Creative Feminist Pedagogy

My inquiries into cosmetic surgery and colonial ‘before and after’ photography have been shaped in a visceral, often intangible way through my body’s movement and creative expression.  I am touched and moved by psychoanalytic theories of education and learning, which hold open the possibilities that flow from being alone in a classroom with others who are similarly alone, nurturing a patience for not knowing together.  Educators and students often have no space within the institutions we work in for our bodies, for loneliness, and for being honest when we don’t know.  This area of my research considers how this space can be created, and its questions come from my own experiences of embodiment, aloneness, and not knowing, as well as those I witness in the classroom.

I am invested in an ongoing, lifelong engagement with feminist pedagogy and creative expression.  In this area of my research, I am particularly interested in how the academic project of feminism has investments with colonialism and imperialism, and how feminist educators might usefully engage and 'unsettle' these investments in our teaching, curriculum, and assignments.  Decolonizing Feminist Theory is an in progress handbook offering a contrapuntal re-reading of the field of feminist theory as it is taught in North America.  This book provides support for educators and students examining the centrality of colonial projects for feminisms and interested in imagining what it might look like to unsettle and decolonize these stories pedagogically. 

Doing Feminist Theory Through Digital Video is an example of an unconventional assignment I developed in response to these questions.  This assignment provides students with an opportunity to be curious about a concept in feminist theory, study it in depth through reading and service, and create a short digital video that can help others deepen their understanding of that concept.  To date, I have evaluated the effects of this assignment on student learning, focusing specifically on student learning through praxis.  In the fall of 2014, I interviewed community and campus organizations who supervised students through the service learning component of the assignment to evaluate the impact of student involvement, and currently have a book chapter under consideration based on this research.  Doing Feminist Theory Through Digital Video was generously funded by the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation and the Service Learning Program at St. Francis Xavier University, enabling me to hire Rory Begin and Holly Chute to work as the research assistants for this project.

I am in the very early stages of a new research project titled, “Creating Intergenerational Dialogues About Women’s Studies Across Time and Place.” This inquiry is situated within ongoing discussions of intersectionality in feminist studies, which will see the creation of imagined dialogues between “second wave” and “third wave” feminists using archival records as source material.  In particular, I am interested in archival materials dealing with the creation of women’s studies as an interdisciplinary field in post-secondary education in the 1970s (position papers, conference proceedings, course outlines) and zines created in, or as a response to, women’s studies classes in the 1990s to the present.  The central question that these dialogues will explore is: (how) do contemporary zines respond to the aspirations and critiques of the institutionalization of women’s studies in the 1970s?  This work will be one component that will help guide the design of a new course on feminist cultures, where the syllabus will be represented in zine format and students will create feminist culture through establishing ephemeral libraries and pop-up museums.

Related news

“Faculty Profile: Dr. Rachel Hurst - Opening Learning Opportunities.” StFX Alumni News, Summer 2014, p. 15.

“‘Doing feminist theory through digital video’ project deepens student learning, research paper finds.” StFX News, 23 July 2014. 

“New website launching April 4 showcases student voices, feminist theory, and unique Service Learning project.” StFX News, 2 April 2013.

“StFX Faculty Members Awarded Grants to Support Service Learning Projects.”  12 March 2012.

Related research outcomes

[E-book; in progress]  Decolonizing Feminist Theory.

[Submitted book chapter] “Evaluating the Effects of Community-Based Praxis Learning Placements on Campus and Community Organizations in the Doing Feminist Theory Through Digital Video Project.”

[In press]  Boon, Sonja, and Jocelyn Thorpe, eds.  “Reflections on the Intro Course: A Pedagogical Toolkit.”  Atlantis: Critical Studies in Gender, Culture, and Social Justice.  Multi-authored piece by eleven contributors, including editors: Lisa Bednar, Sonja Boon, Glenda Bonifacio, Margaret Hobbs, Heather Latimer, Helen Leung, Marie Lovrod, Carla Rice, Trish Salah, Jocelyn Thorpe, and Alissa Trotz.  (23 pp.)

“Creating Intergenerational Dialogues About Women’s Studies Across Time and Place.”  Research Presentation to the Hive for Feminist Research at St. Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, Nova Scotia, February 8, 2016.

“A ‘Journey in Feminist Theory Together’: The Doing Feminist Theory Through Digital Video Project.”  Arts and Humanities in Higher Education 13, 4 (2014): 333-347.

“How to ‘Do’ Feminist Theory Through Digital Video: Embodying Praxis in the Undergraduate Feminist Theory Classroom.”  Ada: Journal of Gender, New Media and Technology 5 (May 2014).  Special issue on Queer, Feminist Digital Media Praxis.

“Doing Feminist Theory Through Digital Video Funding Report.”  Experiences With Course-Based Service Learning: A Conversation with Colleagues (StFX Service Learning Colloquium Series).  St. Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, Nova Scotia, March 7, 2014.

“Doing Feminist Theory Through Digital Video.”  Dalhousie Conference on University Teaching and Learning: Internationalizing Teaching and Learning in a Global Context, May 1-2, 2013, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia. 

“Using Graphic Novels in the Classroom.”  Speaker for Faculty Development Committee Brown Bag Lunch Series, November 24, 2011.

“What Might We Learn From Heartache?  Loss, Loneliness, and Pedagogy.”  Feminist Teacher 20, 1 (2010): 31-41.

“Writing and Social Justice.”  The Association for the Psychoanalysis of Culture and Society 2010 Annual Conference: Psychoanalysis and Social Justice, October 22-23, 2010, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey. 

“Teaching Women’s Studies in Rural Towns and Small Universities.”  Canadian Women’s Studies Association Conference, 2010 Congress of the Social Sciences and Humanities, Concordia University, Montréal, Québec, May 29-30, 2010.  (Organizer of roundtable lunchtime discussion with Shana Calixte, Jennifer Johnson, Suzanne Lenon and Wendy Peters.)

[Book Review]  Braithwaite, Ann, Susan Heald, Susanne Luhmann and Sharon Rosenberg, Troubling Women’s Studies: Pasts, Presents, and Futures.  In Canadian Woman Studies/cahiers de la femme 26, 3/4 (2008): 234-235.

“Pedagogy in Flux: Learning From Feminist Teaching.”  (with Claire Carter and Jennifer Johnson).  York University’s Centre for the Support of Teaching TA Day, York University, Toronto, Ontario, September 1, 2005.

“Graduate Women’s Studies Method/ologies: Problems and Potentials.”  Canadian Women’s Studies Association Conference, 2005 Congress of the Social Sciences and Humanities, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, May 29-31, 2005.  (Roundtable with Claire Carter, Nancy Gobatto, Krista Johnson, Jennifer Musial, Melissa White, and May Friedman.)

“Teaching and Facilitating Through Heartache.”  Graduate Women’s Studies Student Symposium, York University, Toronto, Ontario, May 3-4, 2007.

“Teaching and Learning Feminist Critical Skills.”  Seminar presentation and discussion facilitated with Diana Gibaldi, Centre for the Support of Teaching and Social Science Teaching Development Programme, York University, Toronto, Ontario, February 8, 2006.

“Including Diverse Learning Styles in the Classroom.”  Seminar presentation, Centre for the Support of Teaching, York University, Toronto, Ontario, October 25, 2005.

“Teaching Feminist Critical Skills” (with Diana Gibaldi).  In CORE: York University’s Newsletter on Teaching and Learning 14, 2 (April 2005): 6-8.

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