As the title indicates, this course has been about contemporary feminist debate. Taking a somewhat unconventional approach, I structured the course around the belief that debate is not about winning an argument or rigidly defending one's position. Instead, it about "living with contradictions" (Jaggar) and staying perpetually curious (Enloe) about problems--what they are, how we frame them, and what strategies we can develop for responding to them.
I selected readings that were meant to highlight the complicated and contradictory ways in which a wide range of feminist thinkers approach key social issues. The readings were also intended to take all of us out of our comfort zone and encourage us to dwell in a space of unknowingness, where easy answers about "what is to be done" aren't possible. While I find this space of unknowingness to be unsettling (and oftentimes exhausting), I also find it be invigorating. Staying in that space of unknowingness allows me to remain curious and fosters my desire to always ask lots of questions about the limits and possibilities of any approach to an issue. In my vision of feminist movement (and my list of feminist values), curiosity, openness and asking lots of questions are central.
Now, I want to be clear here. I am not suggesting that staying in a space of unknowingness is all that anyone, particularly feminists, should ever do. As Anna suggests in her comment to this entry, curiosity, even if it is a feminist curiosity, is not enough. We also need to think strategically and constructively about how to respond to our most pressing issues. But, I wonder, what questions are left unasked and what possibilities get foreclosed when we move too quickly out of our unknowingess? Indeed, what political, critical and ethical value can come out of safeguarding that space? To conclude this reflection, I want to paraphrase, and slightly modify, a passage from Judith Butler in her book, Undoing Gender: While asking questions, remaining uncertain and being curious are not all that feminist movement is or should be, I can't imagine feminist movement without them.
Thanks for a great semester. I truly appreciate how willing you all were to stay curious. And I appreciate how much you all embraced the blog. Have a great summer!