Book Launch: Advances in Gender Research: Gender and Practice (two volumes)


 Presenter (s) Kristy Kelly, Columbia University and Drexel University, Carly Manion, OISE, University of Toronto

Gender and Practice: Insights from the Field is the first of two volumes in Advances in Gender Research (Emerald) series that aims to forge a link between the study of gender and the praxis of gender. It specifically includes contributions focused on the role of education, training and knowledge transfer by authors representing both academia and practice. The second volume in the Advances in Gender Research series is titled Gender and Practice: Knowledge, Policy, Organizations, focuses on the role that feminists play as translators of gender knowledge in diverse settings around the world. The editors – Vasilikie Demos, Marcia Texler Segal, and Kristy Kelly – developed this two-part series to draw attention to the ways that feminists as educators and leaders engaged in a systematic struggle for gender equality. They are guided by their understanding that social life is not simply gendered, but that it is hierarchically gendered, and therefore must be deconstructed. Practice is that understanding put into systematic action. Contributors explicitly focus on the ways in which their attempts to implement social change is gendered, as are the relationships between gender scholarship and their work in the field.

The first volume examines practices aimed at engendering higher education settings or knowledge transfer processes taking place within them; the role of training for feminist knowledge transfer in the spaces, places and process of community action; and the specific context of knowledge transfer in the field. The second volume emphasizes practices in transferring gender knowledge into policy and organizational settings. Chapters highlight the work that practitioners do in testing and evaluating programs and interventions, measuring impact, identifying gaps in understanding, building distributed leadership structures, and translating their gender knowledge into new fields. Together they illustrate what is meant by feminist praxis and illuminate context-specific challenges and opportunities that feminists face, as well as offers concrete lessons for others engaged in similar work.

Among the insights gleaned from the reading of these two volumes is that feminist knowledge transfer is key to reaching global commitments to mainstream gender into organization and development policymaking, budgeting, program implementation, and assessment. Gender mainstreaming has been conceptualized as a strategy to ensure that gender and the goal of gender equality are central to all activities pertaining to development in order to bring about a transformative social change. However, implementation of this concept has proven to be problematic. It has sometimes led to a focus on women and the insertion of women into development (WID) while discounting, with at times disastrous results, men and men’s critical role in social action. A better way to realize gender mainstreaming is by conceptualizing it as slow revolution with embodied individuals resisting gender inequality and reproducing gender equality on a day-by-day basis in intersectional settings, moving forward on gender equality, but also at times stepping back. The chapters included here illustrate this revolution as widespread and taking place both inside and outside mainstreaming institutions around the world. They also illustrate the complexity of the knowledge transfer process to effective mainstreaming through education, training and practice.

A second insight is that is that even with the best of intentions, gender practice does not produce revolutions. Feminist administrators work within institutional constraints, professors teaching gender and development must begin where the students are, and change occurs incrementally. In the field, trainers must see their teams intersectionally, respecting each member while also needing to convince them of the value of collecting gender data. Some kinds of change, such as those involving cultural shifts, are more difficult to measure and take more time than others. Change on the ground requires support from governments, donors and community leaders who may have conflicting goals and different understandings of gender than those held by the project team and the gender specialists. Educators have a particularly important role to play as they work to transform gender equality policy goals into transformative change on the ground.

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