Archive for the ‘Life of a Student’ Category

alright folks, I’ve got an announcement.

I’m not feelin’ it anymore. you know, it’s been a great two years (and a bit), being here with you all, discoursin’ and whatnot. It’s been a pleasure, really. I’ve learned so much – SO MUCH. Maybe even more than what I learned during my whole undergrad degree. Certainly what I have learned through engaging with you all has been personally extremely useful and satisfying.

But, I am not feelin’ it right now. I’m super-busy, and there’s the ramifications of moving and starting a new degree, leaving all my real life friends and family behind, while having to extend myself past my little world in my head in order to meet new people and build a new community here. I want to be successful at what I’m doing here, and I also need to take care of myself. And, unfortunately, I feel that right now, part of taking care of myself is not doing this anymore.

Maybe for now, maybe for a while, maybe forever. I may not be able to resist poking my head in and letting a post loose every now and then, but that will all take place on the schedule of TCB -Taking Care of Baby (which of course, is me). If it feels right and helpful for me to do so, instead of a chore, then I’ll do it. so keep your feed readers active.

So for now, imagine me doing yoga, sitting and drinking tea with a friend, swimming, cooking wonderful things to eat for myself and my peeps, reading non-school related books, and getting lots of rest and/or work done, INSTEAD of being here. I’ll continue to deal with comment moderation, but I may not respond in the same manner as I used to do, as per the new TCB schedule. So that being said, I’m going to leave it up to you, faithful readers, to help me out in answering comments that may arise. And of course, please, all of you fellow bloggers, continue to lambaste, rankle, subvert, protest, rise up against, resist, and whatever other adjectives come to mind,  the hegemonic forces going on all around us. Don’t worry, I’ll still be doing all that too. You just might hear about it in different ways.

Regulars, friends, please do email me. I’d love to hear from you on a personal basis. You’re no less dear to me because I’m backing out of blogging.

Peace, my sisters and my brothers. TG out.

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had to read some stuff for class the other day on whether or not black judges and female judges could be impartial.

yup. that’s what I said.

and, of course, I harkened back to my summer of researching and writing my thesis. all kinds of stuff came spilling out about how the dominant class always thinks they have the market cornered on what is objective. but how of course, nobody is exempt from having a social identity, and how it’s pretty much impossible to ever escape the perspective that you have as a result of that identity. And so, those who claim they can are pretty much fooling themselves by assuming a false (because it’s not possible) and disingenuous (because they claim they can) god’s-eye view of the world.  Because the very act of claiming that false position is protecting the interests and values of the dominant class.

I think what we need to do is re-think the entire notion of objectivity. Because it’s ridiculous to claim that one group (who happens to be the dominant class, funny how that works) has a perspective that is unbiased and impartial, and all the rest can’t possibly achieve objectivity because they’re too tainted by their vaginas or their dark skin or slanty eyes or their homo/bi/trans-sexuality.

seems to me that the best way to get to a model of the world that reflects reality most closely is to include everyone in the process. you know, like EVERYONE. poor folks, white folks, women folks, gay folks, jewish folks, black folks, lesbian folks, men folks, rich folks, transfolks, hispanic folks, middleclass folks, bi folks, native folks, mixed race folks, intersexed folks, smart folks, asian folks, disabled folks… all folks. we all need representation, ya know? the more people who are excluded from a process like, oh, justice or academia or science or whatever, the more slanted that “truth” is gonna be (holla Kevin!).

class dismissed.

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Hi all –

just a quick little note to say hello and that I’ve arrived in my new city safe and sound! the trip was a bit harried when my dad decided to make a drastically wrong turn in Montreal and we got lost for a while, but I did get to see the beautiful Quebec City along my way  , which I highly recommend as a vacation destination – it’s the most beautiful city I’ve ever seen.

no, Rainbow Girl, I’m not in Calgary. That’s way more than halfway! I’m in Toronto now, which might be a little under halfway, but close enough.

thanks to all-stars donna darko and Scarred for continuing the conversation while I’ve been busy getting oriented.

