Production and circulation of knowledge on Gender: Perspectives from the Global South
Workshop – 17-18 December 2018 – CEIAS (CNRS/EHESS), Paris
The aim of this workshop is to analyze the conditions of production of knowledge on gender, from the perspective of countries based in the Global South. We wish both to highlight the local, regional and global dynamics of knowledge production on gender, as well as analyze the type of knowledge that is produced, from a theoretical as well as an epistemic perspective.
While much emphasis has been placed on knowledge produced about countries of the Global South, these countries are rarely considered as sites of knowledge production and theoretical debate. For instance, women’s, feminist and gender studies are now well documented in the case of Western Europe and the United States, from both a historical and theoretical perspective (Lagrave 1990, Brown 1997, Bereni et al. 2008, Clair & Heinen 2013). This is less true for countries based in the Global South, that generally appear in the form of field studies for concepts and theoretical frameworks developed elsewhere (Mohanty 1984, Desai and Desai 2002, Desai 2005, Spivak 2009). By focusing on knowledge as it is developed and theorized in the Global South, we intend to question the power relations, particularly North-South relations that shape scientific and academic discourses (Bhaskaran 2004, Dutoya 2016).
However, while it is important to take into account the inequalities that structure knowledge production in the Global South, such processes should not be envisioned only through the paradigms of diffusion, domination and theoretical dependency (John 2014a). For instance, in India, Women’s studies developed as early as the 1970s, and today there are more than one hundred women's study centres in the country. This process is well documented and has been marked by rich discussions regarding feminist pedagogy, the disciplinary status of women’s studies, or its links with the women’s movement (Rege 1997, Bhagwat & Rege 2002, John 2014b). Yet, this history and these debates are little known beyond the subcontinent. Similarly, the theoretical contribution of gender studies in Africa is too often neglected (Amadiume, 1987, Oyewumi, 1997, 2003, Imam, Mama and Sow, 2004, Cornwall, 2005, Sow, 2009).
Our purpose is thus to highlight the complexity and importance of knowledge production on gender in the countries of the Global South, without restricting ourselves to academia and taking into account the plurality of epistemic and theoretical choices, as well as the plurality of actors and institutions involved in these processes. In order to do so, the discussions will revolve around three axes of analysis:
1 / The social processes of knowledge production This axis focuses on the social processes that shape knowledge production on gender, looking at the social properties of actors, and the historicity of the processes under study (Cîrstocea, 2010b). What are the social properties and the trajectories of the involved actors? What are their resources and capital? What are their academic and professional backgrounds? Moreover, what are the institutional conditions, both local and global, of knowledge production? Papers can also deal with the material conditions of the production of knowledge, especially funding, either local or international (Hatton 1994), public or private. Addressing these issues involves thinking beyond academic actors or feminist organizations, and including non-governmental organizations, international institutions, or think tanks, for example.
2 / Globalization and circulation of knowledge Secondly, papers are expected to analyse the dynamics of knowledge circulation, reception and acquisition (Marques-Pereira et al., 2010, Cîrstocea 2010a), which can be approached through the roles of international actors and institutions (Tickner and Sjoberg, 2011, Caglar, Prügl and Zwingel, 2013, Bustelo, Ferguson and Forest, 2016) but also through local actors. We hope to engage a reflection on three dimensions: selecting (which theories, concepts, and authors are read and disseminated?), branding (who are the brokers, and how do they shape knowledge?) and interpreting (how is knowledge construed?) (Bourdieu 2009; Cîrstocea 2010b). Papers are therefore expected to document the institutions, the networks and the individuals that enable the global circulation of gender. For example, what is the role of international organizations (Saiget, 2015, 2017) or international academic institutions (Heilbron, Guilhot and Jeanpierre, 2009)? How do actors, both individual and institutional, become internationalised? And what are the links between the globalization of knowledge on gender, and of feminism? Do South-South exchanges play a role? And do they represent an alternative to the domination of the Global North (Valdés 2014)? We also encourage papers approaching the dynamics of inclusion and exclusion that characterize knowledge production and participate in the construction of closed epistemic communities of practitioners (Fuest 2010). “Intellectual migrations”, and their multiple perceptions (Heilbron, Guilhot and Jeanpierre, 2009: 129) could also be investigated. Is internationalization a resource or an obstacle in a postcolonial context where "authenticity" and rootedness are valued?
3 / Gender in the Global South: epistemology and uses The third axis focuses on the content and uses of knowledge on gender. Firstly, we will question translation strategies (Kaplan, Keates and Scott, 1997), that is to say the operations of reinterpretation and adaptation of these concepts aiming to build a “common idiom between the different sources of production of gender knowledge” (Stoffel, 2011: 134). How is the concept of gender translated, what are its various definitions? What are the most open disciplines to this concept in the academic context, and why? Secondly, a recurring issue relates to the chosen denomination: should we talk about women, feminist, gender or queer studies, and in what language? This question is also addressed by North American or European researchers and activists (Lagrave 1990, Richardson & Robinson 1994), but in the Global South, actors often highlight the specificity of “the South” in opposition to “the West” (on the understanding that practices and concepts around it may or may not have a basis). Thus, epistemological choices are often included in, but not limited to, broader debates about imperialism, Western domination, or imposition of international norms. In this respect, pooling and comparing the uses and definitions of the concept of gender will help us discuss the idea that gender has lost its critical potential in favor of an institutional use describing inequalities between men and women (Cîrstocea, 2010a). Last but not least, contributors could engage in a critical reflection on postcolonial approaches (Rao 2014). How do they reformulate gender, and to what extent are these reformulations based on local intellectual traditions (John 2014a)? How are they received in/by the Global South, and are they still perceived as emancipatory?
This three-pronged approach will allow us to investigate the making and the circulation of knowledge on gender in the South and focus on both concrete processes and theoretical productions. To do so, we welcome papers that are based on empirical data (observations, interviews including prosopography, socio-historical documentary analysis) and ethnographic approaches. We particularly encourage young researchers and researchers coming from countries of the so-called “South” to submit a paper. Costs related to the participation of the conference can be supported. Contributors should send their proposals to the organizers in English or French before 10/09/2018. Proposals (one to two pages) should include a title, a summary highlighting a research question, the methodology and data mobilized, and the axis of analysis the paper fits into. We will announce the selected proposals on 20/09/2018. In order to facilitate dialogue and exchanges during the day, we will ask participants to send their paper by 01/12/2018. The conference will take place December 17th and 18th, 2018 at the Study Center of India and South Asia, at EHESS, Paris, with the support of the GIS Institut du Genre. Papers can be presented in French or English. Participants are expected to attend both days, as the conference aims at setting up a network for future activities and research.
Emmanuelle Bouilly email@example.com
Virginie Dutoya : firstname.lastname@example.org
Marie Saiget : email@example.com
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Dr Emmanuelle Bouilly