The Saida Waheed Gender Initiative organized a two-day workshop bringing together local scholars of gender, sexuality, and women’s studies, and individuals leading women and gender studies centers to discuss the various intellectual challenges faced in this particular field. The workshop was facilitated by Dr. Martina Rieker, Assistant Professor and Director of Institute for Gender and Women's Studies at The American University of Cairo, and broadly covered four areas of interest:
• Curriculum and Programmatic Development
• Development of South-South linkages in the form of research networks and research development
• The relationship between the political and intellectual mission of gender studies, and the existing tensions between academic and activist spaces
• Personal research interests of the academics
Participants reflected on the multiple layers of approvals and filters they have to go through to get their course outlines and program designs approved from the academic councils and the challenges they face because of the undue focus on “development” and creation of jobs. The stark difference between the ways in which gender and sexuality programs are organized in the public and private sector was also analyzed, leading to a discussion on the completely different ways in which gender, women studies, sexuality, masculinities, and power disparities are being taught in Pakistan.
There was extensive discussion on how to develop intellectually-rigorous and cohesive programs of study that challenge the misogynism of academic research and pedagogies and problematize means of knowledge production. The participants discussed how sensitive issues of religion, sexuality, and power disparities are broached within a gender studies paradigm, exchanging notes on how they’ve strategically taught such courses in the past.
Dr. Rieker encouraged the participants to reflect on the ways in which they have been doing ‘theory-work’ and ‘evidence-based research’ within the classroom, encouraging them to problematize the categories which they use in the classroom. She emphasized on the need to understand the historical evolution of these categories, as well as the need to think through what ‘categories’ we would want to create in order to better develop gender studies in Pakistan.
The workshop concluded with everyone sharing their own personal research interests and projects and finding spaces for collaboration among themselves and their institutions.