Becoming a Feminist Research Team: An Ongoing Act of Care
On January 24th, 2022, our research team gathered in the virtual space of a Microsoft Teams meeting. Rectangular glimpses of our home/workspaces framed our faces: some backgrounds blurred, some messy, some carefully curated with books, plants, and art. On this day, our team – which consists of an associate professor, a postdoctoral research fellow, and four graduate students – met from the relative comfort (and isolation) of our homes to discuss what it means to be a feminist research team.
The idea for this workshop had taken shape the previous summer. Having spent the semester conducting research on everyday practices that create a more feminist academia, my advisor and co-lead of the Integrating Care and Livelihoods Research Cluster, Dr. Roberta Hawkins, and I wondered how we might identify and foster these practices in our own research team. In the fall semester, I suggested we hold a workshop on ‘becoming a feminist research team,’ and our team enthusiastically agreed to participate. Leading up to the workshop we set aside several times to imagine the space, activities, and concepts we would explore. We had hoped to meet in person but because of the ongoing pandemic and provincial public health restrictions we opted to meet virtually. Before the workshop, I delivered a package to each team member that included a series of invitations, creative prompts, some chocolate, and tea. The goal was to connect us materially despite the distance between us.
During the workshop, as we sipped our tea and snacked on our chocolate, I invited our team to discuss the feminist values that ground their individual and our collective feminist academic praxis. We began by telling stories of care in academia, such as professors encouraging and mentoring us, sharing intimate and joyful moments in spaces like cafés and saunas, being welcomed into collaborative research teams, and experiencing moments of representation and disruption in the classroom. We reflected on the space that we created together and what made up this space, including our histories, subjectivities, emotions, care responsibilities, and physical environments, as well as different power dynamics and current local and global contexts. We acknowledged and held space for the presence and impact of these ‘things’ on our time together. We then took turns reading excerpts from articles written by feminist scholars, which detailed what a feminist academic praxis can look like, feel like, and do. We read and re-read these passages aloud, making creative mind-maps as we did. We wrote down key words, cut and pasted old magazine scraps, doodled, and made connections between our ideas. After reflecting and sharing our mind-maps, we discussed what values were core to our own research team and ways we could practice these values. We brainstormed practices that we already do and those we desire to work towards. As our time of sharing, listening, creating, and imagining came to an end, there was a deep sense of warmth and togetherness, and we committed to continuing the process of becoming a feminist research team.
Reflecting on our workshop through a lens of care, showed the many ways care – and its core tenants of attentiveness, responsibility, competence, responsiveness, and solidarity (Tronto 1993; 2013) – informed the development and implementation of the workshop. As a practical component associated with my doctoral qualifying exams, team members were not required to participate in the workshop, yet each member chose to take part. They contributed thoughtfully to planning the workshop, engaging with the materials, and taking the time to show up and actively participate. These practices are illustrative of the time and care Caretta and Faria (2019) argue is central to creating feminist labs (Caretta and Faria 2019). Additionally, our ability to share (relatively) openly during the workshop was preceded by months – and in some cases years – of working together and developing caring relationships (e.g., informal biweekly meetings, past collaboration, virtual workdays, team potlucks, etc.). These and many other practices of care can be understood as a form of slow scholarship, as we rejected alienation and embraced gathering in an intentional, sustained way (Lopez and Gillespie 2016; Mountz et al. 2015). This ongoing and relational care made our workshop possible.
Overall, considering the already existing feminist practices of our team in tandem with the workshop process and the feminist praxis we detailed during the workshop revealed the ways in which we are becoming a feminist research team – through making power visible, paying attention to emotions, practicing everyday acts of care, and imagining academia otherwise.
- Written by Amy Kipp, co-lead of the Integrating Care and Livelihoods Research Cluster
Caretta, M. A., & Faria, C. V. (2020). Time and care in the “lab” and the “field”: Slow mentoring and feminist research in geography. Geographical Review, 110(1-2), 172-182.
Lopez, P. J., & Gillespie, K. (2016). A love story: for ‘Buddy System’research in the academy. Gender, Place & Culture, 23(12), 1689-1700.
Mountz, A., Bonds, A., Mansfield, B., Loyd, J., Hyndman, J., Walton-Roberts, M., ... & Curran, W. (2015). For slow scholarship: A feminist politics of resistance through collective action in the neoliberal university. ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies, 14(4), 1235-1259.
Additional Sources on Feminist Practices in Research Teams and Collectives
Athena Co-learning Collective. (2018). Intervention – “A Femifesto for Teaching and Learning Radical Geography.” Antipode Online. Available at: https://antipodeonline.org/2018/11/27/a-femifesto-for-teaching-and-learning-radical-geography/
Athena Co-learning Collective. (2021). Intervention – “Toward Emergent Scholarship: Aligning Classroom Praxis with Liberatory Aims.” Antipode Online. Available at: https://antipodeonline.org/2021/02/10/toward-emergent-scholarship/
BCNUEJ. (2020). Building an ethics of care in academia: A guide by BCNUEJ. Available at: http://www.bcnuej.org/about/ [comic strip]
CLEAR. (2021). CLEAR Lab Book: A living manual of our values, guidelines, and protocols. V. 03. St. Johns’ NL; Civic Laboratory for Environmental Action Research, Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Liboiron, Max, Ammendolia, J., Winsor, Kate, Zahara, Alex, Bradshaw, Hillary, Melvin, Jessica, Mather, Charles, Dawe, Natalya, Wells, Emily, Liboiron, France and Fürst, Bojan. (2017). “Equity in Author Order: A Feminist Laboratory’s Approach.” Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, Technoscience, 3(2).
Feminist, Care, Research, Academia