A Question of Discipline: Pedagogy, Power, and the Teaching of Cultural Studies

By Joyce E. Canaan; Debbie Epstein | Go to book overview
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It has been my experience that Women's Studies does differ from Cultural Studies in the extent to which discipline is maintained or disrupted. This is partly I think because Women's Studies in higher education, at least in part, owes its origin to grass-roots self-education projects by and for women as part of the Women's Liberation Movement of the late 1960s and the 1970s. Cultural Studies did not, as I note above, emerge from a similar history. Nor has the questioning of pedagogy been as central, in Cultural Studies, to the questioning of the social relations (particularly gendered) of disciplinarity and professionalism. I would have to add here that while the emerging members-onlyness of Cultural Studies does not seem to differ greatly from that of many conventional disciplines (mostly white, mostly middle-class, and mostly male), one does see a great many women in Women's Studies! However, in most other respects, the dominant consituency of Women's Studies reproduces dominant relations of inequality (mostly white, mostly middle-class).
University education in the United States is longer, broader, and more flexible than it is in Britain. It was therefore possible for me to begin by majoring in political science (with an emphasis on constitutional law) at UCLA and then transfer to Berkeley and finish with a major in Women's Studies. This is not an atypical path, as students are not expected to 'declare a major' for the first two years (of four or five) of their education, are required to take diverse, multidisciplinary courses to fulfil their 'general' education, and are often to be found (generally with support and encouragement from the institution) changing their minds about their ultimate areas of focus.
TQA's are the recently introduced, and governmentally mandated, quantitative mechanisms for evaluating teaching quality, alongside research selectivity (which quantitatively measures research quality).
These dilemmas are made particularly acute by the fact that students in my current courses are pursuing degrees in sociology rather than having expressly chosen interdisciplinary studies.
There is a saying: 'to travel hopefully is better than to arrive'. This is, perhaps, the preferred meaning of Cavafy ' Ithaca' and one of the paradoxical subtexts of Dorothy's (in some ways more radical) journey to, through, and finally (disappointingly) from Oz. Like many wonder-struck viewers, I suspect, I never understood why Dorothy left Oz. For me, the real message was that to travel hopefully is to arrive. After all, it was through the journey to and through Oz, that ultimately joyous, magical, multicultural Ithaca, that Dorothy learned the meaning of oppression, the values and praxis of friendship, solidarity, collective action, and liberation and there, not in Kansas, found her own power to move and be moved.
This participant credited Ludmilla Jordanova with this perspective.
Bradley ( 1987).


Bowles, Gloria, and Renate Duelli Klein ( 1983) Theories of Women's Studies. London: RKP.


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A Question of Discipline: Pedagogy, Power, and the Teaching of Cultural Studies


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