Brief Description of the Project
Our aim is to foster long term e-partnership, research collaboration and knowledge exchange between University of Edinburgh, UK and Ambedkar University Delhi, India with a focus on teaching feminisms.
Feminists have had significant societal impact and feminist pedagogy has transformed academic disciplines by shedding light on gender inequality and women’s oppression. This project seeks to turn the lens inward and critically examine the transformative potential of teaching feminism, delving into questions of identity and violence, in relation to the current neoliberal context.
It would offer a unique opportunity for dialogue between feminist academics in the North and the South, on how the transformative potential of feminist classrooms is influenced by the interlinkages between the institutionalisation of feminism in the academy, academic feminism’s relationship with women’s movements,the push for digital social sciences, and neoliberalism’s impact on feminist activism and knowledge production.
Each of the above themes has been studied separately, by British and Indian scholars, wherein findings of studies conducted in the UK on neoliberalism’s impact on feminist knowledge production being generalised to the field of academic feminism, as such, or abstract references being made to how feminism is taught in ‘the West’, are not uncommon. With a view to moving beyond such limitations, our project will bring feminist academics together to comparatively reflect on these themes, whilst being mindful of contextual specificities.
Project activities will include pilot study on teaching feminisms, paper writing, workshop presentations, training and capacity-building in e-learning and co-constructing feminist curriculum, roundtable sessions, public lectures, and other interactive events, culminating in proposals for an edited volume, a journal special issue, a MOOC and a larger research project. These activities will enhance the quality of feminist teaching in Southern and Northern contexts, and contribute to strengthening the pursuit of equality in higher education and beyond.
Scientific & Technical Details
Feminists have had significant societal impact and feminist pedagogy has transformed academic disciplines by shedding light on gender inequality and women’s oppression, otherwise neglected in human interaction, institutional processes and scholarship the world over. The proposed pedagogic and research collaboration between the University of Edinburgh, UK and Ambedkar University Delhi, India offers a unique opportunity for feminist academics to turn the lens inward, to critically and comparatively examine their experiences of teaching feminism in these Northern and Southern locations.
The central questions of interest to the collaborators are:
- How has feminism become institutionalised in the academy, and what part have women’s movements played in this regard in the UK and in India?
- What opportunities and challenges do students and teachers encounter in present-day feminist classrooms, especially with respect to questions of identity and violence?
- Given the push for digital social sciences, can digital technology be used to develop innovative pedagogic tools to confront social inequalities within feminist classrooms?
- How is neoliberalism affecting feminist activism and knowledge production, and are feminist classrooms addressing this issue?
A cursory glance at these questions indicates the crosscutting nature and relevance of the issues involved — institutionalisation of feminism, academic feminism’s relationship with women’s movements, the push for digital social sciences, and neoliberalism’s impact on feminist activism and knowledge production – for those teaching feminism in Northern as well as Southern contexts. Indeed, in both the UK and India, ‘women’s studies’ were considered the ‘academic arm’ of the women’s movement in the 1970s, whereas their relationship is much more tenuous today; much of feminist praxis in both locations struggles with intersectionally engaging with questions of identity and violence, with feminist classrooms being key spaces where some of these struggles play out; MOOCs are being hailed in Indian and British academia alike as cutting edge teaching tools for promoting free and lifelong learning; last but not least, unemployment and anti-migrant rhetoric as a result of neo-liberal economic policies have severe gendered repercussions which feminist praxis cannot afford to ignore in either country.
Ours will not be the first initiative to study the aforementioned issues. However, by examining these issues comparatively and within a single project, it will make an important contribution to ongoing efforts to decolonise the academy and decentre feminist knowledge production and dissemination. Our aim is to create a platform for long term e-partnership, collaborative research and knowledge exchange between feminist academics on teaching feminisms in the UK and in India, with a view to both enhancing the quality of feminist teaching and strengthening the pursuit of equality in higher education in what are two differently diverse societal contexts in Northern and Southern locations. The project teams from the University of Edinburgh, UK and Ambedkar University Delhi, India balance mutuality and complementarity in their expertise. They include three political scientists, two sociologists, an economist, a human geographer, a psycho-social studies expert, a colleague from science, technology and innovation studies, and another from English literature, such that the overall team composition is interdisciplinary and, in that sense, reflective of the very character of academic feminism. The collaboration between these teams will offer an innovative model for others interested in undertaking similar North-South projects aimed at understanding and creating just and equitable societies, of which gender is a key axis and feminism is a useful conceptual lens.
A multi-pronged, intersectional methodological approach underpins our endeavour to engage with the aforementioned research questions:
- A review of literature will be undertaken on the institutionalisation of feminism in the academy and academic feminism’s relationship to women’s movements in both the UK and India. Further, a set of the teams’ exchange visits will be planned to coincide with performances and protests around 16th December 2017 in Delhi and 8th March 2018 in Edinburgh so that the teams can experience first-hand feminist activism in these locations, sharing their impressions through social media –these activities will address the first question and provide the background for engaging with the other questions;
- In auto-ethnographic style, team members will write diary entries, reflecting on their trajectories as students, teachers and researchers of feminism. These diary entries will on the one hand constitute a pilot study based on which a larger research grant application will be made and on the other hand form the basis for thematic papers that team members will present at workshops during the exchange visits. These papers will be jointly edited by the lead PIs and submitted for dual publication to a leading Indian feminist publisher like Zubaan, who has a tie-up with Zed Books in the UK. Further, two roundtable sessions will be organised (and live-streamed) – on the challenges of teaching (Western) feminist theory in India, and on teaching postcolonial feminisms in the UK – with a view to publishing a two-fold conversational intervention on feminist pedagogy in practice from the UK and India teams in a high ranking journal like SIGNS. The diary entries, paper writing and workshop presentations, and roundtable sessions will address the second question;
- UK team members with expertise in e-learning, especially MOOC development, and in coconstructing feminist curriculum with students will offer capacity building and training sessions on the same to the India team and others at Ambedkar University Delhi. Subsequently, specific members from both teams will collaboratively develop a MOOC outline on gender and feminisms. In this, they will be assisted by research students from both institutions with experience in tutoring on gender-related courses.
- Members on both teams already researching neoliberalism’s impact on feminism and the academy will deliver public lectures and seminars. These will be recorded and uploaded to both Universities’ websites. During the exchange visits, half-day workshop-cum-training sessions will be organised on either side for research students and early career academics working on related issues. Selected papers presented at these sessions will be put together for submission as a special issue of a reputed journal like the Indian Journal of Gender Studies. These activities will address issues pertaining to the fourth question.