You are here

GWSS 503 A: Feminist Research And Methods Of Inquiry

Meeting Time: 
TTh 10:30am - 12:20pm
DEN 256
Sasha Su-Ling Welland

Syllabus Description:

Course Description

This seminar is designed for graduate students developing research projects with feminist commitments; it explores intersectional feminist methods of inquiry and how feminist movements for social justice in the institutions and communities in which we work articulate with research and scholarship. Previous coursework in gender, women, and sexuality studies is recommended. This course takes an epistemological approach. As such, it will not provide you with a ready-made “toolkit” of feminist methods; rather it presumes that any research method can be used in a feminist manner and that a researcher’s methodology involves critical analysis of chosen methods and how they should be used. We will explore the relationship of power to knowledge, the ethics of representation, questions of accountability, and the relationship between disciplinarity and  interdisciplinarity. Throughout the course, students will examine their own research principles and develop a feminist methodological approach to their own research projects. 

Course goals include:

  • To explore ideas and critiques raised by scholars and activists about interdisciplinary research methods
  • To consider a variety of feminist approaches to research questions and projects
  • To develop your knowledge of methods appropriate to your own graduate studies, including an assessment of your discipline’s approach to feminist methodology or of your grounding in feminist interdisciplinarity
  • To design a feminist methodology for your future or ongoing research

The course also revolves around the idea of dialogue, as a relational form of engagement that highlights positionality, interpretation, and the situatedness of knowledge production. How do we define feminist dialogues—with other scholars, theory, archives, social categories, disciplines, technologies, research collaborators, and our various publics? We will closely read selected texts to ask: what methodologies the authors have developed to address their research questions; what debates and influences shaped their methodological decisions; what challenges they faced as they moved from research to analysis and argument; and what makes their research feminist. We will consider reading and discourse analysis as a method, at the same time that we read for method: how authors gather material, interpret, and build arguments. In this process, student participation in shaping class discussion will be vital to the goal of understanding how feminist debates take shape within and across disciplines.

Course Texts

All course texts are available at the University Book Store. PDF files of additional readings will be available through the Canvas course site.

  • Sara Ahmed, Living a Feminist Life, Durham: Duke University Press, 2017.
  • Aimee Meredith Cox, Shapeshifters: Black Girls and the Choreography of Citizenship, Durham: Duke University Press, 2015.
  • Sylvanna M. Falcón, Power Interrupted: Antiracist and Feminist Activism Inside the United Nations, Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2016.
  • Richa Nagar, Muddying the Waters: Coauthoring Feminism Across Scholarship and Activism, Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2014.
  • Linda Tuhiwai Smith, Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples, New York: Zed Books, 1999.

Course Requirements

Class Participation (10%):

This is a small seminar and, therefore, has the potential to be a truly collaborative space of questioning, learning, and inspiring new research directions. Achieving this potential requires the active and respectful participation of all students. Please bring the assigned reading materials to class meetings, and come to class on time and prepared to discuss what you have learned.

Weekly Discussion Board Post (10%):

Students are required to post to the Canvas discussion board once each week. (You will write seven posts in total since you won’t need to post during weeks you facilitate a class—see below.) Posts should be at least 250 words in length and address the relevance of that week’s readings to your own work or interests. Open your post with a few sentences stating the key issue(s) for any of the readings for that week that you would like to take up. You might then consider: a) How is this issue or the reading in general relevant to your work? b) How is it useful or limiting to you? c) How might you apply it to your real or imagined project? You are also welcome to riff off another student’s post. You are required to include questions or issues you would like to make sure we cover in class. Posts are due by 9:00 am on either T or Th before the relevant class.

Class Facilitations (20%--10% each for two facilitations):

Each student will sign up to facilitate our class, either in a group or individually, twice during the quarter. For this session, each facilitator will write a two-page, double-spaced (500 words) response paper for the assigned reading, and post it to the Canvas class facilitations board by 5:00 pm the day before class (e.g. Monday evening for a Tuesday class). For the two weeks you facilitate a class, you do not need to post to the weekly discussion board. In your response, include the following: a) what you understand the author’s argument(s) to be (please try to state the argument(s) in your own words, rather than by primarily quoting from the text); b) the methods and methodology that the author uses to develop and support her argument; c) how the author’s argument and/or methodology might inform how you do research; d) at least two questions that the book raises for you, which you would like to discuss in class. Your facilitated session should be developed using an interactive format that involves the class in discussing the book’s primary arguments or analyses. Please expect to spend approximately one hour on this facilitated session. During the facilitation, you should make sure students are clear on the main argument or intervention of the reading and provide students with a chance to discuss issues you as well as the larger group consider to be interesting. Please be sure to be in touch with me one week before your presentation to discuss which readings will be the focus of your presentation.

