This was a fascinating session run by The Fourchettes collective, with a focus on un-block-boxing, thinking about it through axes of power, and by recognising spaces of invisibility (and the importance of preparing them). It was facilitated by Alison Harvey (University of Leicester, United Kingdom), Mary Elizabeth Luka (York University, Canada), Jessalynn Keller (University of Calgary, Canada), Tamara Shepherd (University of Calgary, Canada), and Mélanie Millette (Université de Québec à Montréal, Canada).
I’m afraid my notes are rather partial here, as I’m not always good at balancing participation with note-taking in the enlarged-fishbowl-more-of-a-pond format.
Tamara Shepherd’s introduction was very effective in setting the context for the discussion, noting the need for critical approaches to methodology, and the complications and ambiguities in developing those approaches.
Mary Elizabeth Luka talking about some of the ways in which an ethics of care is useful for thinking more deeply about methods. The ethics of care approach allows us to think about how ethics protocols obfuscate and manage different bodies of research. Building communities and networks is important, but this is often actually used with reference to ‘impact’ (in the ways it’s measured for academic work).
Mélanie Millette spoke on the paradoxes of balancing her personal experiences of research and the limitations of the formal ethics approach.
Jessalynn Keller talked about research pollination. Her research looks as how girls and women use digital technologies to challenge rape culture online, including their experiences and feelings around this kind of practice. This involves collecting a wide variety of materials across platforms. In constructing an archive of this material, it’s challenging to balance different priorities (including requirements as a junior researcher, and the desire to centre young women’s voices).
Alison Harvey talked about the obsession that develops in academia with typologies, and the benefits of taking individual words and thinking more deeply about them. Words that are very normalised in everyday practice, like, ‘data’ are beginning to feel uncomfortable. Her participants are experts sharing their stories, and talking to them doesn’t feel like, ‘data collection’. But we can’t just change these words, because we’re working within particular contexts. We also need to remember that no methodology is necessarily feminist. Feminist research approaches need to engage critically with the epistemological underpinnings of the process of research.
To give a very rough overview of some of the discussions that came up (perhaps more as a reminder to myself than anything else), with apologies for not being able to keep track of speakers:
- Citation practices: who do we cite? Do we try to take texts that aren’t overtly feminist and try to read them against themselves? When we’re citing important contributions, including conference papers, how do we also protect people who may have been obfuscating their arguments for reasons like safety?
- How do we support alternate citing practices as journal reviewers?
- How do we find sources beyond the cannon? Especially when most of the tools we use (like Google Scholar and our internal library research) embed the existing status quo?
- Open Humanities Press is a useful place to look for resources, in particular Photomediations.
- How do we escape marginal spaces within academia? (For example, not getting stuck within ‘work on queer issues’, ‘work on country x’.) How do we as readers help in this (remembering that an article or conference presentation on India or Poland may still be relevant)?
- Emma Lawson? ‘Publish and perish’ talks about the challenges of making research more open.
- We need to think about how industries surrounding academia (like publishing) can also be engaged in this work.
- How do we use our privilege, including our privilege as researchers, to create change?
- When we think about what communities we work with want, we need to keep asking what will be useful. The answers are surprising: sometimes it is to publish academic articles. How do we ask what communities want at scale? Or when we’re bringing communities into being through our research?
- When we’re working with ‘unlikeable’ movements, often we don’t want to point the ethics of care in their direction: we might be researching movements that we know don’t want to be researched, but their desires aren’t the most ethically pressing.
- How do we use a feminist ethics of care when doing larger-scale research?
- How do we use teaching to create change? Whose texts do we foreground? How do we make students pay attention to the authors of texts (many students assume that authors are white men)? What teaching practices create change?