Saturday, January 23, 2010

Dorothy Smith/Patricia Hill Collins

Read: Appelrouth & Edles 581-621

Feminist Theory – the extension of feminism into theoretical, or philosophical discourse, it aims to understand the nature of gender inequality. It examines women's social roles and lived experience, and feminist politics in a variety of fields, such as anthropology and sociology, psychoanalysis, economics, literary criticism, and philosophy. While generally providing a critique of social relations, much of feminist theory also focuses on analyzing gender inequality and the promotion of women's rights, interests, and issues. Themes explored in feminism include art history, and contemporary art, aesthetics, discrimination, stereotyping, objectification (especially sexual objectification), oppression, and patriarchy.

Dorothy Smith – In recognition of her contributions in "transformation of sociology", and for extending boundaries of "feminist standpoint theory" to "include race, class, and gender", Dr. Smith received numerous awards from American Sociological Association, including the American Sociological Association's Career of Distinguished Scholarship Award (1999) and the Jessie Bernard Award for Feminist Sociology (1993). In recognition of her scholarship, she also received two awards from the Canadian Sociology and Anthropology Association: the Outstanding Contribution Award (1990) and the John Porter Award for her book "The Everyday World as Problematic: A Feminist Sociology." (1990).

Institutional Ethnography: A Sociology for People (2005), Mothering for Schooling -- with Alison Griffith (2004), Writing the Social: Critique, Theory, and Investigations (1999), The Conceptual Practices of Power: A Feminist Sociology of Knowledge (1990), Texts, Facts, and Femininity: Exploring the Relations of Ruling (1990), The Everyday World as Problematic: A Feminist Sociology (1987), Feminism and Marxism: A Place to Begin, A Way to Go (1977), Women Look at Psychiarty: I'm Not Mad, I'm Angry -- Collection edited by Smith and David (1975) Press Gang Publishing.

Relations of ruling – includes not only forms such as “bureaucracy, administration, management, professional organization and interpenetrate, and coordinate” them. Smith maintains that behind and within the “apparently neutral and impersonal rationality of the ruling apparatus” is concealed a “male subtext.” Women are “excluded from the practices of power within textually mediated relations of ruling.” Thus, for instance, official psychiatric evaluations replace the individual’s actual lived experience with a means for interpreting it; the individual becomes a case history, a type, a disease, a syndrome, and a treatment possibility (587).

Bifurcation of consciousness – Smith uses this term to refer to a separation or split between the world as you actually experience it and the dominant view to which you must adapt (e.g., a masculine point of view). The notion of bifurcation of consciousness underscores that subordinate groups are conditioned to view the world from the perspective of the dominant group, since the perspective of the latter is embedded in the institutions and practices of that world, while the dominant group, on the other hand, enjoys the privilege of remaining oblivious to the worldview of the Other, or subordinate group, since the Other is fully expected to accommodate them. The “governing mode” of the professions, then. Creates a bifurcation of consciousness in the actor” “It establishes two modes of knowing, experiencing, and acting—one located in the body and in the space that it occupies and moves into, the other passing beyond it (587).”

Institutional Ethnography – – is a method of elucidating and examining the relationship between everyday activities and experiences and larger institutional imperatives. Interestingly, the very term “institutional ethnography” explicitly couples and emphasis on structures of power (“institutions”) which the microlevel practices that make up everyday life (“ethnography”). Smith’s point, of course, is that it is in microlevel, everyday practices at the level of the individual that collective, hierarchical patterns of social structure are experienced, shaped, and reaffirmed. For instance, in one passage you will read, Smith explains how the seemingly benign, everday act of walking her dog actually reaffirms the class system. As Smith “keeps an eye on her dog” so that it does its business on some lawns as opposed to others, she is, in fact, “observing some of the niceties of different forms of property ownership” (renters versus owners); she is participating in the existing relations of ruling (588).

Standpoint Theory – Smith uses the notion of standpoint to emphasize that what one knows is affected by where one stands (one’s subjective position) in society. We being from the world as we actually experience it, and what we know of the world and the “other” is conditional upon the location. Smith’s argument is not that we cannot look at the world in any way other than our given standpoint. Rather, her point is that (1) no one can have complete, objective knowledge; (2) no two people have exactly the same standpoint; and (3) we must not take the standpoint from which we speak for granted. Instead, we must recognize it, be reflexive about it, and problematize it. Our Situated, everyday experience should serve as a “point of entry” of investigation (585).

Patricia Hill Collins – Collins draws on black women's experiences and voices to explain concepts that have been obscured institutionally, philosophically, and ideologically. Collins's interdisciplinary methodology employs a "both/and" analytical approach to domination and subordination. Collins rejects oppositional thought because "either/or thinking categorizes people, things, and ideas in terms of their differences from one another" which requires objectification and subordination.

Another Kind of Public Education: Race, the Media, Schools, and Democratic Possibilities, ISBN 0807000183, 2009, From Black Power to Hip Hop: Racism, Nationalism, and Feminism, ISBN 1-59213-092-5, 2006, Black Sexual Politics: African Americans, Gender, and the New Racism, ISBN 0-415-93099-5, 2005, Fighting Words: Black Women and the Search for Justice, ISBN 0-8166-2377-5, 1998, Race, Class and Gender: An Anthology, ISBN 0-534-52879-1, co-edited w/ Margaret Andersen, 1992, 1995, 1998, 2001, 2004, 2007, Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness and the Politics of Empowerment, ISBN 0-415-92484-7, 1990, 2000.

Standpoint Epistemology – Collins philosophic viewpoint that what one knows is affected by the standpoint (or position) one has in society. Collins extends the critical/phenomenological feminist ideas of Dorothy Smith by illuminating the particular epistemological standpoint of black women. Yet, Collins does not merely add the empirical dimension of “race” to Smith’s feminist, critical/phenomenological framework. Rather, taking a poststructural/postmodern turn, Collins emphasized the “interlocking” nature of the wide variety of statuses—for example, race, class, gender, nationality, sexual orientation—that make up our stand of domination, there are also potential sites of resistance (607). 

The group or community level of the cultural context created by race, class, and gender is vital to Collin’s conceptualization of Black Feminist Thought, which like all specialized thought reflects the interest and standpoint of its creators. Collins locates black feminist thought in the unique literary traditions forged by black women such as Bell Hooks, Audre Lorde, and Alice Walker, as well as in the everyday experience of ordinary black women. In addition, black feminist through is rooted in black women’s intellectual tradition nurtured by black women’s community. Collins maintains: When white men control the knowledge validation process, both political criteria (contextual creditability and evaluation of knowledge claims) can work to suppress Black feminist thought. Therefore, black women are more likely to choose an alternative epistemology for assessing knowledge claims, one using different standards that are consistent with black women’s criteria for substantiated knowledge and with our criteria for methodology adequacy (608).

Matrix of Domination – to underscore that one’s position in society is made up of multiple contiguous standpoints rather than just one essentialist standpoint. Thus in contrast to earlier critical accounts that assume that power operates form the top down by forcing and controlling unwilling victims to bend to the will of more powerful superiors. Collins asserts that “depending on the context and individual may be an oppressor, a member of an oppressed group, or simultaneously oppressor and oppressed… Each individual derives varying amounts of penalty and provided from the multiple systems of oppression which frame everyone’s lives (608).