This is a guest post by Kamya Choudhary and Cat Wayland, PhD researchers in the School of Social and Political Science at the University of Edinburgh. In it, they introduce a newly released comic, now available for online viewing, Feminist Struggles in the Academy in India and the UK.
Feminist Struggles in the Academy is the culmination of a year-long collaborative effort involving PhD researchers Cat Wayland and Kamya Choudhary, Dr Radhika Govinda, Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Edinburgh, and artists Shazleen Khan (London, UK) and Samia Singh (Punjab, India). The comic draws on a unique series of panel discussions and roundtable conversations involving established and emerging feminist academics and activists in Edinburgh, UK, and Delhi, India. These were documented between 2017-2018 as part of a research project, Teaching Feminisms, Transforming Lives (TFTL), led at the University of Edinburgh by Dr Radhika Govinda. TFTL, a collaboration between scholars and students at the University of Edinburgh and Ambedkar University Delhi, explores questions of identity, pedagogy, and violence in two differently diverse yet hierarchical, neoliberal contexts in Northern and Southern locations.
Feminist Struggles in the Academy emerges as part of the legacy of this research project, carrying forward the original vision of creating more open and inclusive spaces for feminist discussions. We hope that the comic is faithful in its reflections of these powerful exchanges, foregrounding the transformative potential of feminist classrooms at the university level and the centrality of reflecting collectively and comparatively through an ongoing dialogue across institutions and borders. Most importantly, we hope that a wide cross-section of feminists within (and perhaps even beyond) academia will identify with the challenges and rewards that our interlocutors described when trying to practice feminism within and against deeply neoliberalised and hierarchical institutions. In spite of the obstacles and the pitfalls along the way, the shared endeavour of the comic and TFTL more broadly points to the sense of optimism that fuels our visions of feminist futures.
The comic focuses on expressing feminist, intersectional, and decolonising perspectives on a panoply of themes, including pedagogy, positionality, neoliberalism in the academy, and sexual violence, all of which emerged at TFTL project events. Although its themes can also trace their roots to academic literature and scholarly debates, we wanted the comic to represent and communicate these through an artistic medium, so that their sensitivity and complexity can be addressed and captured in a way that may sometimes go unexpressed in academic writing. For instance, the thoughtful and attentive renderings by artists Samia and Shazleen help us to see how the concept of intersectionality is drawn out in terms of the speakers’ embodied identity, but also through their relationships to others who appear in the comic and the positions they hold within their respective institutional settings. Through the illustrations and the text, we have attempted to make visible the simultaneity of privilege and marginalisation in the academy in action.
We hope that GenderPol readers will find this and many other themes in Feminist Struggles in the Academy as points of identification, resonance, and inspiration. In the spirit of ongoing feminist dialogue, we look forward to continuing these important conversations and hope that the comic will inspire further discussion, critique, and imaginings of feminist futures.
Start reading Feminist Struggles in the Academy here: https://edin.ac/2Ai84bE