Method Analysis (20%)

Based on the idea that discussions of method have more immediate relevance if you are simultaneously engaged in trying various methods out, this assignment will give you practice in a method of your choosing. This exercise is designed to get you to “put yourself out there” as a researcher; to consider the ethical implications of research as an intervention into people’s lives; to reflect on how your engagement with research might change your questions; and to interpret your material and consider the social implications of how interpretation shapes meaning. For this assignment, you will identify a research method (survey, interview, participant observation, photo voice, discourse analysis, etc.) and put it into practice in a small-scale way. You will then write a three-page paper explaining and reflecting upon your practice applying this research method and how this exercise fits with what you are learning about feminist methodologies and praxis in class. Assignment Handout

Final Paper (40%)

A 10-12-page paper will allow you to analyze and synthesize what you have learned this quarter in relation to your research project. Your paper should be organized around a thesis statement of your choosing. What method/ologies do the scholars you are in conversation with use? Articulate your proposed research methodology and, drawing on course readings, put it in conversation with the frameworks, debates, silences, and/or promises of feminist inquiry we have discussed this quarter.


Each student’s performance will be evaluated as follows:

Class Participation: 10%
Weekly Discussion Board Post: 10%
Group Facilitation: 20%
Method Analysis: 20%
Final Paper: 40%

Class Policies

Please complete the readings by the day they are listed in the syllabus and be prepared to discuss them in depth. No papers will be accepted by e-mail without permission. Please inform me in advance if you must miss a session. Extensions are granted only in cases of emergency with prior permission from the instructor. Assignments submitted late will be marked down ten percent for every day they are late unless prior arrangements have been made. If you have a disability or need special accommodations for any aspect of your coursework, please let me know and/or contact the Disability Resources for Students Office (DRS), 448 Schmitz, Box 355839, (206) 543-8924, (TTY) 543-8925, Please feel free to speak with me for further clarification of assignments, if you have questions about the materials, or if you have personal concerns that will affect your academic performance. Students are welcome to use email to contact me and ask brief questions. I make every effort to respond to email within 72 hours.


Week 1: Feminist Methodology, Epistemology, Categories of Analysis

T 3/28

  • Introductions

Th 3/30

Week 2: Categories and Theories of Analysis (cont.); Colonialism and Research

T 4/4

Th 4/6

  • Linda Tuhiwai Smith, Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples, Intro-Chapter 7

Week 3: Decolonizing/Third World Women of Color Methodologies

T 4/11

  • Linda Tuhiwai Smith, Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples, Chapter 8-Conclusion

Th 4/13

Week 4: Queer of Color Methodologies; Intersectional, Antiracist, Feminist Activism

T 4/18

Th 4/20

  • Sylvanna M. Falcón, Power Interrupted: Antiracist and Feminist Activism Inside the United Nations, Intro-Chapter 2.

Week 5: Intersectional, Antiracist, Feminist Activism; Disciplines, Interdisciplinarity

T 4/25

  • Sylvanna M. Falcón, Power Interrupted: Antiracist and Feminist Activism Inside the United Nations, Chapters 3-5.

Th 4/27

Week 6: Methods, Ethics, Archives

T 5/2

Th 5/4

  • Ann Cvetkovich, An Archive of Feelings: Trauma, Sexuality, and Lesbian Public Cultures, Intro & Chapter 5
  • Diana Taylor, The Archive and the Repertoire: Performing Cultural Memory in the Americas, Chapter 1

Week 7: Shapeshifting/Choreography of Research

T 5/9

  • Aimee Cox, Shapeshifters: Black Girls and the Choreography of Citizenship, Intro-Chapter 2
  • DUE: Method Analysis Paper

Th 5/11

  • Aimee Cox, Shapeshifters: Black Girls and the Choreography of Citizenship, Chapter 2-Epilogue

Week 8: Transnational Feminist Methodologies; Scholarship and Activism

T 5/16

  • Richa Nagar, Muddying the Waters: Coauthoring Feminisms Across Scholarship and Activism, Intro-Chapter 3 

Th 5/18

  • Richa Nagar, Muddying the Waters: Coauthoring Feminisms Across Scholarship and Activism, Chapters 4-6

Week 9: Living a Feminist Life

T 5/23

  • Sara Ahmed, Living a Feminist Life, Intro and Part I

Th 5/25

  • Sara Ahmed, Living a Feminist Life, Part II

Week 10: Wrap-Up, Reflection, Final Paper Presentations

T 5/30

  • Sara Ahmed, Living a Feminist Life, Part III + Conclusions 1 and 2

Th 6/1

  • Final Paper Presentations

Finals Week


Catalog Description: 
Explores appropriate research methodologies for interdisciplinary work. Asks how scholarship is related to feminism as a social movement and to the institutions in which we work. Focuses on how similar objects of study are constituted in different disciplines for feminist scholars. Offered: Sp.
Last updated: 
January 10, 2018 - 9:10pm