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Nine faculty (two of whom were facilitators) and five graduate students (one of whom was a coordinator) from seven academic departments participated in this unique seminar sponsored by the Ford Foundation. The seminar was designed to provide support for faculty and graduate students who are developing or revising gender inclusive international and area studies courses, or who are bringing international and area studies attention to gender and women's studies courses. The participants will also be working collectively towards the planning of a "theme semester" of focused courses and activities for the fall of 1997.
The following represents an inventory of some of the discussion points raised in the course of the seminar. Since the purpose of the seminar was to support and encourage faculty efforts toward new inclusion, no effort was made to achieve consensus on any of the issues raised. For that reason, we decided that the best form for this report was to enumerate the questions asked and observations made. We hope that this document will serve not only as a record of our seminar, but as an aid for our colleagues considering similar curricular revisions. We believe that the kinds of issues that emerged in our conversation are likely to emerge whenever faculty attempt to bring these two domains of interest (gender and women's studies, and international or area studies) together. We have grouped the observations and questions under a few broad headings, in the hope that this organization might help our colleagues considering similar efforts to identify the issues most pertinent to their interests or anxieties.
Bringing a focus on women and gender into courses
Many of the following issues arise whenever content on women and gender is introduced into courses for the first time.
- It is important to differentiate the notions of women, gender and feminism, though these are often collapsed in students' minds. Courses may change in their attention to any one or all of these.
- It is important to recognize that feminist theories differ widely, and that very different feminisms coexist within a single time and place.
- It may be tempting, but is problematic, to imagine a "standard" gendered account, or "a women's viewpoint."
- To the extent that all social phenomena may be arguably gendered, how does one then grasp, and teach, the specifics of the "play" of gender "on" such phenomena?
- Gender is a "transgressive" term or concept, potentially invading every analytical approach.
- How does one avoid, or move beyond the "additive," managing the attention to gender by adding a section, a segment, or a chapter?
- Part of the value of recent work on gender draws from the new questions that emerge when women are put "at the center" of an analysis.
- There is a challenge for the teacher interested in entering gender into a course of distinguishing issues that can or cannot readily be analyzed/taught by use of a gendered analysis.
- It is important to link and to differentiate feminist theories and feminist political movements.
- One can use "gender" as an analytic category that allows us to identify and understand the workings of other issues of structural power relations (e.g., race, colonialism, sexuality, etc.). The reverse is equally true.
- There is an opportunity to raise attention to "men as gender," as a means of avoiding conceiving of gender entirely in terms of women.
- Women of color may find or locate a "doubled vexation" in theoretical works, not only in the obviation of practical concerns but in the reproduction of additional layers of subjection.
- Feminist critique has changed the terms of possibility of a large family of frameworks once consensual and conventional in twentieth century social and cultural history.
- Gender theory, and feminist critique, has now moved from partisan, oppositional discourse into general currency. There is opportunity to help students recognize the topographies of men's and women's approaches to, and activities within, political fields; specific programs may be more gendered than others.
- How do you introduce unfamiliar concepts of sexuality and sexual and gender identity, for which students may have no starting-points?
- What does gender mean, "finally"?
Bringing a focus on international or area studies into courses
Many of these issues arise whenever international or area studies perspectives are brought into courses.
- How do we avoid generalization to an entire people or nation from an individual, powerful testimony (in writing, in film, etc.)?
- It is important not to lose sight of significant issues relating to race and gender in the United States while seeking to bring attention to international issues and processes.
- Moving teaching from the U.S. towards international frames may too easily invite essentially subjective appraisals of situations or circumstances as "better" or "worse" than U.S. standards.
- How do we define and work with notions of the global?
- In the move to comparative and international teaching, cases beyond the most familiar ones may be prone to essentialization and romanticization (and also critique).
- The study of children — and teaching on children - - allows one to see the ways in which international and trans-national categories are reproduced.
- International fora — congresses, conferences — provide opportunities for viewing programs of "representation," but they are also political fields in which certain actors, or constituencies, gain voice and visibility.
