Students’ Abstracts

Identity of Male Student doing Women Studies: Some Pedagogical Reflections

Abdul Rahman KC

My academic life in Women’s and Gender studies started with my masters. As a student coming from “religious education”, doing women’s studies has always been a dilemma, at least going by the mainstream understanding of it. While religion and religious education is considered to be mired in patriarchal discourses and hence exclusionary and violent in nature gender studies is taken to be a default liberatory space. Nevertheless, my experience in straddling both the disciplines has been something that puts into question this neat binary characterization. Coming from a religious studies background, especially an “alienated male space” to a so-called “radical and liberal space” I have had to face a lot of questions. The foremost of them was a self doubt as to how to reconcile the seemingly antithetical disciplines. Secondly, the questions posed by my family and friends at erstwhile institute regarding my choice to opt for gender studies for my higher education. And finally and most importantly, the ones that I had to face from the academia which often flirted with humiliation. I consider the third set of questions to be of paramount importance for it raises a series of problematic regarding our discipline. For the tenor of these questions were not that of curiosity, rather that of a condescending attitude resulting in a kind of exclusion.

Given the subtle ways in which exclusion, and as a corollary violence, works in our discipline the questions that concern me are i) what is the ideal subject position poised to do the discipline of gender studies? In relation to this, ii) what are the ways in which my own subjectivity enables or disables me from doing the discipline “properly”.  My paper will be an attempt to navigate through these nagging pedagogical and epistemological questions.

As I Struggle, I Write the Script for My Daughter
Syeda Naghma Abidi

Maternal subjectivity is defined in terms of emerging agency of a mother as a woman within the interface with her child. It entails how she engages with the experience of motherhood and womanhood and able to define for herself a sense of self. One finds that maternal subjectivity is a fairly recent phenomenon with interest emerging from the shift in the lens to look at a mother as a subject in her own right. There is domination of white women voices in its exploration with the women of color beginning to add their voices which has added perspective to the interface of womanhood with motherhood. In India, there is emergence of the academic dialogue around women issues and their concerns but one finds absence of writing on Muslim women as independent subjects. Their issues are generally picked up as focus of interest. This paper is about Muslim mother as a person which emerges from the researcher’s own exploration of the relationship with her mother. As an Indian Muslim mother who is exploring maternal subjectivity one finds that there is dearth of documented experiences of Muslim mothers who negotiates her maternal position at multiple levels – inter-generational shift of understanding of idea of motherhood, the dynamic national and international mileu where Islam is seen as a threat. The paper talks about the complexity arising from being exposed to education and the notion of progressive identity.

Reflective Essay
Nancy Yadav

This paper will reflect the potential of collaborative interdisciplinary insights between Women and Gender studies and Literature. I will share my reflections on understanding issues of indigenous tribes and the need to understanding the ‘her-stories’ of the women in the communities. Having English literature as primary discipline I was interested in women’s literary tradition which led to formulate my research topic. Since the literary work I was analyzing had interdisciplinary undercurrent with ethnography, I gradually explored the methods of doing ethnography, analyzing it from the feminist perspective.

In this paper, I will share the thoughts, observations, anecdotes from my understanding of the indigenous women within their community and their issues. I will explain how ethnographic and fictional narratives of indigenous culture are reflective of the production, representation and contextualization of the community knowledge. In what ways an author(novelist or ethnographer )crop up the fictive imagination and empirical data in their narrative.

I will reflect upon the development I have made as a researcher. Learning from literature and learning from the course of Gender Studies, introduced me to the sociology concepts and opened a window from where I peeked into mundane issues from a fresh perspective. The act of reading and analyzing literature and ethnography helped me in exploring the common ground that lies between the fields of enquiry. Ethnography as fiction or fictional depiction of ethnography is the issue of interdisciplinary debate. Different arguments are put forward by different scholars at the different time. Besides this, ethnographic research methods are manifested in different literary works on indigenous culture. World literature is filled with examples of authors applying the empirical data and representing them in a fictional/autobiographical form. The narrative analysis of fictional ethnography and fiction informed by ethnography can help us understand, across a wide range of audience, the theoretical constructs of gender and culture better.Blurring the disciplinary boundaries in my research facilitated me in creating a tapestry of discourse, theories, and stories, narratives from aspects of social sciences, anthropology and literature.

