2015 Biennial Conference of the GEA Association: Keynote speakers’ short bios and abstracts

2015 Biennial Conference of the GEA Association: Keynote speakers’ short bios and abstracts

Prof. Katarina Eriksson Barajas, Linköping University, Sweden

The Power of Fiction as a Pedagogical Tool for Eliciting Gender Discourses

My paper examines discussions of gender values in everyday life, elicited by books, film and theatre. The analysis draws on three Swedish data sets: 1) teacher-led book talk sessions that raise gender issues in small groups of pupils in Grades 4-7, 2) the use of a feature film (Lilya 4-ever, about sex trafficking) to instill gender equality values in upper secondary school, and 3) discussions of gender issues among adults after leisure-time visits to movies and theaters. The data is analyzed using a discursive approach (Edwards and Potter 1992) combined with poststructuralist feminist research on (children’s) reading (Davies and Banks 1992; Walkerdine 1990). The idea that we learn and develop fundamental values, such as gender equality, through fiction, coincides with research findings indicating that we develop empathy by reading good literature (Kidd and Castano 2013). My presentation contributes some empirical knowledge about how people are “doing equality” in natural everyday settings. The analyses show that gender stereotypes are, at times, transcended in discussions around fiction, regardless of the gender content in the book, film or play in question. Additionally, the analyses show that, even outside of educational contexts, fiction is spontaneously used by participants to address gender equality issues. The idea that fiction can open one’s mind follows Swedes throughout their education, and is apparent among adult film enthusiasts and theater-goers, and also relates to research of everyday learning and adult education (cf. Larsson 1996).

Davies, B. and Banks, C. 1992. ‘The Gender Trap: A Feminist Poststructuralist Analysis of Primary School Children’s Talk about Gender’. Journal of Curriculum Studies 24: 1-25.

Edwards, D. and Potter, J. 1992. Discursive psychology. London: SAGE.

Kidd, D.C. and Castano, E. 2013. ‘Reading Literary Fiction Improves Theory of Mind’. Science 342: 377-380.

Larsson, S. 1996. ‘Vardagslärande och vuxenutbildning’.

Walkerdine, V. 1990. Schoolgirl fictions. London: Verso.

Keywords: Every day life, popular culture, fiction, gender equality.

Katarina Eriksson Barajas is Professor of Education in the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Learning at Linköping University, Sweden. She is interested in child studies, comparative literature, discursive psychology, gender studies, and reader-oriented research. Her research focuses on needs and uses of fiction by applying a discursive approach on everyday practices concerning literature, film and theater. One such practice is the use of fiction as a didactic tool.


Prof. Penny Jane Burke, University of Roehampton, UK

Gender, Emotion and Difference

Feminist insights have contributed a richer understanding of the profound relationship between the histories of gendered subjectivity, ontology and epistemology and the vacating of the emotional from the world of the academy. In this keynote I will explore the emotional layers of pedagogic experiences not only to illuminate ‘fear as emotion’ but also ‘fear of emotion’ (Leathwood and Hey, 2009: 435). Such fear is entangled in the destructive forces of multiple political frameworks operating simultaneously to reform processes of misrecognition and symbolic violence, even as higher education policy is demanding that universities evidence inclusive practice as part of their commitment to diversity. Underpinning the hegemony of neoliberalism, meritocracy, and globalisation, and related undercurrents of misogyny, racism and classism, is the construction of ‘difference’ through fixing and pathologising identity positions. Difference and emotion are posed as dangerous forces that require homogenising and neutralising via technologies of managerialism and through the fixing of socially constructed categories. Such manoeuvres are deeply bound to moves towards hyper-individualism in which specific performative and instrumentalist models of success are being mobilised. New formations of patriarchy within neoliberalism ensure that characteristics associated with difference in HE, such as ‘being emotional’ or ‘caring’, are regulated and controlled through a range of new disciplinary technologies, including of teaching. Pedagogical relations are thus deeply implicated in the gendered politics of (mis)recognition, and profoundly connected to the impact of the emotional on the body and the self (Ahmed, 2004) and to the politics of difference. I will argue that we need to re/imagine difference not as a problem to be regulated for neoliberal processes of standardisation and homogenisation but as a critical resource to reflexively develop collective and ethical participation in pedagogical spaces. Such collective participation is not based on a notion that we can overcome power relations, but an understanding that power is complex and fluid and an inevitable dimension of pedagogical relations in which difference is and should be part of the dynamics in which we create meaning and understanding.

Ahmed, S. (2004) The Cultural Politics of Emotion. New York: Routledge.

