Sunday, November 3, 2013

Gender and Syllabi Creation

The recent debates about gender in the poli sci/IR profession, including discussions of the sources of under-citation of women and posts about revising syllabi, have caused me to think a bit more as I prepare a new course for the Winter term (there is no Spring in Canada).

The course is Contemporary International Security, and my semi-final tally seems to have 15 pieces written by either a female or a team of others including a female out out of 37 or so, which is about 40%.  Had I not been thinking about inclusion of women, I probably would have had four or so pieces less.  I don't think I sacrificed anything, as I found interesting and relevant pieces without sacrificing depth or breadth or significant content.

I don't think 38% is bad, especially given that this particular area has a history of male domination, unlike perhaps the study of contentious politics or ethnic conflict (no facts about the latter, just going on anecdata).  I am not sure we need to aim for 50% in every class or every syllabus, particularly as some areas of research tend to have more or less women working in them.

This particular class, like the Civil-Military Relations course I am teaching now,* is in an area where a lot of the most interesting work is by women, so I did not have to go far out of my way to find relevant stuff.     
 *  I wrote that syllabus before the events of this fall raised my awareness about the gender    citation problems.  I will think a bit more next time.
The course is constructed as a survey of different issue areas in this subfield, so some weeks did not require any thinking or searching
  • Work that opens up the idea of security
  • Counter-insurgency
  • Alliances and Coalitions
  • Identity, Religion and Nationalism
Other weeks required me to do some search perhaps because they were farther out of my expertise and perhaps because the lit might be more male-dominated at the moment:
  • Crime
  • Drone/Cyber
  • Canadian military stuff
My syllabus is biased towards policy relevant, positivist stuff both because that is how I am wired and because the course is for Masters of International Affairs students aimed at the Canadian policy community.  It probably would have been easier to come up with more female-authored work on the syllabus if I had any weeks dedicated to gender and security or post-modernist approaches to security.  The former is very much a female-dominated area, as far as I can tell, although again it is not an area I read much.  Given that much of the study of Canadian IR is post-modernist, my guess is that by avoiding this stuff, I am probably then omitting many of the females working in areas related to the stuff in syllabus.  That impression comes from the years of reading the Canadian Political Science Association's IR program at the annual meetings.  I could be wrong.

I am sure that my syllabi have plenty of holes that I have not addressed in method, in other biases (mostly North American stuff), entirely English stuff.  The joy of teaching is that syllabi keep changing, and I keep learning.  I would appreciate any suggestions for the new class as I will be revising it for 2015.  

1 comment:

Scott said...

If you don't already know of her, I recommend Dr. Megan MacKenzie, author of Female Soldiers of Sierra Leone. ( )