Lectures: 1 session / week, 3 hours / session
This course is part of the Graduate Consortium in Women's Studies (GCWS). GCWS at MIT is a pioneering effort by faculty at eight degree-granting institutions in the Boston area and MIT to advance women's studies scholarship.
Students must be graduate students at one of the nine institutions that participate in the Graduate Consortium in Women's Studies.
Feminist Inquiry starts with questions: What is feminism? What is feminist scholarship? Is feminist scholarship inherently interdisciplinary? Must feminist work interrogate disciplinarity? Must feminists collaborate?
The complex connections between epistemologies, methodologies and research methods are central to feminist inquiry. Different questions require different modes of inquiry; many questions propel us into intersectional webs of knowledge and ways of knowing. We shall explore how knowledge is formed in the traditional disciplines and raise questions about how strict disciplinary epistemologies can be problematic for feminist inquiry.
Our aim is to promote the development of feminist theory and methods by providing a forum for sharing, assessing, discussing and debating strategies used by feminist scholars to study topics such as gender and the body; sexualities; color and whiteness; migration, colonialism, and indigeneity. Throughout we will critique ideas of the normative and "difference" as they apply to the racial and other categories inscribing center and marginal identities. The scholars we will read represent an array of fields, coming from history, philosophy, sociology, history, psychology, political science, literary and cultural studies and evolutionary biology. The course will not make a sharp distinction between theory and method. Instead we shall proceed on the assumption that method is applied theory. We shall examine the theoretical positions our authors take, and evaluate the usefulness of the methodological approaches that result.
With the goal of constructing an interdisciplinary classroom, we will start the semester by discussing interdisciplinarity itself, then reading a few key feminist texts from social science, the humanities and the sciences. Working together, we will try to build a shared vocabulary that draws from our various disciplines. As individuals, our work may aim toward interdisciplinarity or shy away from it, but as a community of scholars we will teach each other to listen (and to write and speak) to each other as we work toward creating an environment that fosters many feminisms.
Hesse-Biber, Sharlene, Christina Gilmartin, and Robin Lydenberg, eds. Feminist Approaches to Theory and Methodology: An Interdisciplinary Reader. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1999. ISBN: 9780195125221.
All other readings can be found in the coursepack. (Note: The coursepack is not available to MIT OpenCourseWare users.)