- Feminist Pedagogy in Higher Education: Critical Theory and Practice ed. by Renee Bondy, Tracey Penny Light, and Jane Nicholas
A cross-disciplinary collection of feminist approaches to pedagogy in higher education, this timely and important book is an invaluable resource for teachers and learners alike. Collectively the book's contributions engage in contextualized pedagogical approaches that offer inventive strategies to foster critical thinking. Many of the contributors to this volume build on pivotal insights from key feminist scholars who have laid the foundations for this important work including bell hooks, Gloria E. Anzaldúa, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Sunera Thobani, Leanne Simpson, and Linda Tuhiwai Smith, among others. The book begins with a discussion of the historical exclusions and ongoing intersectional failures of post-secondary institutions, including the effects of neoliberalism and the corporatization of the academy. Both rural and urban universities are represented and contributors are attentive to the demographic contexts of each institution. Theoretically informed and analytically rich, one of the unique strengths of this volume is each contributor's detailed outline of both their teaching strategies and in-class activities.
Included among these are approaches that de-centre key dualisms that reinforce rigid distinctions between university and community, academic and activist, teacher and learner, by reframing the university and classroom as both community and context (Briskin; Gullage; Llewellyn and Llewellyn). In contrast, other contributors use these distinctions in conjunction with their authority as instructors to encourage students to integrate their learning experiences both inside and outside of the classroom through knowledge-sharing activities that validate them as both learners and knowledge producers (De Santis and Serafini; Wilson). [End Page 180]
Book clubs are among the strategies that are used in order to bring bell hooks' idea of engaged pedagogy to life both inside and outside of the classroom while simultaneously challenging some of the barriers to access to education that are raised in the introduction (Bondy). Other contributors answer bell hooks' call for a confrontational pedagogy where instructors are asked to use their authority to disrupt notions of a mythic "safe space" through approaches aimed at dislodging discriminatory belief systems including stereotypical assumptions about who makes up the student body (Light; Nicholas and Baroud; Silva Flores). The intersections of power, agency, and affect are also explored as creative pedagogical tools that can be used to disrupt gendered presumptions around anger and sex through their reconceptualization (Dorney; Labinski).
Storytelling is another important tool used to disrupt dualistic thinking that reinforces dichotomies like empowered/victimized, professor as knowledge keeper/student as vessel. It is also used to destabilize dominant narratives that limit knowledge to a single worldview. Abandoning a single textbook in favour of a polyphonic approach that includes elders, traditional teachings, Indigenous feminisms, and local histories can empower students as change agents through the crafting of their own histories (Srigley). Film and life writing can be used to take students down Gloria Anzaldua's path of conocimiento in order to embrace and grapple with realities that are fundamentally different from their own (Browdy de Hernandez). Similarly, art, music, script writing, role playing, and dancing disrupt the mind/body dualisms that inform dominant, positivist ideas of knowledge production (Iverson), and narratively driven approaches to ethical dilemmas can move students to more complex places of moral reasoning (Gotlib).
The value of feminist pedagogy cannot be overstated. Nevertheless, this volume has several blind spots, two of which are acknowledged by the editors. These include the absence of contributors from the STEM disciplines and its "distinctly Western bias." In addition, only a fraction of the contributors tackle student resistance or refusal to engage, few address institutional and departmental obstacles to interdisciplinary course development, and none of the contributors discuss the emotional labour involved in addressing intersectional violence and discrimination in the classroom. While this volume is an invaluable resource, for this reviewer one question lingers: what are the challenges to feminist pedagogy in small, understaffed interdisciplinary departments or departments that face increasing enrollments but rely on non-tenured faculty and part-time...