Leathwood, C. and Hey, V. (2009) Gender/ed discourse emotional sub-texts: Theorising emotion in UK higher education. Teaching in Higher Education. Vol. 14 (4), pp. 429-440.

Key words: emotion, pedagogy, fear, managerialism

Penny Jane Burke is Professor of Education at Roehampton University, London, where she is co-Founder and Director of the Paulo Freire Institute-UK (PFI-UK) and Research in Inequalities, Societies & Education. She is also Global Innovation Chair of Equity and Co-Director of the Centre of Excellence in Equity in Higher Education at the University of Newcastle, Australia. Penny is passionately dedicated to developing methodological, theoretical and pedagogical frameworks that support critical understanding and practice of equity and social justice in higher education. Her research expertise includes gendered formations, higher education access and participation, pedagogical experiences and practices and student and professional identities. She has published extensively in the field of equity in higher education. After returning to study via an Access to Higher Education course, followed by a BA Honours and MA, Penny was awarded a full-time Economic and Social Research Council doctoral studentship from 1998-2001, which resulted in the publication of her book Accessing Education effectively widening participation (2002). Her most recent sole-authored book The Right to Higher Education: Beyond widening participation was published by Routledge in 2012. Her co-authored book Reconceptualising Lifelong Learning: Feminist Interventions (with Sue Jackson) was nominated for the 2008 Cyril O. Houle World Award for Outstanding Literature in Adult Education. Penny was recipient of the Higher Education Academy’s prestigious National Teaching Fellowship award in 2008 and she is the Access and Widening Participation Network co-Convenor for the Society for Research in Higher Education (SRHE). She is Editor of Teaching in Higher Education and a member of SRHE’s Governing Council and Publication Committee. Penny has held the posts of Professor of Education at the University of Sussex and Reader of Education at the Institute of Education, University of London.


Prof. Marília Carvalho, Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil

To move toward greater democracy in global production of knowledge

In international social science journals, including those with a feminist focus on gender, such as Gender and Education, articles about countries in the global South often show their location in their titles. In these articles, one finds explanations about the geographic and socio-economic context, the educational or political system, historical roots and so forth. But when a paper has no contextualization, and the authors use general words like girls, boys, women or teachers, then it probably comes from the metropole.

These points show some of the imbalances in global knowledge politics and despite the particular attention that gender studies developed to power relations, this situation is true also for our field. These questions have been debated for decades, all around the world, and they pointed out that the conceptual tools of metropolitan social science present themselves as universal and able to decode all societies. So the relevance of metropolitan theory and research is previously warranted by the universality from which it tacitly begins.

We, who produce knowledge from the global South, are used to translating in the broad sense of translation, which goes far beyond transferring linguistic meanings from one language to another. We are used to explaining and contextualizing, in order to make our ideas understandable. And besides translating our own texts and contexts, we also need to understand the locales in which the metropolitan research was conducted and the metropolitan theories were developed.

Behind this set of issues there is actually a wide-ranging epistemological debate about the possibility and need for universalization. But for now, I only intend to suggest a seemingly simple posture that can help us to move toward greater democracy in global production of knowledge, paying particular attention to feminist knowledge: an effort to clarify the contexts, an ongoing effort to shift towards the other, and to realize the necessary mediations to make the ideas of each one understandable for those who do not share the same cultural background.

Key words: North/South division of intellectual labor; translation; social science journals

Marília Pinto de Carvalho is Professor of Sociology of Education and Educational Policies in the School of Education at the University of São Paulo, Brazil. Her research interests focus on sociology of education, relating to gender and teachers’ work and also gender and school achievement of boys and girls. She is especially concerned with how gender, race and class work together in the context of institutional settings such as schools. Her current research is about how family socialization contributes (or not) to girls’ academic success in poor urban area schools.


Prof. Farzana Shain, Keele University, UK

Feminisms, imperialism and the ‘war on terror’  

More than thirty years ago, Amos and Parmar’s  groundbreaking paper ‘Challenging Imperial Feminism’, published in Feminist Review  (alongside other seminal works including Hazel Carby’s  ‘White women Listen’ and Mohanty’s ‘Under Western Eyes’)  sparked productive debate among feminists about the limits of ‘global sisterhood’ and about Western feminism’s uncomfortable support of imperialist interventions.   Since then, intersectionality, the concept alluded to by Amos and Parmar and later introduced by Kimberle Crenshaw to denote the multiple and interlocking systems of oppression that shape the lives of black women, seems to have been mainstreamed in academic work and policy discourse, though not without critique (Anthias, 2007).  However, the use of feminist rhetoric by Western leaders after 9/11 to justify the global ‘war on terror’ as well as some open endorsement provided by mainstream human rights and liberal feminist organisations has led to a renewed debate in the last decade about the relationship between imperialism and feminism. Drawing on the recent dialogue between US based feminists (Kumar; Toor; Tax) about the legacy of the global ‘war on terror’ for feminist politics and activism, and with a particular emphasis on the way girls and women’s rights to education have been used to justify such interventions, this paper takes a critical look at the issues to reflect on the direction that has been travelled by feminisms since the 1980s.

