Three Things I’ve Learnt as a Feminist Researcher
As part of the CASS & FRN Post-Grad and Research Seminar Event, the FRN’s Higher Degree Research (HDR) Steering Group coordinated the morning session, ‘Three things I’ve learnt as a feminist researcher’. The Steering Group invited three academics to reflect on their experiences as feminists undertaking research and navigating the academic environment to gain insight into how feminist knowledge can be creatively articulated and re-imagined through a variety of feminist strategies and praxis in today’s university. The session was aimed at post-graduate and early career researchers. It attracted attendees from across the University who braved the miserable weather and were rewarded with some fascinating and diverse discussion on the building of successful academic careers as feminists.
Fiona Probyn-Rapsey kicked off the session and welcomed all the ‘nasty women’ and ‘feral feminists’ in the room; she went on to share her ‘feminist triplets’ with the audience. She started by stressing that feminism teaches us that we are perpetual learners and students. Because we are often blind to the simultaneity of different forms of oppression, as intersectional feminism highlights, being ‘caught out’ or ‘caught unaware’ should be welcomed as a learning experience. She also warned against making political grounds for one movement at the expense of others. Indeed, as a feminist researcher, Fiona has explored the intersection of whiteness and gender and the uncomfortable position of complicity (rather than innocence) of white women to racial and colonial oppressions. She concluded by acknowledging the difficulty involved in challenging the ways in which feminists are defined as the problem when they point out the problems of (hetero)patriarchy and the associated violence hidden in plain sight.
Sharon Quah spoke next and outlined how, as a feminist researcher, she has become attuned to the dynamics of power and marginality that exist in academic life. Further, she eloquently raised the need to decolonise the curriculum and include a greater diversity of scholars in subjects’ reading lists. Practicing an ethics of care and reciprocity in all aspects of teaching, research and service was also mentioned as an extension of feminist consciousness and praxis. Nicole Cook echoed ideas from the other panel members, highlighting the need for feminist collegiality, self-care and support networks, while also bearing in mind that not all women are feminists.
A big thank you to our three speakers, Nicole Cook (Lecturer in Human Geography), Sharon Quah (Lecturer in Sociology), and Fiona Probyn-Rapsey (Head of School, HSI) for sharing their experiences, critical understandings of feminism, and some thought-provoking take-homes, as well as for their general support of the event. Thanks also to the FRN for supporting the Steering Group, this event and for the delicious vegetarian/vegan lunch catering. Big thanks also to the wonderful CASS team, especially Claire Lowrie for her direct support, and overall coordination of an excellent event.
Lastly, for examples of feminist-inspired writing, we recommend the excellent scholarship from our three speakers, in particular:
Fiona Probyn-Rapsey, ‘Playing Chicken at the Intersection: The White Critic of Whiteness’, Borderlands 3, no. 2 (2004) Available from: http://www.borderlands.net.au/vol3no2_2004/probyn_playing.htm
Sharon Quah Perspectives on Marital Dissolution: Divorce Biographies in Singapore. (Singapore, Heidelberg, New York, Dordrecht, London: Springer, 2015).
Nicole Cook recommends Woolf, V. 2004 A Room of One’s Own. London: Penguin.
Report by Esther Alloun @EstherAlloun
UoW PhD Candidate, FRN Reading Group Facilitator and FRN HDR Steering Group member