- The inclusion of other (non-U.S., non-western, etc.) settings in teaching opens opportunities to see how "the West" is and has been imagined, at the same time complicating and illuminating notions of "the West."
- In identifying the situated-ness/located-ness of knowledge, one understands the challenges of working on an international, trans-national, or global plane where the outcomes for both theoretical and practical work may be obverse, paradoxical, uncomfortable.
- What is the viability of relativism in learning and teaching about other cultures?
- Is there a possibility of standing outside the dialectics of "western"/"non-western" to grasp and teach the sociology and politics of practice of theoretical, advocacy, and representational practices?
- One notes that certain phenomena are stuck onto certain world areas; you "go to them" to produce an enlarged picture that one may assert is more international.
- There is a need to theorize the international, both in the world and in the study of and teaching about the world.
- A complicating feature of teaching about the world through an international framework is that sovereignty — the meanings of the national category — is itself changing, and may be increasingly interrupted through international practice.
- One may observe that some social scientists use the "international" to underline the constructedness of phenomena, while others use the "international" to assess the universality of phenomena.
- There are problems in comparative work, in making comparisons; some provocative and evocative materials illuminating so-called "everyday life," such as film, autobiography, novels, may complicate any possibility of useful comparisons while at the same time exciting students' own comparative propensities. At the same time, students may observe that particular things "don't work here," underlining their essential approach as an "us"/"them" dialogic.
- In the search for comparative gleanings, one may miss the interconnections and linkages among processes, programs, and phenomena, globally and transnationally.
- There is a politics to situating certain issues and certain programs of analysis, for example development theory and modernization theory.
- In framing new courses in and on "developing areas" there may be opportunity to start from the ground with substantial recontextualization in light of changes not only in the disciplines but also changes in the world, for example disputed sovereignties.
- The attention to populations of diverse origins within the United States may present a substantial challenge to international studies as presently configured. Migration and immigration processes may produce their own politics, their own internal hegemonies.
- The study of migration and immigration in the U.S. permits a revising of American imperialism as a subject for study.
- Literatures of migration constitute not a single voice but rather a register of multiple and diverse readings of experience, permitting a teacher to complicate a student's propensity to read toward the monotonic or monolithic representation of experience, productively complicating notions of the authentic or essential.
- One may take the opportunity to draw attention to the workings of economy and sociology in the production and reproduction of representations.
- In handling the literatures of migration, it may be difficult to maintain a sense of the pleasures of the text against the hard realities represented within the text.
- The challenges of managing international, cross- national, comparative, and also inter-disciplinary teaching may really demand team-teaching.
The intersection of women and gender studies and international/area studies
Certain issues seem to arise when these two domains are brought into focus at the same time.
- There is the problem of locating, situating the feminist theorist in the "international setting" where the epistemological and pedagogical ground may not be stable.
- It is easy to contribute to a view that "western feminism" is foundational, and all other feminisms reactive to it; this can be avoided by placing non-western feminist texts at the beginning, and seeking texts which are not particularly in dialogue with western feminism.
- Much work represented as authentic and, essentially, oppositional seems born and operative with a close dialectical relationship with the work, ideas, power, method, it critiques.
- How does one find the "other" outside of dialogics?
- There are texts, expressions, that are less in dialogue with purported "western" models.
- One can ask not only how feminisms outside "the West" were influenced by western feminisms, but also how "western feminism" actually has developed in relation to other feminisms.
- The examination of gender may be a key to getting at the "constructedness" of nationalism, through the workings of the commonplace, the everyday in the production of ideas of belonging and memories of a collective past.
- As in the workings of gender, the labor of construction of "nationhood" is never completed.
- There is opportunity to bring attention to comprehending enveloping forces, such as the commodification of ideas, images, identities, and voices.
- There are opportunities to help students understand how culture and women may be simultaneously commodified in late capitalist society.
- What underlies European and American scholars' interest in knowing more about the status and condition of women elsewhere? Why are "we"/"they" interested?