Key words: ‘war on terror’, feminist politics, intersectionality, imperialism and feminism

Farzana Shain is  Professor of Sociology of Education in the School of Public Policy and Professional Practice at Keele University.  Her early research  focused on the impact of neoliberalism on educational policy and practice in the further education sector in England.  More recently, her research and writing has focused on young people’s gendered, raced and classed experiences of schooling and also on young people’s understandings of the politics of oil.  She is the author of The New Folk Devils: Muslim Boys and Education (Trentham: 2011), and The Schooling and Identity of Asian Girls (Trentham: 2003), which collectively  explore the social and political identifications of young people in a schooling context in England against the backcloth of the global ‘war of terror’.


Prof. Lois Weis, State University of New York, USA

Class/Gender Formation in 21st Century United States: Probing Intersectionality in the New Upper Middle Class in Markedly Altered Global and National Circumstances

Unprecedented levels of executive compensation and finance largely drive well-documented inequalities of income and wealth, with resulting explosive growth in wealth among the top 1% in the United States, in particular (Piketty, 2014; Piketty and Saez, 2012; Saez 2013). As a consequence, the vast majority of highly educated professionals in the US and elsewhere, as well as those who inherited wealth from their parents, find their relative positions substantially eroding in relation to a class of super-rich financiers and senior managers..

This well-documented realignment has deep implications for the extent to which and ways in which relatively privileged parents strive to position their children for future advantage. Based on two years of extensive ethnographic investigation in three representative affluent and elite secondary schools in the United States (Weis, Cipollone & Jenkins, 2014), I argue that as relatively privileged women increasingly engage in a form of “mother work” designed to position their children for access to highly valued postsecondary destinations (at a time when such access can no longer be assumed), women become centrally located in new forms and enactments of “class warfare.” As I will suggest, the stark insertion of gender and gendered labor into new class processes/ productions fundamentally alters the fulcrum of class struggle in current historic moment, thereby setting the stage for class structural arrangements of the 21st century. Where men arguably sat at the center of class analysis and class struggle/warfare of the not too distant past via industrial workplace struggles and/or accumulation and management of massive economic capital, it is now women, via the kind of intricate class positioning such as that explored in this lecture, who sit at the epicenter of new class productions, formation, and outcomes. Turning class/gender intersectionality “on its head” so to speak, sets the stage for future important work on class/gendered productions in a range of class fractions in nations differentially positioned in relation to globalizing culture and capital.

Key words: intersectionality, class, globalization, ‘mother work’, gendered labor

Lois Weis is State University of New York Distinguished Professor of Sociology of Education at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York. She has written extensively about the current predicament of White, African-American, and Latino/a working class and poor youth and young adults, and the complex role gender and race play in their lives in light of contemporary dynamics associated with the global knowledge economy, new patterns of emigration, and the movement of cultural and economic capital across national boundaries. She is the author and/or editor of numerous books and articles relating to race, class, gender, education and the economy. Her most recent volumes include Class Warfare: Class, race, and college admissions in top-tier secondary schools (with Kristin Cipollone and Heather Jenkins, University of Chicago Press, 2014); Education and Social Class: Global perspectives (edited with Nadine Dolby, Routledge, 2012); The Way Class Works: Readings on school, family and the economy Routledge, 2008); and Class Reunion: The remaking of the American White working class (Routledge, 2004).

Lois Weis is a winner of the outstanding book award from the Gustavus Meyers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights in North America, as well as a seven-time winner of the American Educational Studies Association’s Critic’s Choice Award, given for an outstanding book. She is past-president of the American Educational Studies Association and past Editor of the American Educational Research Journal-Social and Institutional Analysis section. She sits on numerous editorial and advisory boards, including the International Advisory Group of the Forum for Youth, Participation and Democracy housed at the University of Cambridge, UK. She is member of the National Academy of Education (NAEd), an Honorary Fellow of the American Educational Research Association, and has delivered invited lectures worldwide.

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