Methodological Practice in Gender Studies (2017/18)

Course Description: 

This two-credit PhD course is a mandatory requirement for students in the first year of the PhD program in Comparative Gender Studies. Its aim is to critically interrogate the relationship between theoretical concepts, methodological approaches, and research outcomes with the underlying goal of incorporating decolonizing and de-universalizing perspectives. In this spirit, and keeping with the objectives of the PhD program, this course will emphasize comparative and integrative approaches to research from different disciplinary perspectives. Graduate students are typically trained to critique the scholarship they read and often focus on gaps, missed opportunities, and failures. This course, in contrast, will focus on how good research is done when it is done well: how does analysis actually happen? What approaches lead us to productive insights? What theoretical frameworks and research designs best illuminate the complexities of gendered life and expression? How do we critically examine and attempt to overcome the cultural foundations and implicit universalisms embedded in various scholarly concepts and approaches? In other words, how to we begin to avoid present-centric and ethnocentric (”western”-centric) assumptions while operating in an English-language scholarly environment? In the first part of the course we will read and discuss critiques of and debates about some key areas of knowledge production and methodological approaches in gender studies, namely comparison, de- and post- colonial critique, intersectionality and assemblage theory. Then we will move on to unpack the methodological underpinnings of exemplary pieces of research, both those assigned in the syllabus and those suggested by students. The final paper requires students to practice doing comparative and integrative analysis using primary materials on a topic related to their thesis projects.

Learning Outcomes: 

Upon completion of the course, students will be able to:

  • Critically and knowledgeably reflect on the process of how gender studies research and analysis are produced
  • Understand and critically evaluate scholarly debates about different approaches to comparison, multiple and overlapping social categories, decolonizing knowledge, and transcending nation-state boundaries in interdisciplinary gender studies research
  • Identify and critically evaluate forms of research and analysis that most productively illuminate the workings of interlocking social and material inequalities of which gender and sexuality are critical axes
  • Productively and knowledgeably relate the critiques and debates covered in this course to their own research interests and projects
  • Design and carry out a comparative and/or integrative analysis of primary material that makes a rigorous attempt at producing de-universalized, systematic insights into social and material inequalities
  • Achieve the aims of the personal learning goals set by each student at the beginning of the term

Your grade will be based on:

  •             Class participation and attendance                                         20%
  •             Suggested class reading and presentation                             30%
  •             Final paper preparation                                                           10%
  •             Final paper                                                                              40%

Class participation and attendance: Class participation from all students is a crucial element of this course. Attendance is therefore mandatory. If you are faced with an unforeseeable problem that prevents you from coming to class, please notify me as soon as possible and provide written documentation if applicable. For maximum points for class participation, you must regularly show you have read and critically assessed the assigned readings according to the goals of the course, set a well thought-out and realistic (set of) additional personal goal(s) for yourself at the beginning of the term, in the designated week suggest a carefully selected piece of exemplary research for the class to analyze and discuss and present the rationale for your choice in class (assessed separately as above), submit all work and peer feedback on time, and generally be engaged with the materials and discussions for the class.

Final paper: This assignment asks you to do what our readings and discussions are working towards: an integrative, de-universalizing piece of comparative analysis using some form of primary material chosen on a topic that is part of or closely related to your PhD thesis project. Think of it as an experiment or trial run for the comparative part of your comprehensive exam and the conceptualization of your thesis research. We will discuss the possibilities and parameters specifically in class and in individual consultations but you will have to settle on a topic fairly early. The first part of the assignment is due in week 5: submit a 1-2 page paper proposal which specifies the topic, research material, and guiding research question. I must approve this plan before you continue. The final paper is due by Friday, December 30 at 4pm at the latest (see below). The length will be determined mostly by the amount of space you need to fully work out the comparative analysis – roughly from 12-25 double spaced pages. It is important that this paper (and the time I need to grade it and give meaningful feedback) does not eat into the time you need to work on your PhD proposals and comprehensive exam materials or the start of the winter term. Additionally, we all need to take a break over the winter to recharge our batteries! It is therefore crucial that you gather your research material for the paper during the fall term and use the period after the end of classes only for analysis and writing.

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