- There is always a problem in attempting to deploy present questions, such as those developing within gender studies, trans-historically; in contrast, historical issues are often foregrounded in international/area studies courses.
- The "gendered child" — the adolescent girl, the young male — is a site of control nationally and internationally.
- How does one measure, map, understand the gendered dimensions of ethnic conflict?
- It may be constructive to recognize that a great deal of this material may be uncomfortable for students. In the instance of topics like excision or female genital mutilation (and excision debates globally), it may be productive for students to engage their discomfort, the complexities and sometimes unworkabilities of sensibility.
- The teacher may design a series of steps in or through a discussion to help students get beyond their initial sensibilities concerning something like female genital mutilation.
- It may be valuable to examine multiple accounts/perspectives on a single event (e.g., a war, disaster, movement, conflict), without serving as "judge" of the best/correct account. Accounts can be selected to permit recognition of the gendered dimensions of the phenomenon.
The metaphor of "borderlands"
The metaphor of the border, and the lands on both sides of borders, seemed particularly useful for bringing notions of women/gender and nations/areas together.
- Attention to borders and margins, with respect to both gender and international migration and trans-national contact and exchanges, allows unique views of the relational, identities, hybridities, alterities, ambiguities, reifications.
- Likewise, attention to borders and margins produces fresh views of the nation and the state.
- There are histories to the rise to currency of concepts such as "the borderlands," histories that give the concept salience, authority, and reproductive capacity.
- The idea of "borderland" entered general currency because it undermines certainties and identities, and problematized ways of writing about the state and nation.
- There is a paradox lurking in the concept of the "borderlands" in that those who are "subjects" of that category are "made" to do still further service in the analysis and reconceptualization of what continued to have residence as "larger" or more important and "central" concerns such as state, nation, and capital.
- What are the material and epistemological grounds for asserting a superior interpretative or surveillant position on the boundary?
- In managing constructions such as "the borderlands" it is important to both distinguish and signal distinctions among levels of analysis and to distinguish between the material and the metaphorical.
- "Borderlands" studies permit views of the "mutual gaze," for example in the construction of distinctions between socialist and capitalist societies in the German setting.
Consumption is a construct in which the gender dimension is unusually prominent and in which regional, national and international analysis seems particularly appropriate.
- Arenas of consumption provide opportunities to observe what men and women actually do — together and separately — and how men and women are represented.
- Within the workings of consumption it is possible to see how gender is given additional valences, or values.
- There is a challenge within teaching to connect or associate materialist groundings of experience with representations in the mind.
- One must draw students to view as significant not only representational activities in speaking , writing, performing, authoring, but also the workings of audiences, where negotiations of meaning and authority occur.
A great deal of time was spent discussing teaching practices that facilitate addressing women and gender studies, international and area studies, and their intersection.
- It is difficult to conceive how a teacher would or could bring together within a single course all the elements and trajectories entailed tabled for discussion in the seminar.
- The disciplines have a resilience, a resistance to opening to new dimensions, spaces, paradigms, such as those proposed within this seminar.
- To what extent is it possible to re-map, or reconstruct, introductory courses, which have stood as bed- rock elements within the consensual programs of disciplinary instruction and training?
- How does one reframe the issue of faculty expertise to encourage risk-taking and experimentation in respect to one's own confident arenas of teaching authority?
- Is there more required in this kind of teaching beyond the destabilization of existing conceptual frameworks and constructions?
- A basic question for teachers planning courses such as mooted within the seminar is how much background do students need to have to begin to engage new constructions and to work with theory.
- Students may be interested in theory, but may treat theory as better or worse in terms of how far "it may help us practically."
- In developing courses, how do we move among different and competing and also monolithic paradigms?
- How does the teacher bring attention to the shifting authority of subjectivities over time?
- In the presentation of history, or the past, it may be necessary or productive to break up the "plodding chronology," to shake up the "embodiment of progress" (e.g., by proceeding from the present backward in time, or by avoiding linear accounts in either direction).
- There may be entirely different concerns in designing courses for undergraduate and graduate students. One may ask what theory does a graduate student need to know to move forward through the literatures and through the development of research? For the undergraduate student, the issue may be what will facilitate the asking of questions?