And thanks to Red Jenny for meeting me for coffee! yay!

ok, so I don’t have internet at home yet, hopefully by the end of the week, and I’m really busy with school and getting settled in, so I can’t promise many posts in the upcoming weeks, but I’ll do my best!

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alright people: tomorrow is moving day. I will be driving halfway across the country and lugging boxes of my belongings over the next several days, and my access to internet will be limited and questionable for a while. So, in the meantime, please try to play nice. and try not to freak out if you make a comment that gets moderated, or send me an email that doesn’t get answered. I won’t be able to respond as quickly as I have been. Just be patient.

And, wish me luck! I’m starting school on Tuesday!

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you fucking suck.

the end.

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apparently, I don’t deal well with change. If anyone has any advice on how to calm my frayed nerves, deal with a million things to do and virtually no time to do them, and how to prevent a 2 tonne elephant from sitting on my chest each morning when I wake up, speak now! nothing I’m doing is helping, including getting 8 inches of my hair chopped off.  the remedy for stress of change is not more change. note to self.

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one of the ways I like to write papers is to read a lot of papers. I read voraciously every article I can find on the topic in question, and make detailed and copious notes. Then, I compile those notes, study them closely, and make connections between them until I have a little family tree of ideas on the topic in question. Then I look for gaps, and try to fill them in, or lead branches in a different or renewed direction.

That’s how I approached my thesis.

Here are some of the notes I compiled about standpoint theory. I have 24 pages of notes, so not all of them will appear here. but I may put together some more posts with more notes if y’all want more. References appear at the top of each section. Those sections in colour are the ones that I actually used or referenced in my thesis. The rest just informed my understanding of the subject.

Sorry if the formatting is wonky. Also, this might be a bit long. It’s not everything, but this seemed like a good break, post wise. If there are more posts, then the next one will include notes from a kind of dust-up between philosophers interested in standpoint theory.

Harding, Sandra. 2004. “Introduction: Standpoint Theory as a Site of Political, Philosophic, and Scientific Debate” in The Feminist Standpoint Theory Reader: Intellectual & Political Controversies, 2004, New York and London: Routledge, 1-15.

           Standpoint theory has been a controversial topic, in part because it challenges the theory that politics obstructs and harms the production of scientific knowledge. (1)

          Standpoint theory is not just an explanatory theory, but also a methodology (1)

          Standpoint theory is normative, empowering political theory and epistemology (2)

          Standpoint theory is presented as “a philosophy of both natural and social sciences, an epistemology, a methodology… and a political strategy.” (2)

          Standpoint theory is based in Marxism (2)

          Standpoint Theory insisted that feminist concerns be acknowledged as valuable (2)

          Standpoint theory is an organic theory that can arise around any oppressed group. It’s also a folk history (3)

          Despite criticism, standpoint theory doesn’t go away (3)

          Standpoint theory “helps to produce oppositional and shared consciousness in oppressed groups – to create oppressed peoples as collective ‘subjects’ of research rather than only as objects of others’ observation, naming, and management.” (3)

          The voice of scientific discourse has been male, androcentric (4)

          The point of science has been objectivity – timeless truth free from political and cultural influences (4)

          Science could never/has never achieved this, because “the conceptual frameworks themselves promoted historically distinctive institutional and cultural interests and concerns, which ensured that the knowledge produced through them was always socially situated.” (4-5)

          Science’s commitment to ‘objectivity’ that mandated social neutrality was itself not socially neutral in its effects (5)

          Feminist research projects often produced more empirically accurate accounts (5)

          Traditional frameworks obfuscated power relations and reasons for women’s oppression, as well as who actually benefits from this state of affairs (5)

          The remedy for these inadequacies is to begin research projects from within a standpoint, even though these projects would be “outside the realm of the true” according to traditional frameworks (6)

          Women need “to understand the conceptual practices of power… through which their oppression was designed, maintained, and made to seem natural and desirable to everyone.” (6)

          There is a general and widespread need in social and scientific discourse to see past dominant discourses and see the realities of women’s lives vs. the conceptual practices of social institutions. This requires political engagement – “to gain access to the means to do such research,” “to create women’s collective, group consciousnesses,” to produce insight.

