These thematic teaching modules were developed by interdisciplinary groups of scholars at a workshop organized around using the GFP materials in the classroom. At the time of the workshop, the archive included only the interviews from China, India, Poland, and the USA, and the excerpts thus only come from those sites. We include the module descriptions here as a starting point for thinking about how the GFP archives can be used to teach research methodologies and comparative methods, globalization, activism, and the connections between scholarship and activism.
The GFP materials can be incorporated into an introductory course in Women’s Studies in two ways: The first is to treat it as a discrete topic, covered like other sub-topics in the class (i.e. women and work); the second is to incorporate a global perspective throughout the entire course. Either way, there are specific things to consider when using the Global Feminisms materials, such as a possible tendency for students to essentialize the interviewees or the cultures from which they come, the need to de-center the USA, assumptions students may hold, or a lens which they might intuitively or automatically use to view “others,” and engaging students in thinking of feminisms as something people do, not simply a set of abstract theories or ideas.
Using clips that give multiple perspectives on a topic from the same sites (or even across multiple sites) is one way of challenging students not to think that each interviewee is speaking for her country. In order to engage students in thinking about how the USA is not necessarily unique in ways they might assume. one could highlight how different interviews illustrate the multicultural perspectives within the different sites and how “India,” to take one example, is a complex and multilayered country, much like the USA The clips might also be used to highlight that these women use feminism, and live it, and that feminisms have many meanings.
Clips and transcripts can be used to either encourage students to identify specific themes, or to discuss themes such as: myths about feminism, marginalization of feminism, or the personal is political, but feminisms is larger than any one woman and about future generations. Provocative and complex issues can be explored through small portions of the interviews (using either transcripts or scripts), and might allow students to engage in a more concrete and less “personal” way with the material, while still allowing them to see how complex issues can be. Showing the same clips across time might also allow students to apply new knowledge to familiar materials, but also to incorporate it with old.
- Additional resources: These excerpts from different interviews were used by the workshop facilitator to generate discussion about (1) definitions of feminism, (2) reproductive choice, and (3) transnational feminisms
There are unique problems and challenges specific to teaching Global Feminisms, such as how to create a course that addresses more than feminisms in a global context, and how to give students enough local material to understand something about the country to avoid having them see the interviewee as a “native informant”. Additional challenges lie in the arena of mediating and localizing local voices, teaching local histories as a person who may not be a “local.”
Though students may not have a lot of background information about a particular country, one can have them examine how interviewees frame particular issues or what confluence of events/people/factors has allowed certain dialogues to take place. Challenging the ways in which students tend to look at interviewees as “native informants” means thinking about the relationship between the viewer and the film subject (and asking students to do the same). Questions that might aid in this exploration include: (1) What are the terms that the women in the films use to discuss culture? or (2) What is it that we translate here as culture? In addition to treating the interviewees as native informants, USA students (and professors) may have a tendency to place themselves at the center of their inquiries and explorations. De-centering the USA is another important aspect of teaching Global Feminisms.
Other suggestions for teaching Global Feminisms include having students interrogate/problematize the term “global”. In addition to thinking about the ways in which students are a part of constructing the term itself, they should be thinking about how Global Feminism may be different from international feminism. The Global also informs the local in very specific ways, and using the interviews to highlight the local influence of global ideals/phenomena is important.
At the University of Michigan there has been continuing demand for courses on Feminism Activism and Scholarship. These courses are specifically useful for both undergraduate (who may want to reconcile their interest in activism with the theoretical literature in their courses) and graduate students (who may feel a greater need to address the perceived contradiction between academic feminisms and activist feminism).
Some proposed goals of a course in feminist scholarship and activism might be to:
(1) Challenge the binary opposition between scholarship and activism.
(2) Recognize both scholarship and activism as “women’s work.”
(3) Recognize that there are many different kinds of activism, feminisms, and scholarships.
(4) Reassess the place of the university in enabling/disabling activists.
(5) problematize the concept of “public intellectual” and rather emphasize engaged scholarship.
(6) note intersectionality of activist movements (i.e. racial justice, reproductive rights, etc).
The Global Feminisms materials may serve as either the primary source (used throughout the semester to identify main themes or theoretical concerns), a starting point used with other resources, a springboard to explore certain research topics, or as an illustration of methodology (narrative methods, oral history, or a source of qualitative data). General themes that may be explored using the materials are: (1) How family and culture as social elements inform interviews, (2) the academy as a source of activism, (3) intersections of feminisms and social movements (for examples, see Loretta Ross and Limanowska), or intersections of different movements, (3) how to have a global focus without essentializing (i.e. the Beijing conference of 1995), and (4) How these interviews illustrate/interrogate the personal meanings of politics (personal as political).
- Additional resources: These excerpts from different interviews were used by the workshop facilitators to generate discussion and provide examples about (1) the relationship between scholarship and activism, (2) linkages across movements within countries (India and Poland), (3) linkages across national movements, and (4) representations of feminism and activism.
Though there are not many undergraduate courses on feminist methods, there are many opportunities in the classroom to address issues of feminist “approaches to inquiry”; opportunities during which the Global Feminisms Project and its related materials might be useful. For example, the entire GF Project itself is a “case study” of research, activism and pedagogy, reflecting very specific methodological choices. Additionally, there are four smaller and relatively autonomous projects, again with each carried out using different methodologies. Some questions then, might be: (1) How were interviewees selected? (2) Were there site-specific protocols/cross-site protocols? and (3) Where/how was filming done? Specific to each interview, students might consider: (1) How do the interviews reflect specific decisions to organize research and to gather data? (2) How might we interpret this data? (3) What does it mean to pursue a project from a feminist perspective? The archive thus offers a range of cases of how scholar-activists have grappled with questions of “approach” from within their particular fields.
Two specific methodologies may merit extra attention when using the GF materials: (1) Narratives and, (2) Consciousness Raising as methodology. Narrative construction is often central to ethnography, oral history, biography and autobiographical analyses, rhetorical analysis, content analysis and can raise interesting issues around objectivity and most generally “positivism” in scholarly projects. Additionally, students can explore a range of ethical issues which arise in interpreting – as well as gathering/recording/making – narratives, questions assumptions of unity underlying the telling of a life story and exploring cultural and social-group based tendencies in how individuals explain their life-path. Consciousness Raising as methodology draws on Catherine MacKinnon’s early 1970s articulation of consciousness raising as the “method” of feminism – both as a movement and in its scholarly advancement.
Students may explore the following questions:
- How generalizable is this claim?
- How does consciousness-raising appear – or not – as central to the interviewees’ processes across the different sites?
- What are potential pitfalls of forging this kind of comparative assessment?
- Can the category (consciousness-raising) be usefully complicated in and through comparison of sites?
Additional questions and areas of exploration might be considered, such as:
- The role of visual content (how does visual content create, reinforce or contradict conceptions we might have about the women/cultures in question),
- How can we use these interviews to think about interview techniques and interview protocol development?
- How can specific theoretical approaches be applied to an interpretation of the interviews?
- In what ways do (or do not) the interviews reflect a certain moment in a culture?
- How can different interviews/women/countries be compared (what is gained/lost in such comparisons)?
- Do any of the interviews point to “methods” of activism or how social justice commitments might push ones research agenda/choice of methodologies?
- How can one explore performativitiy in these interviews (i.e. performance of caste, gender, age, ethnicity…)?