- Contests and debates reveal alternative visions, perspectives, interpretations and theory regarding political interests and programs; they may be especially useful in courses with this kind of content.
- Debates have their sociologies and economies, and there is opportunity in courses to bring out the framing forces of debates and contests that are substantially beyond the reach, or behind the backs, of the actors/participants.
- How does the teacher work with the presentiment that, for students, it does matter where a teacher stands on sensitive issues?
- How can one work with multiple locations, "stages," to help students understand the workings of particular locations, including their own, on their sensibility?
- Does one disarm a view or idea by historicizing it?
- What are the moral and ethical involvements in undermining or questioning students' sensibilities?
- How does one draw students beyond evaluations based on "right/wrong" and "correct/incorrect"?
- What issues of censorship and self-censorship lie between teacher and students in the inclusion within and exclusion from the classroom or course of certain material, films, etc.?
- How does one teach about sexual violence? What can be incorporated, what cannot?
- There is a problem of reified grand narratives of intellectual social movements; there may be advantages — avoiding teleologies — in cycling back-and-forth among different moments of history.
- How does one attend to the central issue of "getting it right" ("positivist" work) amidst interpretative and epistemological as well as political diversity?
- Issues of standards and positivism work differently at different levels: an anthology of diverse and competing views may work well in teaching but may be quite different from the approaches to the essential values and measurements in a field that become critical in the review of graduate research proposals and the promotion and tenure reviews of faculty.
- How might instruction move among philosophy, theory, and practice, by simply attending to some of the practical issues that intervene in theoretical and philosophical "work"?
- In teaching, it may be valuable to foreground "translation" across different experience, to identify distinctions among deep difference, family resemblance, and incommensurate experience.
- How does one help undergraduates develop, early on, an interpretative, critical competence and confidence that goes beyond their own sensibility?
- How does one move critique beyond the authority to speak?
- Some opportunity may lie in mixing or interspersing different types of texts, and refusing simplistic comparative treatment, and resisting the essentializing capacities of particular media.
- In addressing challenges of teaching one is also looking at well-grounded reading and implicit critical practices among students and in the broader society.
- In working within and through the theory/practice nexus, one may wish to move students past the "why" question towards the "how" question; the so-called foundational texts may privilege the "why" question and obscure the "how" question.
- There are histories, geographies, sociologies, and politics of theory; there are opportunities to teach theory and at the same time interrogate the workings, purpose, and power of theory.
- One of the challenges of teaching undergraduates is in the communication of indeterminacy, the constructedness of core phenomena, the never-completed aspect of programs and processes.
- How do you move students back and forth between understanding myth as history and history as myth?
- How much can actually be done in a 200/300 level class?
- What kinds of starting points are strategic for drawing students toward a problematization of conventions even where they may be unfamiliar with the context and even the grand narrative? How do you work with students in the development of critical tools when they haven't yet met some of the ideas and models for which critique might be well served?
- In team-teaching, how does one work with someone in productive complementarity?
- There are many alternative ways to address the faculty member's felt lack of expertise: refusing to take an authoritative position; sharing authority with students by creating their authority in particular domains (through special projects); claiming authority in a particular domain; then working with the students to develop expertise in others; etc.
- There is always a challenge to find texts that really work in teaching, that allow students to engage new and difficult literatures, unpack words, concepts, and arguments.
- In planning new courses — or revising existing ones — the scale of the course may matter as much as the level; some things can only be achieved in a small setting, but even large classes may be broken up into small groups in which certain discussions are possible that would not be possible otherwise.
- One approach to the "expertise" issue is to use case studies, individual or group projects, or other approaches, to develop knowledge within the course, then encouraging students to make some of the more general, theoretical, or abstract connections.
- It may be useful to design ways to help students recognize themselves in relation to key concepts (e.g., how their own national identity is constructed in concrete, everyday experiences).
David William Cohen is director of the International Institute. Abigail Stewart is director of the Institute for Research on Women and Gender.