          There have been some questions about “whether it is women’s experiences, women’s social locations, or feminist discourses that are to provide the origin of knowledge projects.” (7)

          ***Knowledge is socially situated – knowledge is based on experience, and different situations result in different knowledges. But more than this is at stake. Oppressed groups “can learn to identify their distinctive opportunities to turn an oppressive feature of the group’s conditions into a source of critical insight about how the dominant society thinks and is structured. Thus, standpoint theories map how a social and political disadvantage can be turned into an epistemological, scientific, and political advantage.” (7-8)***

          standpoint is an achievement, not simply a perspective. Standpoint requires politics, and can result in empowerment (8)

          standpoint theorists have struggled to create a different kind of decentred subject of knowledge and history, which has largely been accomplished by developing theories of intersectional social locations (8)

          ***Epistemic privilege that is possessed by marginalized groups is not automatic, but the result of political struggle (9)***

          The question of relativism is one that continues to come up in relation to standpoint theory. Some points to bear in mind in response to the charge of relativism are: (11-12)

1.       Some research areas are motivated by specific values and interests that are not universally held and yet these are not considered inferior because of this – an example is medicine

2.       All knowledge claims only have meaning within particular cultural contexts

3.       Choices are made between value-laden interested claims all the time without being paralysed by these competing claims

4.       If all knowledge claims are situated and hold values and interests that are local, then it makes no sense to insist that one set of claims are not situated.

          Standpoint theory arises in several disciplinary contexts – so “standpoint theories” is more clear. These differ from dominant epistemologies but also from each other. (12)

 Smith, Dorothy E. (1974) “Women’s Perspective as a Radical Critique of Sociology” in The Feminist Standpoint Theory Reader: Intellectual & Political Controversies, 2004, New York and London: Routledge, 21-33.

           “from the point of view of ‘women’s place’ the values assigned to different aspects of the world are changed.” (21)

          It is not enough simply to add on marginalized analyses as an addendum to dominant discourses because this ignores the relations of power between them that contribute to the suppression/privilege situation. (21-22)

          Women must think of the world through concepts and terms devised by and imposed by men (as dominant) – “women are alienated from their experience” by androcentrism and the hegemonic structure of male privilege/female oppression. (22)

          The governing of society is done via concepts and symbols. Everything in sociology is governed by a “view from the top” that shapes and decides what is important/relevant, what is “fact” (23)

          Ethic of objectivity is a research practice that requires distancing the knower from what is known, and particularly from what she already knows (24)

          All investigations of the world happen from within a particular location – an embodied location. Sociology aims to transcend this. (25)

          “Women are outside and subservient to this structure” (26)

          Men are permitted to leave their location, to alienate himself from it in order to transcend it. This alienation from bodily/material concerns is always incomplete and requires someone to help him take care of his material and bodily needs – that is most often a woman, who “provides for the logistics of his bodily existence.” (26)

          Marxist alienation doctrine – the relation between work and external oppressive order is “such that the harder she works the more she strengthens the order which oppresses her.” (26)

          Methods and theories of sociology as a discipline takes for granted the conditions of its existence. It is not capable of analyzing this relation because the sociologist as an actual person who is socially located has been erased by the very process of sociological investigation which requires him to distance himself from his knowledge. (27)

          Female sociologists cannot do this because the duties of womanhood do not allow for it (27)

          “ If sociology cannot avoid being situated, then sociology should take that as its beginning and build it into its methodological and theoretical strategies” (28)

          “The only way of knowing a socially constructed world is knowing It from within. We can never stand outside it.” (28)

          We must always “begin from where we are located bodily.” (29)

          “Our kind of society is known and experienced rather differently from different positions within it.” (30)

          Seeing the world from where we are located, seeing THAT we are located, allows us to know that what we know is conditional upon that location as part of a relation existing between locations. (30)

