Feminist Epistemology and Methodology – a Caribbean Focus

Feminist methodologies and epistemologies have not only expanded but also redefined the parameters of the social sciences. These provide a critique of the androcentric bias of knowledge which has ignored and misrepresented women’s daily experiences. It is essential for Global South and Caribbean researchers to utilize feminist methodology and epistemology as these involve, inter alia, challenging academic writing as the dominant form of knowledge production, exploring the politics of inclusion and exclusion, and adopting a more just citation practice.

 

It is necessary to challenge academic writing as the dominant form of knowledge production and incorporate other forms. Uma Narayan (2008) supports this argument as she explains that registers of discourse which are not usually understood as ‘rational’ and ‘analytical’, like fiction or poetry, can be better than other forms to convey the complex life experiences of one group to another (762). Women of Colour artists, writers and scholars have recognized the gaps that exist in the knowledge that is produced and have made attempts to expand the various forms of knowledge production. Alice Walker’s “In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens” (1983) is one foundational feminist piece that exemplifies this as she challenges us to rethink what we know as knowledge. Walker explains that since black women have been excluded over the course of history from academic spaces of knowledge production, they have devised alternative ways and spaces to safely pass down their knowledge to future generations. Furthermore, we see the use of novels being utilized to explore the experiences of Indo-Caribbean women in the post-indentureship period. For example, Gabrielle Hosein and Lisa Outar (2016) trace Indo-Caribbean feminist perspectives not only through scholarship, but also transgressive storytelling, art, archives and cultural practices. By adopting this feminist methodology, they attempt to change the single narrative of academic writing as the only form of theory and knowledge production.

 

The politics of inclusion and exclusion have also been highlighted through a feminist methodological and epistemological lens. A common trend of hegemonic ideologies and Western feminisms is that Caribbean realities and histories have either been excluded from conceptualization or have been generalized into a homogenous category. However, Veronica Gregg’s (2005) collection Caribbean Women challenged this exclusion by highlighting the overall contributions of Caribbean women within the region (xiv). Gregg explains that Caribbean women should not be an addendum in the scholarship, as seen in Humm’s (1992) Modern Feminisms: Political Literary Cultural, where Asian, Black and Women of Colour lesbianism were forced into one chapter (122). But rather, it is necessary to study them and how they functioned within their social, economic and physical environments and how the intersection of race, class and gender influenced their experiences (Gregg 2005, 4).

 

Furthermore, a more just citation policy or practice is important for advancing the politics of inclusion. Sara Ahmed (2017) states that “Feminism is at stake in how we generate knowledge; in how we write, in who we cite. I think of feminism as a building project: if our texts are worlds, they need to be made out of feminist materials” (14). Adopting a citation policy that promotes women especially black and women of colour as well as Third World and Caribbean scholars, challenges the dominant knowledge producers and power structures that exists in knowledge production. Ahmed further explains that “Citation is feminist memory. Citation is how we acknowledge our debt to those who came before; those who helped us find our way when the way was obscured…” (2017, 15-16).

 

Overall, utilizing a feminist epistemology and methodology allows us to question knowledge and knowledge production processes which are traditionally androcentric. It involves challenging academic writing as the dominant form of knowledge production to demonstrate how other forms can be given value while also exploring the politics of inclusion and exclusion, accounting for differences and adopting a just citation policy and practice.

 

Essential Readings
Ahmed, Sara. 2017. Living a Feminist Life. Durham: Duke University Press.
Narayan, Uma. 2008. “The Project of Feminist Epistemology: Perspective from a Nonwestern Feminist.” In The Feminist Philosopher Reader, edited by Alison Bailey and Chris Cuomo, 756-765. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Reinharz, Shulamit. 2000. “Social Sciences: Feminist Methods.” In International Encyclopedia of Women: Global Women’s Issues and Knowledge 4, edited by Cheris Kramarae and Dale Spender. New York, NY: Routledge.

 

Further Readings
Gregg, Veronica.2005. “Introduction.” In Caribbean Women: An Anthology of Non-Fiction Writing, 1890-1980, edited by Veronica Marie Gregg. Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press.
Hill Collins, Patricia. 2016. “Black Feminist Thought as Oppositional Knowledge.” Departures in Critical Qualitative Research. 5 (3). 133-144. UC Press.
Hosein, Gabrielle and Lisa Outar. 2016. “Chapter 1.” In Indo-Caribbean Feminist Thought: Genealogies, Theories, Enactments, edited by Gabrielle Hosein and Lisa Outar, 1-19. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
Walker, Alice. 1983. “In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens: The Creativity of Black Women in the South” In In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens, 231-243. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

 

 

Questions
How can you utilize a feminist epistemology and methodology in your field of research?
How does a feminist epistemology and methodology challenge the way we think about knowledge and knowledge production?
How does a feminist epistemology and methodology raise issues regarding voice, power and representation?

 

Submitted by Shalinee Bahadur

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