Traveling Concepts in Gender Studies (2017/18)
Generating ‘traveling concepts’ is an inherent feature of all theories. And in feminist theory, with its intentional, self-reflexive eclecticism, the question of traveling concepts is of particular importance. Producing an interdisciplinary frame of thinking, where traditional modes of knowledge production are put in question, feminist theory is continually re-thinking its key concepts, thus creating changes in conceptual framework that have significant theoretical and methodological implications.
In this course students are invited to participate in a critical debate over several key concepts in contemporary feminist thinking, exploring the ways these concepts have been used in more recent theoretical debates. The emphasis is on feminist perspective, but in some cases, for the sake of clarity and better understanding of specific conceptual histories, other perspectives are also included. The final format of the course is always the result of close cooperation between all participants since students are invited to participate in the final selection of the concepts to be closely investigated.
The course starts with Mieke Bal’s claim that concepts ‘if well thought though, offer miniature theories, and in that guise, help in the analysis of objects, situations, states, and other theories’ (Bal 2002, 22). It is also assuming that, in order to function as ‘shorthand theories’, concepts have to be used in a self-reflexive way, with an understanding of theoretical framework(s) they belong to, and with a critical assessment of their traveling histories.
In the first part of the course an overview of Mieke Bal’s interpretation of the specific problematic of ‘traveling concepts’ is given, together with in introduction into an interdisciplinary project named ‘Traveling concepts,’ developed by European women’s studies network Athena, which has brought together a number of feminist theorists and feminist thinkers across European academia. Secondly, the complexities of interdisciplinary and intersectional perspectives in women’s studies and gender studies are re-visited
In the core part of the course specific histories and current uses of a number of interrelated concepts are discussed more in detail, in particular their ‘traveling’ from individual scholar to individual scholar, across historical periods, and between academic disciplines, In the present syllabus the proposed concepts are: theory, gender, discourse, narrative, identity, hibridity, agency, transnational. Students are expected to read the texts offered for discussion, and to come prepared to talk about their own understanding of the given concepts, which also includes critical thinking of the ways in which the given readings might have influenced their previous understanding and use of the given concepts.
For the class on gender students are expected to suggest up to 10-15 pages paper/excerpt from a paper/book chapter which describes as close as possible their understanding of the concept of gender. The deadline for suggested texts to be uploaded to the e-learning site is October 4.
In the last part of the course students are invited to prepare presentations on one of the key concepts they will be using in the preparation of their Ph.D. proposals. This also means that new concepts, otherwise not discussed in the class, will be introduced. For each concept to be presented there will be at least one article distributed to the class for general discussion.
After passing the course, students should be able to:
- understand and discuss critically the idea of ‘traveling concepts’;
- to re-think critically the scope, the meaning, the history of several key concepts in women’s studies/gender studies with an understanding of theoretical and methodological implications of different shifts in their use;
- to look into different trajectories of the given concepts, and interrelatedness between their paths;
- to understand the consequences of significant shifts in conceptual frameworks within a larger theoretical frame;
- to be able to perform similar critical analysis for other key-concepts they will be using in their Ph.D. proposals, and later, their Ph.D. research.
Course Requirements and Assignments
Full participation and class discussions: 30%
Presentation on a traveling concept, student’s choice: 25%
Final paper 15-20 pages: 45%