Spring, 2004

WGS 391 (unique 44590)

Foundations II: Theories of Knowledge and Praxis

Instructor: Katherine Arens
Office: E. P. Schoch 3.128
TTH 1100 -1230P NOA 1.110


This course is designed as a follow-up to Foundations I, in that it takes various theories from feminist, gender, and women's studies into practical and research contexts designed by the students. Feminism brought to research in the social sciences and humanities, above all, a realization of how important embodiment is for any area of investigation -- that the identity of the investigator and/or speaker is crucial to the production, circulation, validation, and authorization of knowledge within discourses and communities. Thus it is important for feminist theorists and practitioners to factor their own loci within speech communities into their own work, be it theoretical or practical in orientation. This imperative has led a second generation of feminist theorists to strong accounts of feminism and knowledge, including reflections on methodology, analysis, and pedagogy. But these reflections are anything but theoretical: they define the conditions under which feminist interventions can interact with dominant structures (institutions, social groups, legal structures).

To fulfil the aim of second-generation feminist theorists and join theory to practice, as well as to extend work on feminist and gender theory done in Foundations I (or equivalent courses), this course will use the question of research design (qua knowledge generation and dissemination) to take students step by step through the design and implementation of a research or practical project for the US context.

The course will move from first stages of problem-solving and research design using tools from the feminist canon, through the project's research, implementation, and formal presentation. With this approach to theory as a praxis embodied within various venues, students will have practice in how to craft their own interventions into existing branches of scholarship or into various practical contexts -- how to use gender theory to challenge existing power formations of various sorts and to alter existing paradigms of knowledge and power.

While expanding their knowledge of gender and feminist theory in a structured series of readings designed to open out what is at state in gender research and praxis, students will be encouraged to develop projects that demonstrate the power of the optic of gender, particularly in conjunction with class, race, ethnicity -- in opening out ossified points of view. Each project, then, can be described as an intervention into a defined context of knowledge/authority, to show how points of view rendered other by the dominant power structure can be brought into fruitful dialogue with those structures, to transform them.

Books Ordered

Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of the Oppressed

Reinharz, Shulamit, with Lynn Davidman. Feminist Methods in Social Research.

Rosen, The World Split Open

van Zoonen, Liesbet. Feminist Media Studies

Electronic Copy Package (from instructor)

Assignments and Grading