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Methodology

The first few days of orientation will include an overview of Women’s Studies and an introduction to some of the salient concepts/terms to be used during the course. This will be followed by sessions/classes on specific reading/writing skills; research methodologies; and utilisation of libraries/archives.

The 12 week course itself will offer classes/seminars on different areas of Women’s Studies, where different teaching strategies derived from feminist pedagogy will be employed to facilitate learning. Feminist pedagogies stress an interactive mode of learning, whereby student engagement with course material is encouraged through connections with their own life experiences and perspectives. Faculty will deliver lectures when deemed essential. Classroom discussions will be supplemented by substantial reading and writing assignments. Written assignments for each module will be graded. Participants will also be assessed for their contribution to class discussion.

Several of the weekly modules will draw upon visiting faculty (international and national). Additional activities may be structured within each module, for instance, Media would include evening cultural activities such as theatre, dance performances/classes, slide shows, films (popular and alternative) as part of the course; History/Herstory would entail visiting the museum/archives; historical sites; Legal theory might include visiting the Lahore High Courts/Women’s Legal Aid Centres; and so on.

The last two to three weeks of the Certificate Course are for all participants to complete an essay-type assignment requiring synthesis and integration of different course concepts and materials. Participants could be assigned one long essay, or several short essays. These assignments will be developed by faculty in the light of their teaching experience with the participants. Assignments will be assessed by faculty for content and presentation of ideas. Final grades will be based on these essays as well as performance in the earlier weeks of the course.

This course is unique not merely for its modular content, but the whole course is structured so as to perpetuate an ideology and sense of purpose and being. The living quarters for the students have also been structured in such a way to be in line with the methodology. It has been constructed deliberately to look like a house, instead of a typical hostel. In-built into the methodology is the concept of ‘sisterhood’ with the building designed to enhance integration among the students. At the same time, however, the concept of ‘women’ s space’ and ‘non-hierarchical’ feminist methodology is also kept in mind, the center therefore, does not have any full time warden. A conscious effort is made to subside and gradually eliminate any class, race, ethnic or religious barriers that the students might have. For this purpose, the students are required to clean their own rooms, maintain common seating areas, like the T.V room, and do their own laundry and dish washing. The meal timings are fixed to ensure that the students gather in the central dining area to meet at least thrice a day outside of the seminar room.

The methodology is aimed at inculcating socialist feminism into the students in such away that it becomes part of their life. It is a process of deep analysis of one’s self and the surroundings: processes of deconstruction of both, for only then can one deconstructs patriarchy and class. Self-reflexivity is therefore, an important ingredient of any feminist endeavor and this course is no different. Throughout the course, assignments and general discussions (in and outside the classroom) are aimed at the ‘self’. The last assignment, which is the major part of the overall grade, was in fact on self-reflexivity. As the aim of the course is to bring theory and action together, and come up with a well-informed activist.

The consistency in methodology was considered while decorating, even. So, the décor was actually done while keeping in mind ‘women’s creativity’. The T.V room and the dining room had a mural, painted by lay women in a workshop at ASR. The women were just told to draw, no size, pattern or shape was specified as such and their raw creativity flowed onto the mural which now graces the walls of that room. The rugs in the center are also woven by women. In fact these are done by Central Asian women and not as articles of sale but, as part of their daughter’s dowry. ‘Women’s creativity’ is lauded in other ways in the décor also. The staircase up to the seminar room has photographs of prolific women from the performing arts in Pakistan. Another methodological issue in consideration was the consistency between theory and action. Not only the whole décor but also the various gadgets and appliances (electric kettle, air conditioners, furniture etc) of the center is done with indigenously produced and if not produced at least assembled in Pakistan. This practice then, does not contradict what is being preached in the module on Political economy.