          “The observer is already separated from the world as it is experienced by those she observes.” (30)

          How our knowledge of the world is mediated to us is a problem because it is organized FOR US prior to our participation as knowers in that process. (31)

          “It is not possible to account for one’s directly experienced world or how it is related to the worlds which others directly experience who are differently placed by remaining within the boundaries of the former.” (31)

 Jaggar, Alison M. (1983) “Feminist Politics and Epistemology: The Standpoint of Women” in The Feminist Standpoint Theory Reader: Intellectual & Political Controversies, 2004, New York and London: Routledge, 55-66.

           “Socialist feminist view knowledge as a social and practical construct and they believe that conceptual frameworks are shaped and limited by their social origins. They believe that, in any historical period, the prevailing world=view will reflect the interests and values of the dominant class.” (55)

          The establishment of a more just and reliable world-view requires “the overthrow of the prevailing system of social relations.”” (55-56)

          “In order to arrive at an adequate representation of reality, it is important to begin from the proper standpoint” (56). Within liberal epistemology, this standpoint is the neutral, disinterested observer – the Archimedean standpoint. Marxist epistemology says there is no such standpoint: “All systems of conceptualization reflect certain social interests and values.” (56)

          social production of knowledge is controlled by a certain class, so knowledge produced reflects the interests and values of that class. Prevailing science and knowledge interprets reality from the standpoint of the ruling class. The ruling class has vested interest in concealing the way it dominates and exploits oppressed classes, so this knowledge will be distorted – “suffering of the subordinated classes will be ignored, redescribed and enjoyment of justified as freely chosen, deserved, or inevitable.” (56)

          dominant group is insulated from suffering of the oppressed, which leads to them being convinced by their own ideology. “They experience the current organization of society as basically satisfactory and so they accept the interpretation of reality that justifies that system of organization.” (56)

          The pervasiveness and relentlessness of their suffering pushes oppressed groups to find out what is wrong with the prevailing social order and develop new and less distorted ways of seeing the world. (56)

          “The standpoint of the oppressed is not just different from that of the ruling class; it is also epistemologically advantageous.” It is “more impartial because it comes closer to representing the interests of society as a whole.” The oppressed are able to see relations of power between ruler and ruled. “Standpoint of the oppressed includes and is able to explain the standpoint of the ruling class.” (57)

          “Standpoint is discovered through a collective process of political and scientific struggle.” (57)

          Relation between feminist standpoint and radical feminism

          Standpoint does not guarantee that reality is revealed clearly – it doesn’t necessarily reveal causes of suffering or even that this is oppression (60)

          “Women face another obstacle as they seek to develop a systematic feminist alternative to the masculine modes of  conceiving the world. This obstacle is the typically feminine set of attitudes and modes of perception that have been imposed on women in a male-dominated society. […] While women’s experience of subordination puts them in a uniquely advantageous position for reinterpreting reality, it also imposes on them certain psychological difficulties.” (60-61)

          In the end, an adequate representation of the world from the standpoint of women requires the material overthrow of male domination.” (61)

          All knowledge reflects the interests and values of social groups, so objectivity can’t mean devoid of values, and impartiality can’t mean neutrality. Rather, we must make sure that the interests of women are represented in a comprehensive way. (61-62)

          “The socialist feminist conception of women’s standpoint specifies certain interpretations of verification and of usefulness. It asserts that knowledge is useful if it contributes to a practical reconstruction of the world in which women’s interests are not subordinate to those of men. Whether or not knowledge is useful in this way is verified in the process of political and scientific struggle to build such a world, a world whose maintenance does not require illusions.” (62)

          Differences among the social locations of women need not be a source of division. (63)

          “A representation of reality from the standpoint of women must draw on the variety of all women’s experience. In order to do this, a way must be found in which all groups of women can participate in building theory.” (64)

