privilege to witness our membership become much larger, wider and more diverse over the years. This is reflected in all IGALA activities, including the journal. Small steps, big difference.

Where do you see IGALA going?

Where the members take it. But I hope it continues to provide a strong sense of community and a forum around inclusivity, diversity and social justice issues — our political role as language and gender scholars.

Which is the fondest memory of your time as the president of IGALA?

We’ve had some amazing times during the conferences (Japan, Brazil and Canada especially come to mind) but the fondest memories are always around meeting the people who come to our conferences for the first time — especially the students and early career scholars.

What advice would you give to the newest members of IGALA?

In the current higher education climate, you’ll need to be resilient, persistent and keep your sense of humour. More than ever, value and strengthen your collaborative networks.

Dr Ana Cristina Ostermann, IGALA President 2010 – 2012

Professor, Applied Linguistics and Medical Education Universidade do Vale do Rio dos Sinos (UNISINOS)

What changes has IGALA seen in the last 18 years?

My experience with IGALA has been only for the 10 past years, but during this period, a number of changes have indeed occurred. To me, one of the most important has been the geographical growth and spread of the association. We are currently a true international and geographical encompassing association, counting on members from all regions in the world. One of the reasons for that is the IGALA Board has set that as a concrete aim and action – to reach out not only places in which discussions of language, gender and sexuality have been ‘out there’ and established for decades now, but also places where individuals were fiercely (and sometimes more ‘isolated’, so to speak) trying to establish it, but in the midst of a number of political, financial, and discriminatory struggles.

Where do you see IGALA going?

I see it going truly more diverse – in all possible senses of the word. In addition to concretely reaching out scholars from all continents, IGALA is also enlarging its agenda to more encompassing goals and themes. For instance, in the beginning we dealt with the relationship of ‘language and gender’ only (which is actually reflected on the name of the association), but quickly became fully aware – and the themes of the biannual conferences concretely show that –, that sexuality was intrinsic to that relationship. In fact, no possible name of the association would be able to ‘cover’ all the intersectionalities involved in exploring the relationship of language and gender – that most certainly goes way beyond ‘language and gender’ per se.

Which is the fondest memory of your time as the president of IGALA?

Oh, there are so many… One of the them is having organized one of the IGALA conferences in Brazil, bringing the biannual meeting for the first time to South America. Having delegates from 25 different countries at my university, all of them discussing all types of issues related to language, gender and sexuality, has been one of the greatest things that could have happened – and which has brought crucial consequences to the Brazilian academic (and non-academic) community!

I must say, however, that having been elected the first non-anglophone IGALA President is also one of the most incredible experiences I had – and most certainly, one of the fondest memories. I have found incredible support from everyone on the IGALA Board while acting as President. Everyone! But I would like to express my gratitude to three people, in particular, Jane Sunderland, Lia Litosseliti, and Carmen Caldas-Coulthard for their immensurable efforts in making those 2 years of my IGALA Presidency such a joyful and accomplishable experience! (Just a quick note: Carmen was my Master’s supervisor and the person who academically ‘initiated’ me in the studies of language, gender and sexuality.)

What advice would you give to the newest members of IGALA?

To keep the torch on and on the move! Even though IGALA has now reached all continents, there are still places and communities that still haven’t been untouched and that could profoundly benefit from enlarging and consolidating the issues brought forward by the association.

Dr Victoria Bergall, IGALA President 2008-2010

Associate Professor of Linguistics, Michigan Technological University

It has been a great pleasure to watch IGALA grow in scope and breadth over the last couple of decades. It was important to those of us around at the founding to create a truly international organization for the feminist-inspired study of gender, sex, and sexuality. With the movement of the conference to sites all across the globe (from the American and British roots represented at Stanford, Lancaster, and Cornell; the broad Mediterranean/Middle East attendance at the Valencia conference; the Pacific reach of New Zealand, Japan, and Hong Kong conferences; to South America with Brazil; vibrant Vancouver; and now Southern Africa with Botswana), IGALA has enabled conference attendance from many scholars and locales that might never have seen regional gender research represented otherwise. Of course, that means that other members are unable to afford flights to areas farther from them, but on the whole, that tradeoff is important. Though I experience truly heart-rending sorrow every time I cannot go, I’ve been fortunate to attend seven of the ten conferences so far, and have grown immeasurably each time.

