33 SES 16 A, Transdisciplinary Feminism as Powerful Knowledge: Re-thinking Educational Research on Gender
In a virtual seminar on ‘rethinking interdisciplinarity’ Helga Novotny illustrated ‘transdisciplinarity’ by the analogy that ‘knowledge seeps through institutions and structures like water through the pores of a membrane’ and therefore is about transgressing boundaries (Novotny 2006, in Trojer 2018: 56). Although, the so-called nature/culture divide nowadays is viewed as more intertwined than ever, this historically important boundary still has an impact on how we look at, position and with stereotypical notions perceive those on ‘the other side’ of the divide and what they are doing. I have spent most of my academic life at chemistry departments. As such, I am positioned on the ‘nature’-side of the divide, by academics within and outside this disciplinary domain. The last decade my academic ‘home’ has been the Centre for Gender Research – a borderland. The practices, in ‘nature’ and ‘culture’ areas respectively, are grounded in different perceptions of knowledge. Although this environment is interdisciplinary, by being part of the Faculty of Arts reinforces its twinning to the ‘culture’-side. Sometimes I feel an anxiety in the environment, of not being perceived as a sufficiently strong and legitimate ‘mono’-disciplinary entity, an academic with their own identity. But such anxiety risks building walls which are striving to protect a discipline that is experiencing being questioned within and outside the academy. The last decade has given me a space and temporal distance to enable an outsider’s perspective, such that former taken-for-granted enculturated aspects of chemistry appear in a new light. In research, I make use of my 'insider' knowledge, in combination with a distanced 'outsider' perspective. These positions – as chemist/insider and gender researcher/outsider – are intertwined and act as a variant of what Barad (2007) describes as a non-dualistic whole. I examine material conditions within chemistry, how matter and humans intra-act, how social arrangements develop. Within a posthuman ethical frame the un-doing of self-centred human individualism has, as a starting point, that ‘all bodies, not just human bodies, matter and count’ (Taylor 2018), thus resulting in ‘an enlarged sense of interconnection between the self and others’ (Braidotti 2013). Chemists work in laboratories investigating reactions, material properties, doing controlled experiments, using vocabulary with stipulated definitions, and get joy from adding insights to our understanding of matter. However, chemistry’s culture, language and practical work form gendered knowledge and identities, which can reproduce and amplify but also break stereotypical views and power relationships.
Barad, K. (2007). Meeting the universe halfway: Quantum physics and the entanglement of matter and meaning. London: Duke University Press. Braidotti, R. (2013). The posthuman. Oxford: Polity Press. Taylor, C. A. (2018). Each intra-action matters: Towards a posthuman ethics for enlarging response-ability in higher education pedagogic practice-ings. In V. Bozalek, R. Braidotti, T. Shefer and M. Zembylas (Eds.) Socially just pedagogies. Posthumanist, feminist and materialist perspectives in higher education, pp. 81-96. London: Bloomsbury Academic. Trojer, L. (2017). Sharing fragile future. Feminist technoscience in contexts of implication. Kampala, South Africa: Makerere University Press.
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