OUT OF THE IVORY TOWER: Feminist Research for Social Change

Article excerpt

OUT OF THE IVORY TOWER: Feminist Research for Social Change Andrea Martinez and Meryn Stuart, eds. Toronto: Sumach Press, 2003; 360pp.

Out of the Ivory Tower: Feminist Research for Social Change is a collection of 14 essays in an anthology of feminist research conducted by scholars primarily connected with the University of Ottawa's Institute of Women's Studies (IWS). The book is the culmination of an initiative of that Institute "to consolidate feminist research at the University of Ottawa and to promote the dissemination of feminist knowledge to a wider audience outside our walls" (p. 11). The editors describe how this initiative emerged in response to the "Worldwide March for Women" in the fall of 2000 and from a desire that this consolidation of research into a published anthology build on what they perceived as an energizing momentum in the activities of the march. In particular, their stated hope is that such an anthology would build on that momentum by increasing awareness of feminist work being done within IWS and by facilitating links with wider political agendas in a broader community.

In their introduction, editors Andrea Martinez and Meryn Stuart suggest that the anthology was not intended to be shaped by a particular theme; rather, it was "a general call without specific boundaries" (p. 12), other than the shared element of feminist work associated with the IWS that the editors have gathered and offer for dissemination to a broader audience of scholars and activists. Within this broad scope, the editors helpfully organize the contributions under a shared topic of "women's relationships to their bodies, history, public and private spaces and new technologies" (p. 12), and identify in the collected essays four research themes which in abbreviated form are: recovering histories and meanings; "negotiating" the female body; shaping equity for women; and, negotiating the new technologies of cyberspace.

The book covers a diverse terrain of disciplines, methodology, histories and geographies. Individual essays offer much that would be of use to scholars and activists engaged in the particular fields and contexts to which they are directed (histories of science, nursing, lesbian community; Aboriginal women's leadership, bioethics, employment equity, communication technologies, and more). The introduction to the four research themes is a means to link the research with political agendas beyond the academy.

The collection would be enhanced by more detailed analyses of disparities, connections, and tensions among the various contributions and the implications of these for engaged feminist practice in various contexts. For example, several of the essays raise questions about "which women? …