Total Drek

Or, the thoughts of several frustrated intellectuals on Sociology, Gaming, Science, Politics, Science Fiction, Religion, and whatever the hell else strikes their fancy. There is absolutely no reason why you should read this blog. None. Seriously. Go hit your back button. It's up in the upper left-hand corner of your browser... it says "Back." Don't say we didn't warn you.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

So what does that mean, exactly?

Every so often I hear people accuse academics of being out of touch with reality. Under normal circumstances, I defend academics as just being jargon-prone professionals. Very intelligent, very dedicated to their jobs, and inclined towards complex language for the same reasons that a medical doctor refers to a bruise as a "sub-dermal hematoma." And then, every now and then, I encounter jargon too thick for me to pierce myself, and I understand what non-academics are talking about. This is one of those times. The below is taken from a recent advertisement for a PostDoc position.* It's for a set of positions that combine feminism with some other field of inquiry and, to be honest, all three vaguely frighten me.

1) Gender and physics. The interface between gender research and physics has mostly been restricted to understand "women in science"; conditions, power-relations, mechanisms of exclusion and the like. We encourage applicants to focus on questions about gendered knowledge and materiality.

I'm really not at all sure what the hell this means. My best guess is they want candiates who can ask the tough questions like, "Would a female version of relativity work the same as a male version?" The answer, as it happens, is yes. I'm sure Alan Sokal would be impressed.

2) Gender and animal research. Animal research has traditionally, with some very important exceptions, been viewed as "outside" of gender and feminist concerns. Applicants in this area are welcomed to focus on issues concerning the gendering of animals, and the animaling of gender, in biological and other research.

I was almost with this one until we hit the phrase, "...the animaling of gender..." at which point the wheels came off the wagon. On the other hand, maybe this means that at next year's ASAs the Gender Section will co-host a reception with the Animals & Society folks? We can only hope.

3) Trans-disciplinary feminist didactics. Gender didactics is an undeveloped field, mainly in Sweden but also internationally. At the same time it is pivotal in all gender research to understand how gender is communicated. Hence teaching is the key to transdisciplinary encounters, which is why a national knowledge base in gender didactics is expected to contribute to deepen the planned trans-disciplinary research and theory development. To meet this requirement, we invite a visiting scientist position in feminist didactics who will start the building of such a knowledge base.

This, of course, is just self-evident. Didactics is simply the theory and practical knowledge of teaching. So, basically, this is saying, "We need someone to study how to teach others about gender studies so that we can get others to care about gender studies." Not exactly a brilliant insight, folks. Additionally, in a weird twist, this passage tries so hard to be fancy, it's actually made itself mysterious. There's no understanding of how gender is communicated? To the contrary, there's a shitload of research on how gender knowledge is communicated. On the other hand there is relatively little information on how feminist thought can be communicated effectively, but I'm not convinced it's sensible to establish research positions in that.

Does this mean I hate feminism or gender studies? No. I do hate needlessly obfuscating language, though.

I mean... damn.

* For those outside the academy, a PostDoc is sort of the intermediate position between grad student and faculty.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think I disagree with you on number 2. The animaling of gender is really interesting and fairly informative. Why do we think of and often animate women as foxes or mice and men as bears and apes? The answer to this question says something about our conceptions of gender.

The part of number 2 I find silly is the gendering of animals. I'm guessing they mean we gender animals like we gender boats and cars. Which I guess is probably true, but with the added issue that animals have sex. To the degree that sex and gender overlap the question isn't really interesting. I guess what might be interesting are those cases when the animal's gender doesn't match its sex. This of course shows gender is socially constructed, not by the individual but by those who label the individual. Of course animals cannot participate in the construction or maintenance of their identities, so it fails to really inform us about humans. So I'm back to the point where this part of the question doesn't really lead to much insight.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007 1:57:00 PM  
Blogger Drek said...

To clarify, my issue with the "animaling of gender" is more that I object to the attempt to construct a word "animaling" than anything else. I mean, seriously, at some point do we just have to agree that some words are nouns and some words are verbs and they don't always overlap?

Tuesday, March 06, 2007 2:01:00 PM  

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