          “Only when women are free from domination will they have access to the resources necessary to construct a systematic and fully comprehensive view of the world from the standpoint of women.” Because differently located women have unequal opportunities to speak and be heard, women should theorize together as apolitical act and achievement. Women must also find ways to work with men without being dominated by them. (64)

          “Socialist feminist standpoint is not a perspective immediately and only available to women, but to a way of conceptualizing reality that reflects women’s interests and values and draws on women’s own interpretation of their own experience.” (65)

 Harding, Sandra. (1993) “Rethinking Standpoint Epistemology: What is ‘Strong Objectivity’?” in The Feminist Standpoint Theory Reader: Intellectual & Political Controversies, 2004, New York and London: Routledge, 127-140.

          “Starting off research from women’s lives will generate less partial and distorted accounts not only of women’s lives but also of men’s lives and of the whole social order.” (128)

          “All thought by humans starts off from socially determined lives.” (128)

          Science eliminates social interests/values from the results of research that differ within the scientific community, but not of the values/interests that are SHARED BY the community. “Thus culturewide assumptions that have not been criticized within the scientific research process are transported into the results of research, making visible the historicity of specific scientific claims to people at other times, other places, or in other groups in the very same social order.” (128-129)

          Standpoint is not ethnocentric – theorists argue that “marginal lives that are not their own provide better grounds for certain kinds of knowledge.” (129)

          Standpoint is not relativism – “It argues against the idea that all social situations provide equally useful resources for learning about the world and against the idea that they all set equally strong limits on knowledge.” Just because standpoint rejects universalism doesn’t mean it is committed to relativism. “Standpoint theory provides arguments for the claim that some social situations are scientifically better than others as places from which to start off knowledge projects.” (131)

          The subject in empiricist epistemology is supposed to be “culturally and historically disembodied or invisible because knowledge is defined as universal.” (132)

          The subject in empiricist epistemology is supposed to be different in kind from the objects of scientific investigation. But are they really? Should we think of them this way? Is this useful? Is it possible? (132)

          Subjects in empiricist epistemology are meant to be transhistorical, and knowledge is produced by individuals and not social groups, according to science. Subjects are homogenous and unitary so that knowledge is consistent and coherent.

          In standpoint epistemology, subjects are: embodied, visible, historically and culturally located; not fundamentally different from objects of knowledge, as objects and subjects are both social; communities, and not individuals, who produce knowledge; multiple, heterogenous, contradictory, and incoherent. (134)

          “Starting off thought from a contradictory social position generates feminist knowledge.” (134)

          Heterogeneous subject recognizes intersectionality (134)

          “Subject of liberatory feminist knowledge must also be… the subject of every other liberatory knowledge project… because lesbian, poor, and racially marginalized women are all women, and therefore all feminists will have to grasp how gender, race, class, and sexuality are used to contruct each other.” (134)

          “If every other liberatory movement must generate feminist knowledge, it cannot be that women are the unique generators of feminist knowledge. Women cannot claim this ability to be uniquely theirs and men must not be permitted to claim that because they are not women, they are not obligated to produce fully feminist analyses.” (135)

          “Strong objectivity requires that the subject of knowledge be placed on the same critical, causal plane as the objects of knowledge. Thus, strong objectivity requires what we can think of as ‘strong reflexivity.’ This is because culturewide… beliefs function as evidence at every stage in scientific inquiry.” (136)

          “The subject of knowledge – the individual and the historically located social community whose unexamined beliefs its members are likely to hold ‘unknowingly,’ so to speak – must be considered as part of the object of knowledge from the perspective of scientific method.” (136)



Narayan, Uma. (1989) “The Project of a Feminist Epistemology: Perspectives from a Nonwestern Feminist” in The Feminist Standpoint Theory Reader: Intellectual & Political Controversies, 2004, New York and London: Routledge, 213-224.

