Report on planning session 2, 1975

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From: Hester Eisenstein, Academic Coordinator Subject: Next Academic Conference

Report on Planning Session 2, September 24, 1975

This meeting was devoted to further discussion of the tentative topic of this year's conference, the interdisciplinary implications of femi- nism. People agreed that we should avoid the danger of narrowing down our topic prematurely. It was pointed out that (to summarize an ex- tensive discussion) having established that there is such a thing as feminist scholarship (The Scholar and The Feminist, 1974) and that feminist scholarship calls for new criteria of relevance (The Scholar and The Feminist II, 1975), we are now asking the question, what does the new feminist research look like? It seems in many cases to cross boundaries from one discipline to the next, or to combine several dis- ciplines; is it interdisciplinary? multi? trans ...? And what do we mean by these terms? Is it explicitly ideological /as opposed to traditional scholarship, implicitly ideological but presenting itself as value-free and objective)? Is it problem-centered? Does it con- nect the life of the scholar to her work, rather than severing one from the other?

It was remarked that feminists in different scholarly fields seem to want to create overlapping models, so that they can look at the same issue from different perspectives without talking entirely different languages. Also, the crossing of boundaries by feminist scholars takes different forms in different fields. Thus feminist scholars doing literary criticism, for example, are impelled to make points about social meaning--to ”transgress” across the usual disciplinary lines. The point was made that inasmuch as feminism is not the only source of interdisciplinary work, we should ask the question, what is there inherent in feminism that leads to this particular form of boundary~crossing?

Some other questions were raised: does feminist scholarship cross other boundaries——not just between academic disciplines, but between the academy and the non—academic world?; is truly interdisciplinary work as conceived by feminists conceptually possible (and just very hard work!) or not?; does feminist scholarship imply a concern with change and process? It was agreed that we should not try to make statements about feminist scholarship as established facts, but that rather, the conference should address itself to these issues as questions to be raised. A tentative title for the conference would be: The Scholar and the Feminist III: Crossing Boundaries.

The outline of a possible format was suggested, as follows: in the morning session, we would have two speakers, one raising the issue of the interdisciplinary nature of feminist scholarship, and exploring some of the reasons why interdisciplinary work--the crossing of

boundaries-—seems to be inherent in the concept of feminist scholar- ship. A second speaker would demonstrate the reality of this with a concrete piece of work, in an area of research that would be generally accessible to an audience of varied backgrounds. Then, in the after- noon, the seminars would be run by people in specific fields speaking of their own personal evolution in research, from one field to another, or two people working together on one problem from different fields, and so forth. The focus in the afternoon session would be much nar- rower, with fairly specific research topics outlined, so that probably the audience in the afternoon sessions would be attending seminars in their own fields of specialization, or at least, in their area (human- ities, or social sciences, for example).

It was suggested that the afternoon workshops should be very varied in format, as they were last year: some participative, others more for- mally like seminars, and so forth, so that people attending the con- ference would have a variety of formats to choose from, and would be satisfied that they had gotten what they came for.

It was agreed that at the next planning meeting we will begin to select names of possible speakers for the morning session, so that people should come with ideas and names. A tentative time-table was laid out: morning speakers to be invited as of mid-October, so that

a draft of the morning papers would be completed by Christmas, and the final papers would be at the Women's Center by mid-February.

The next planning meeting will be on Wednesday, October 8th, at 12:00 noon in the Women's Center. Please come (with lunch) and help us think further. If you can't come please send us your reactions, and most im- portantly, suggestions for speakers...or call Hester Eisenstein, 280- 5481 or 865-8781.