This graduate course on Foundations of Feminist Research examines feminist perspectives on methodologies for conducting and interpreting research. Historically, feminist research expanded the theories and objects of investigation to a focus on women. This work then moved towards recognizing gender disparities. Eventually, this work moved towards contemporary critiques that included the investigation of the types of methods used in all research, the analysis of how theories are incorporated into research, the critique of how evidence is gathered, and determinations at higher levels of abstraction about what counts as truth and authority.
Foundations of Feminist Research offers a critical assessment of knowledge-generating strategies in terms of their suitability for feminist research. Feminist methodologies are not to be identified with any particular object of study or specific set of theories, doctrines or knowledge claims. This type of research is a self-reflexive inquiry that seeks knowledge for emancipatory purposes and which challenges asymmetrical and inequitable knowledge constructions. The course encourages students to recognize the value commitments that inform the variety of research approaches and that are maintained at all levels of research from initiating a hypothesis, asking the research question, identifying evidence, or selecting relevantly significant outcomes.
The first two thirds of the course addresses theories and debates regarding feminist epistemologies and research methodologies. The last third focuses on specific research methods and their methodological issues, such as interviewing, ethnography, survey construction, focus groups, oral history, reflexivity, the ethical applications of feminist scholarship. Students will apply the course materials to further their own research at whatever stage they are in their respective programs. For example, you can apply course material to a research proposal related to your thesis or dissertation, a draft of an IRB proposal, a chapter of your thesis/dissertation, your thesis/dissertation proposal, or other relevant life work outside the academy. In addition, students will apply course perspectives to their specific disciplines or fields. The course aims is two-fold. First, it guides students in developing a feminist approach to their research. Second, it attempts to build an interdisciplinary community of feminist scholars and thinkers here at CSU by building a common conceptual language and body of knowledge that supports and encourages feminist research and projects through a deeper understanding of the theoretical, substantive, ethical, and political implications of what it means to produce emancipatory knowledge.
Some questions we will pose and try to answer include:
1). Is there a feminist epistemology? What is it? How can we know?
2). What counts as feminist methodologies and methods? Who gets to say?
3). What is a feminist question for research and method? How does one formulate it? Is there a
feminist mode of analysis, research, and speculation? How does it differ from traditional
and other nontraditional modes?
4). How does one locate, compare, discuss, and evaluate feminist methods, research, scholarship and more generally, feminist work in light of disciplinary conventions & traditions, political traditions, assumptions, and “feminist genres?” Are there different feminist methods and theories? Are there other interdisciplinary methods and theories?
5). How do the writers and directors of popular and radical perspectives present their works in a feminist register? Are there shared, embedded, or hidden assumptions for feminist work outside the academy that must be adhered to? How do we know?