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Reconsidering Knowledge: Feminism and the Academy.


Feminism and the Academy


Fernwood Books


A contribution to feminist cultural history, this essay collection aims to "to explore current ideas about feminism in relation to knowledge, education and society." The collection "writes back" to a 1984 CRIAW publication, Knowledge Reconsidered: A Feminist Overview. Like its predecessor, it serves as a metaphorical Inukshuk built on and from the terrain of feminist scholarship--a point of reference and a cache of nourishment.

Ann (Rusty) Shteir, a founding member of York University's School of Women's Studies, identifies feminist scholarship as activism "seeking to shape knowledge that will change the world"--a position more theoretically oriented academics generally dispute. However, the seven essays testify to the considerable success of feminist scholarship since the 1960s in achieving academic change--challenging many orthodoxies, including the overvaluing of mastery and control in science.

Radically transforming academic culture--let alone society--has proven to be "remarkably elusive," admit the editors, who cite a sobering statistic from the UN: Women comprise barely 25 percent of all researchers worldwide.

Jacqui Alexander and Chandra Talpade Mohanty write about feminism's own transformation, including the expansion (still insufficient) of transnational feminism. Other authors reflect on the evolving understanding of sexual diversity and of abuse, which has led to major reforms in medical practice and in law. Still others highlight four decades of feminist revisioning in fields like literature, classics and history.

Despite--or perhaps because of-the current record-high enrolment of women students in Canada, the "remasculinization" of the university is being strategically engineered by increasingly right-wing and capitalist governments, with the complicity of university administrators, argues Australian Margaret Thornton, whose experience encompasses several continents. Books and articles about "universities in crisis" are proliferating as rapidly as corporate names on campus buildings, while equality rights are being systematically effaced. The trajectory of the modernization, feminization and corporatization of the academy feels, at best, like two steps forward, one giant step back.

Largely a book about feminist epistemology (theories of knowledge) and university culture, this slim book very ably outlines a recent portion of the jagged but irreversible story of women's unquenchable appetite for truth, in all its complexity.

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Author:Robbins, Wendy
Article Type:Book review
Date:Sep 22, 2012
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