Voices from the Early Days – Patricia Jeffery on Feminist Pedagogy and Collaborative Practices

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Patricia Jeffery reflecting on the legacy of feminist pedagogy and collaborative practices in the academy.

Órla Murray: Was there a sense that discussions were being had in broader academic networks, whether feminist or informal women academic networks or the BSA, the British Sociological Association, about gender and feminist teaching? Were there collaborations or informal discussions with colleagues in other institutions or departments about how to do this, what are you teaching, can you help me with some references… was that going on?

Patricia Jeffery: Yes, I think one thing to bear in mind is that when this started in the early 1980s, there was no internet. There was no email! So these networking activities that are now the sort of thing that we do all the time, were so much more difficult. I mean you had to write a letter, or type a letter on a portable typewriter. Those kind of communications were not… [sending out] a group email to female colleagues and say “help, I’ve got this sort of dilemma, I want some advice on literature that I can use to put across this point, or has anybody seen a good film on-“, that kind of mass email that you could visualise sending out now, that wasn’t an option in those days! I suppose the networking was very much through letters, but also through conferences… But I think also in general people have been much more reflexive in the way they approach teaching, not just in relation to gender studies. I think some of that has been inspired by feminist discussions and if you think about some of the feminist interventions in discussions about methodology and the politics of the interview… a lot of that has started with feminist interventions, and now people are much more inclined to say “but that’s just good practice”. It’s gone back the way into a more general approach, and it can no longer be claimed as specifically feminist and I think pretty much the same could be said about a lot of the ways in which we deal with teaching, not only ideas about active learning. They’re not specifically to do with gender studies teaching.