Feminists and Methods
- Louise Chappell (Author)
Gendering Government: Feminist Engagement with the State in Australia and Canada. University of British Columbia Press (purchase at Amazon.ca)
- Deborah Schnitzer (Author) and Deborah Keahey (Author)
The Madwoman in the Academy: 43 Women Boldly Take on the Ivory Tower. University of Calgary Press (purchase at Amazon.ca)
Reviewed by Catherine Dauvergne
For an Australian and a Canadian, and a feminist academic with a brief history as a bureaucrat, reading these two books side by side has been intensely personal. All the more so because what the two have in common is immense breadth and depth – with each subsequent chapter or excerpt revealing more than I had imagined would be there.
In Gendering Government, Louise Chappell examines how feminist engagement with the state has differed in Australia and Canada. Her explanation for why this is so challenges the stock story of strategic choice, adding the ingredients of institutional form and political opportunity structures.
Chappell is a political scientist and I suspect that some of the more nuanced theoretical distinctions she delivers are most resonant for others in that discipline. I appreciated her broad approach to the state – considering it a multi-layered and multi-faceted entity, even when framing the analysis through neo-institutionalism. She offers analysis of the formation of late twentieth century feminist politics, of electoral politics, bureaucracies, courts, federal institutions, and NGOs. Her claim that this is the first work to offer this level of analysis is a strong one: she considers a range of institutions and time frames for both countries. It is a rich and full picture.
I am not well positioned to say whether her presentation gives enough detail for those who do not know some of this narrative already but I suspect it is. For me, this worked filled in parts of the story which had taken place while I was living the opposite half of it, and the result was deeply satisfying.
Madwoman in the Academy is a collection that no woman working in a university should be without. Although it is Canadian in focus, the experiences it presents are replicated everywhere. The contributions are arranged in five “movements” and I confess to reading the book randomly, dipping in and out of it over the space of a month. I will keep going back to it for solace and affirmation, as an antidote to hubris.
Contributions to Madwoman in the Academy come from women in all corners of the institution – staff, students, junior and senior scholars all have a voice. Each contribution is text, but beyond that they share only the uniting theme: female life inside the university. Short segments lend themselves well to reading while waiting for the cello lesson to end, soccer practice to begin, or during a lecture or department meeting, as the need arises.
The only thing that troubles me about this collection is the “madness” of its title, disturbing when what it contains is a record of rational reflection and careful choice, what Louise Chappell might call strategic response to the opportunity structure of an institution. These books differ most in their methodology. But each method is vital to a feminist rationality.
- Sparrow Nation by Christoph Irmscher
Books reviewed: When the Eagle Screamed: The Romantic Horizon in American Expansionism, 1800-1860 by William Goetzmann, The Shaping of American Ethnography: The Wilkes Exploring Expedition by Barry Alan Joyce, and Elliott Coues: Naturalists and Frontier Historian by Michael J. Brodhead and Paul Russell Cutright
- Quebec Political Ideas by Kenneth Munro
Books reviewed: Le rouge et le bleu: une anthologie de la pensée politique au Québec de la Conquête à la Révolution tranquille by Claude Corbo and Yvan Lamonde
- Archaïque...et avant-garde by Neil B. Bishop
Books reviewed: De mémoire de femmes. "La mémoire archaïque" dans l'oeuvre romaneque d'Anne Hébert by Anne Ancrenat
- Man of the Far Right by Michael H. Keefer
Books reviewed: What's Right: The New Conservatism and What It Means for Canada by David Frum
- Working the North by Sherrill Grace
Books reviewed: Reaching North: A Celebration of the Sub-Arctic by Jamie Bastedo, Running with the Caribou by Pete Sarsfield, and Teaching in a Cold Windy Place by Joanne Tompkins
MLA: Dauvergne, Catherine. Feminists and Methods. canlit.ca. Canadian Literature, 8 Dec. 2011. Web. 20 May 2013.
This review originally appeared in Canadian Literature #186 (Autumn 2005), Women & the Politics of Memory. (pg. 121 - 121)
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