          Integrating women’ s contribution into science and knowledge will result in a shift of perspective that will change the very nature of the practices of knowledge. (213)

          Western and Nonwestern feminism have very different critiques and concerns. Western feminist concerns function within a context of a discourse that places a high value on women’s place – as wife, mother, etc. Nonwestern feminist concerns take place within a context that does not vale highly women’s contribution – “Nonwestern cultural context values woman’s place as long as she keeps to the place prescribed… The danger is that even if the Nonwestern feminist talks about the value of women’s experience in terms totally different from those of the traditional discourse, the difference is likely to be turned around by the louder and more powerful voice of the traditional discourse, which will then claim that ‘what those feminists say’ vindicates its view that the roles and experiences it assigns to women have value and that women should stick to those roles.” (215-216)

          There is a conflict between the feminist critique of culture/tradition, and the desire to affirm the value of the same culture/tradition within a postcolonial global context. (216)

          IT is not easy to compare oppressions across cultural-historical contexts. (216)

          A critique of positivism may be misplaced – non-postivist frameworks are not more tolerable. (216)

          “We must fight not frameworks that assert the separation of fact and value but frameworks that are pervaded by values to which we, as feminists, find ourselves opposed.” (217)

          Groups living under oppression are more likely to have a critical perspective on their situation, partly created by “critical emotional responses” to their situations – emotions often help rather than hinder understanding of their situations (218)

          Western feminists tend to participate in the dominance of Western culture by assuming a universality of their theories. (219)

          We should be suspicious of those expressing an interest in concerns that belong to or affect groups of which they are not a part – they may try to appropriate the concern for themselves, thereby distorting it by taking it out of the original context, or they may try to speak for those whose concern it is rather than allowing a space to be created in which those whose concern it is can speak about it for themselves and be heard with validity. (219)

          It is a mistake to assume that because knowledge is socially constructed based on position/location, then those who are differently located can never attain some understanding of or sympathy for the experiences of others. This would require a commitment to relativism that isn’t necessary or useful. (219-220)

          Non-analytic forms of discourse like fiction and poetry might be better to communicate across social locations (maybe because ‘reality’ or disbelief is already suspended) (220)

          “Sometimes one sort of suffering may simply harden individuals to other sorts or leave them without energy to take an interest in the problems of other groups. But we can at least try to foster such sensitivity by focussing on parallels, not identities, between different sorts of oppression.” (220)

          Contextual knowledge doesn’t require commitment to relativism, but we can argue that it is easier and more likely for the oppressed to hold critical insight into their own oppression (220)

          It is common to fail to understand the complexities of lived experience under another oppression; we tend to carry our knowledge gleaned from one experience into their perceptions of another. (220)

          Nothing one can do can make them one of the oppressed if they are not (221)

          We need to allow space for the oppressed to criticize the dominant group’s blindness and myopia (221)

          Dominant groups however have a need to control discourse (221)

          Epistemic advantage is a kind of double consciousness: knowledge of the oppressed includes knowledge of dominant groups because the dominant group’s ideology controls and is embedded in social institutions. Subordinate groups need to have knowledge of the dominant group in order to survive in society. There is no similar pressure on dominant groups to acquire knowledge of oppressed groups. Therefore, oppressed groups must “inhabit two mutually incompatible frameworks that provide differing perspectives on social reality,” which affords them epistemic advantage. (221)

          Nonwestern feminists are less likely to see their situation of inhabiting both frameworks as an advantage, however (221)

          Some ways to deal with this double consciousness:

1.    dichotomize one’s life, reserving a different framework for different contexts, i.e., live a public life in masculine ways but a private life in feminine ways

2.    reject practices belonging to one’s own context and try to adopt those of the dominant group as much as possible, which means losing knowledge of one’s own context

3.    reject the framework of the dominant group and assert the framework of her own context, despite the risks of further marginalization by the dominant group

4.    make the choice to inhabit both contexts critically, even if it means alienation from both, which may result in a feeling of rootlessness. “However such a person determines her locus, there may be a sense of being an outsider in both contexts and a sense of clumsiness or lack of fluency in both sets of practices.” (222) for example, learning a new language.

          Certain types and contexts of oppression seem to make double vision possible, but some seem to preclude any critical insights (223)


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