To mark International Women's Day this year we are celebrating some of the professional and academic staff who make our College a world-leading institution for research and teaching on Asia and the Pacific.
In this piece, we chat to Security and International Relations expert Professor Evelyn Goh.
What inspired you to get into your field of research and why?
My field of research is security and international relations in East Asia. I come at this broad field from a range of different angles: history, political science theory, geography, ecology, policy and strategy. I was inspired by an older generation of politics scholars who believed that the most useful scholarship combines rigorous empirical knowledge with innovative concepts and theories, crosses disciplinary boundaries and has normative relevance.
Who is a woman in your field that you look up to?
There are many outstanding women in my field. Two have been especially important in my career – both must have faced significant pressures as women pioneers in their fields, but neither made a special issue of it except to set great examples, thereby clearing the path for younger women scholars like myself who came after them.
Patricia Daley, Professor of the Human Geography of Africa at Oxford. She was my undergraduate tutor just over 25 years ago, at a time when a young, black woman don was unheard-of in that august institution. During the 1994 genocide in Rwanda and Burundi, she suddenly gained international fame as one of the few scholars in the world with deep expertise in those countries.
Rosemary Foot, Emeritus Professor of International Relations at Oxford and expert in East Asia. She was my doctoral supervisor and is currently my co-author and friend. She sets the very highest of scholarly standards that I still struggle to live up to today.
What is a teaching/research project you are currently working on that motivates you?
All my teaching and research projects motivate me. The project that is currently giving me a hard time is the question of whether China and Japan can strike a strategic bargain that will allow them to coexist peacefully. This question, although incredibly important, tends to be neglected because of the focus on the U.S. and China. It is also a very difficult question to research because it requires a great deal of accurate historical and contemporary knowledge as well as conceptual agility. It’s the combination of importance and difficulty that motivates me.
What are you most proud of?
Inspiring other scholars with my work and in particular, students who are just starting out on the path to research. Holding my new book in my hands is always thrilling. But much more exciting is being waylaid by eager students who say “I read your book/article and I’ve been dying to ask…” or even better, “I keep thinking about it but I don’t see how you can be right if…”!
What’s your advice to your younger self about choosing the right path and juggling life’s different demands?
There is a line in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera about wisdom’s habit of coming to us when it can longer do much good. I generally agree with that, so I tend to think that a policy of ‘no regrets’ is best.