Faculty News

International Studies welcomes Megan Mackenzie, new Simons Chair in International Law and Human Security

September 30, 2020

Megan Mackenzie has joined SFU’s School of International Studies as the new Simons Chair in International Law and Human Security. Mackenzie is an expert on women in war and military culture, with a focus on military sexual violence, women in combat roles, military suicide, as well as issues related to post-conflict transitions and feminist solutions to ending war.

In her new role Mackenzie looks forward to examining research questions from an interdisciplinary perspective. She aims to generate conversations between diverse areas of study, which she believes are required to truly understand complex security issues.

“In the field of international relations, which is where I've often worked, there are disciplinary boundaries around how you study a problem,” Mackenzie explains. “What I really love about International Studies, and what I'm excited about, is building on the interdisciplinary kind of work that I do, and learning from colleagues who have been doing that kind of work for a long time.”

Mackenzie began her interdisciplinary approach as an undergraduate as she sought to understand war and security issues through the experience of people, rather than through abstract ideas of power. She was drawn to feminist scholarship, where others also questioned war and security from a “people-centered perspective.”

She has published two books, Female Soldiers in Sierra Leone: Sex, Security, and Post-Conflict Development, and Beyond the Band of Brothers: the US Military and the Myth that Women Can’t Fight.

Upcoming projects include a third book to be published in 2021, Feminist Solutions to Ending War. This edited volume includes contributions by scholars in the fields of environment, nuclear weapons, post war reconstruction, and queer theory, as well as feminist activists. While seeking to understand war from diverse approaches, Feminist Solutions to Ending War also questions how we might reduce and end war and political violence.

The collaborative nature of her work is a source of pride for Mackenzie. “I really worked hard to find ways to collaborate, especially with early career researchers, and to support early career scholars and give them opportunities,” she says. “That's something that I look forward to continuing to do at SFU.”

Mackenzie also acknowledges the complexity and changing nature of human security. In light of the COVID-19 crisis, Mackenzie has reflected on how the pandemic has highlighted emphasis of particular forms of insecurity for different populations, including in Canada. In this scenario, she sees interdisciplinary conversations as an essential tool to pursuing policy insights and solutions that are most informed.

“It's really hard to look at something like COVID and say, oh, that's just a health problem, or it's just a policy problem,” she says. “It is a very complex problem that requires medical experts. It requires sociologists, it requires economists. I think we're not at the moment yet where we can see it as a teaching tool, but it should become a way to think about the need to work across disciplines in order to address these complex emergencies.”

The Simons Chair in International Security, endowed by the Simons Foundation Canada, focuses on research and teaching in the nexus of international law and human security. The chairholder holds a mandate to design curriculum, provide intellectual leadership, and foster public understanding through conferences and symposia.