Nibedita Hazarika

Growing up and travelling from one remote area to another in Assam during the 1990’s; when the state was passing through a turbulent period brought about a wide array of experiences.  Some of the areas both in the hills and plains offered ample scope to experience the traditions, customs and the way of life of the tribal communities and to particularly understand the role of women from these communities, their livelihood pattern which is so closely related to their culture. Similarly, growing up in areas close to high conflict zones and encountering stories of men and women fleeing or migrating from these places in search of security of work and life were disturbing enough to start questioning atrocities committed on women .In later years, working in SEWA and involving with women workers from the informal sector at the grass-root level helped in exploring and engaging with questions around the concept of gender dynamics. My research paper tries to critically examine the concept of gender and its relationship with work, migration and conflict by looking at women workers from the Bodo tribe; the largest plain tribe of Assam migrating to handloom clusters of Assam.

Construction of Boyhood in Schools of Delhi

This paper aims to develop the relationship between gender, education and schooling. It draws on feminist theoretical frameworks to unpack the links between gender and society and identify its strains within the contemporary educational sphere, policy, curriculum and classroom practices.  The understanding of feminist approaches to issues of education and the diversity needs of students. Intersectionalities of gender, caste, class and religion, gendered experiences of region, religion and disability. Feminist theories and their approaches to education, to facilitate an understanding of gender as a social construction and gender identities for evolving a gender perspective in school setting

The concept of boyhood and its evolution plays a very important role in the construction of adult male. Although the construction of boyhood starts right after birth in the Indian society, it blooms at primary level schooling. As a boy child leaves the comfort and security of home and enters the school space, he   reorients himself to further nurture the concept of boyhood.  School is considered as a miniature version of society with its own set of culture, values and ideologies which are promoted through school’s own understanding of gender roles. The construction of boyhood at home before a child comes to school has a major patriarchal bias. A boy while at school interacts with non -living and living elements which aids and abets the construction of boyhood. Non -living elements can be the physical activities available for boys, the duties set aside for boys and the spaces made available for boys. Living elements can be the interaction between peers, teachers, student and curriculum available. The paper seeks to explain how propagation of gender stereotypes at school through formal and hidden curriculum impacts the construction of boyhood. Further the innate and instinctive thirst to distinguish boyhood from girlhood is always at play. This paper will be focusing on construction of boyhood in Government schools of Delhi associated with urban villages in South Delhi.

My main discipline is Education specifically teacher education program preparing teachers for schools. Teachers are soul of our school system. Until they are prepared free from biases of gender stereotypes, class and caste discrimination we cannot expect equality to thrive in our society. In my teaching experience I have experienced that gender and education are closely related. To overcome the gender issues in schools there is a strong need to understand the feminist perspective on education. In my discipline there is dearth of researches on gender issues from gender studies point of view. This motivated me to look for interdisciplinary research in which we can try to unfold and make strong connection between two disciplines i.e gender studies and education. Main focus was on gender gap and gender issues but very few studies were done, in Indian context, on gender identity formation from the perspectives of boys. I believe if we need to overcome the issues of violent attitude of males/boys towards girls there is a need to understand how they justify their behavior and why they need to always have an upper hand and dominate the female sex.

Vulnerability, Authority, and Labour in the Queer Feminist Classroom: Using Discomfort to Forge Feminist Futures in the Neoliberal University
Órla Meadhbh Murray & Lisa Kalayji, University of Edinburgh

This paper is a dialogue between the two authors, focusing on how we try to do queer intersectional feminist teaching. We argue that the strategic introduction of discomfort into the classroom can be a productive way to fulfil the feminist imperative to contest, confound, and dismantle the neoliberal university from within. However, we acknowledge that this is a delicate and imperfect balancing act to negotiate, particularly around holding a position of power as a ‘teacher’ in an often very hierarchical learning environment while simultaneously trying to challenge or deconstruct that position of expertise and power. The paper will cover three key negotiations of discomfort in the classroom and in interactions with students: negotiating vulnerability; negotiating expertise; negotiating lack of time and pay. Firstly, we will explore how to negotiate vulnerability in the classroom, particularly through using personal stories and ‘coming out’ – as queer, as mentally ill, and as feminist – as a pedagogical tool. Secondly, we will explore how to acknowledge students’ own expertise and experiential knowledge, challenging the idea of the teachers as the only experts in the classroom, alongside the seemingly contradictory use of our position of power to challenge privilege in the classroom. Thirdly, we will acknowledge the unpaid work involved in doing queer intersectional feminist teaching, particularly around providing sufficient support to students and decolonising/queering curricula, both of which take time, something we are short of in the neoliberal university.