The Interdisciplinary Centre for Gender Studies (ICGS) at the University of Bern became known to many of us through the tireless work and enthusiasm of its founder and director, feminist historian Brigitte Schnegg.
As a brilliant advocate of women’s human rights Brigitte was able to connect the work of the Centre to global feminist research across disciplines and contexts. She became an active member of the UNRISD research project, Political and Social Economy of Care (2006-2009), contributing substantively to the project through the country study on Switzerland. In that endeavor she worked collaboratively with her co-authors, Mascha Madorin and Nadia Baghdadi, to produce a multi-layered analysis that explained the contradictory developments of the Swiss case study, a reality that was aptly captured in the title of their study “Advanced economy, modern welfare state and traditional care regime”. The members of the UNRISD research team will remember Brigitte not only for that study but also for her insightful reflections on the broader contours of the research during the various research methodology workshops that were held at UNRISD in 2007 and 2008.
I had the pleasure of working again with Brigitte, and seeing more of her, in the winter of 2012 when I took up a visiting professorship at the ICGS. Despite the heavy demands on her time, from the University and the Centre, as well as her own international engagements, Brigitte always seemed to find the time for a conversation, whether it was about her graduate students, a conference she had attended in Asia, her involvement with women’s rights advocacy at CSW, or a new research projects she was putting together that would take her to Africa.
Apart from her intellectual brilliance and truly global outlook what made Brigitte very special to many of us was her humility, humanity and warmth. Her sudden and unexpected departure leaves a very big void.
UNRISD Director Sarah Cook adds:
UNRISD was looking forward to renewed engagement with Brigitte in the joint R4D research project focusing on women in non-traditional export agriculture. The launch meeting of this project in early May, which brought together researchers from Bolivia, Laos, Nepal, Rwanda and Switzerland, was a tribute to Brigitte's intellectual creativity and passion, as well as a reminder of the gap left by her sudden loss. The project, her colleagues and each of us individually will continue to be inspired her vision and humanity as this project moves forward in her memory.
Photo credit: © Manu Friederich