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Thinking through feminisms from the region

Authors: Brittany Cook*, University of Lousiana at Lafayette
Topics: Middle East, Geographic Theory, Field Methods
Keywords: Middle East, feminist geography, methodology, regional geography
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Recent work on the politics of citation and connected efforts to decolonize syllabi has drawn attention to the ways in which the academy excludes diverse voices by valuing particular people and perspectives over others. Similar decolonizing work is also needed as we conduct research and build theory. While scholars have used important concepts such as positionality, situated knowledges, and collaborative methods to try to address power inequalities in fieldwork, these concepts are somewhat limited in terms of their ability to increase engagement from diverse perspectives.

I argue here that taking the idea of theorizing from the region, and applying it to both our analyses and the research process, can open opportunities for incorporating difference more significantly than via identity politics. Drawing on my work on women’s ‘traditional’ food projects in Jordan, I illustrate how theorizing from the region is essential for reconciling the differences and tensions within fieldwork. These tensions exist between the theories that we bring to the research, the contradictions we see on the ground, and the multiple worldviews of our social circles during fieldwork. In my work, thinking 'from' the region forces an engagement with a multitude of (sometimes contradictory) feminisms simultaneously at work in these development programs and what these differences create, both in terms of practices on the ground and the theoretical contributions of my work.

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