As questions about gender and language research grow ever more complex (engaging new modalities along with language, and reaching deeper into questions about the intersections of gender, sex, and sexuality with its many different cultural and social manifestations around the world), I believe IGALA will continue to deepen and expand its membership, raising important voices from across many more experiences of intersectional gender and sexual identities with the complex engagements of culture and ethnicity, from increasing transnational, decolonial settings.

I was president during the transition from the conference in New Zealand in 2008 to the Japan conference in 2010. Beyond the vibrant cultural experiences that those conferences afforded (from Maori haka to Tokyo sushi and subways), I was most impressed with the quality of the many graduate students’ superlative presentations, some enabled by the US National Science Foundation travel grants that I was able to help secure. Bringing new voices into IGALA, while still engaging the more experienced members, will continue to keep it an exciting, important organization.

My advice to the newest members of IGALA: start working and saving now to get to as many IGALA conferences as you can. There is no substitute for the excitement of engaging deeply with the other members at conferences. Every meeting I have attended has injected me with new enthusiasm for the field, awakened me to new perspectives and theories I hadn’t experienced before, and deepened my appreciation for the importance of the IGALA endeavor. But if you cannot attend: subscribe to Gender and Language and submit your own research, take part in the blogs, and volunteer your time for reviews—until the next conference comes.

Dr Jane Sunderland, IGALA President 2006-2008

Reader (Retired), Lancaster University

I have been involved with IGALA since its first conference in Stanford (2000), when IGALA was a recent development of the Berkeley Women and Language conference series. With others, I hosted IGALA 2 in Lancaster in 2002. The speakers were Penny Eckert, Norman Fairclough, Marlis Hellinger, Sara Mills and Ruth Wodak. I have attended every other IGALA conference since then (I suspect I may be the only person who can claim this, but would be most happy to be contradicted), and am looking forward to IGALA 10 in Gaborone. I was IGALA President 2006-2008, and remember chairing a lengthy and substantial AGM by email – yes, it can be done. One thing I had hoped to do with the Presidency was to get IGALA talking to the world – as opposed to its members talking to each other – about matters concerning language and gender which are of interest beyond the academy. Verbal sexual harassment and so-called ‘political correctness’ come to mind. I did not succeed and to this day am not sure how this can be done, especially as IGALA is an international organisation, so cannot straightforwardly be consulted by any one country’s Government, but I remain convinced that it is something which should be aimed for.

I am delighted to see IGALA continue, along with its journal Gender and Language, its biennial conferences held across the world (at which everyone attends the conference dinner, unlike some conferences), and its changing Presidents with their two-year terms of office. It is evident that key scholars in the field are also IGALA members, often plenary speakers at our conferences. We are approaching our 20th birthday and so IGALA 11 – wherever it is held - will be a particularly special conference.

IGALA reflects trends in the Gender and Language field but also, hopefully, shapes them. By IGALA 1, there was already a shift away from researchers anxiously seeking ’gender differences’ in language use in one context or another, to looking at variation among language users who were women, or men; to variation with context, Community of Practice and communicative goal; and, most importantly, to seeing any ‘gender tendencies’ (not differences) in language use as socially constructed, rather than as reflecting some vaguely essentialist situation. Since then, sexuality has become increasingly important to the field (what was The Handbook of Language and Gender (2003) for its second edition was entitled The Handbook of Language, Gender and Sexuality (2014)). Indeed (spoiler/plug alert), my own paper in Gaborone is about how to convert courses previously entitled ‘Gender and Language’ to those covering ‘Gender, Sexuality and Language’. And now that the word gender has, for many, come to entail not so much the social construction of femininity and masculinity, but rather the notions of cis and trans gender, with their political and epistemological challenges, the field is changing again. So, I would not be surprised to see a change in the name of our organisation, acknowledging and incorporating sexuality, at least, and perhaps replacing Language with the wider notion of Discourse. IGSADA, perhaps? What’s in a name? A lot, we IGALA members know. But I have every confidence that whatever it is called, the organisation will continue, and that I will continue to attend our conferences.

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