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Sangita

February 9th, 2016

To Study or Not to Study Gender?

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Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Sangita

February 9th, 2016

To Study or Not to Study Gender?

0 comments

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

cinnamon rollsAt this point, two years ago, I was browsing through LSE’s postgraduate course list almost everyday. If time and money weren’t an issue, I would have studied so many courses but this is no ideal world. So in the end, I settled for MSc Gender, Development and Globalisation. It’s quite a mouthful so let’s call it GDG, as it’s commonly known in the GI – Gender Institute. I thought the ‘Development and Globalisation’ aspect of this programme would fit in quite well with my previous degree in International Development, but choosing ‘Gender’ was something completely new. If you are considering doing a Gender programme such as GDG and/or curious about what it entails, this blog post is for you.

You can’t escape theories

When I started this programme, my understanding of gender was pretty brief – so sex is biological differences i.e. male and female, while gender is socially constructed meanings/expectations around what it means to be a man or a woman. If you share the same thoughts and have the tendency of equating gender with women, you are definitely in for a surprise. This journey of discoveries and revelations all starts with Gender Theories – one of the compulsory modules that draws upon disparate and interdisciplinary school of thoughts. If you had no background in gender before or had uneasy relationship with theories like me then it can be quite mind-boggling at first.

The personal is political

Unlike any other courses I had studied before, Gender Theories felt like an embodiment of the quote – ‘the personal is political’. The course content and the issues discussed resonated clearly with many of my own lived experiences. Perhaps this is because unlike the notion of ‘objectivity’ that is often emphasised in many other social science disciplines, in gender theories – you are encouraged to think about how your own positioning, either as a reader and/or a researcher, is embedded in power relations and social hierarchies, and how that influences your understanding of the social world. You become more than a passive reader or an objective researcher.

Theory and practice – mind the gap?

The process of self reflection is further intensified if you take research related optional modules, and such repeated exercise gradually helps you break the separations between ‘theory’ and ‘practice’ as you start seeing interconnections and interactions. Here are some of the words that you will hear often as part of this course – heteronormativity, gender performativity, intersectionality, white solipsism, power, masculinities, post-colononiality, affect, agency, resistance, subjectivity and so on. You will also read articles that fall under the strands of ‘postcolonialism’, ‘post structuralism’, ‘pyschoanalysis’, ‘human rights’, ‘development’ among many others.

About gender but not only about gender

You will also encounter many ‘difficult’ questions such as creation of ‘women’ as the subject of feminism, and the exclusions and inclusions such category creates; implications of using gender as a singular analytical category for understanding multiply marginalised positions (particularly under the topic of intersectionality); and sex and gender both as destabilised categories as opposed to pre given or natural. I found such questions important and relevant not only in the context of gender but also in analysis of  inequalities (economic, social, political) and power relations.

It’s complicated

I have mainly focussed on the theoretical content of the Gender programme, which is about gender relations but at the same time it encourages you towards an intersectional and interdisciplinary analysis. I find this approach ‘liberating’ – you are not pigeonholed as a ‘gender student’ but instead, become a student who studies simultaneous interrelations of gender, race, class and other social identities of subject formations. This certainly sounds complex and you might have found  the jargon difficult, yet this is a snap shot of a postgraduate degree in Gender – it’s complicated, at times annoying but rewarding too!

Evidence based conclusion

To compensate for my biases, I leave you with some direct quotes from my friends who studied Gender last year:

‘Studying gender at LSE has been eye-opening, discomforting, and deeply personal. For example, it has made me understand not only how gender is part of an intricate web of global inequalities, but also how I am implicated in this web. Further, as I leave LSE and start a career, it has reaffirmed my commitment towards social change, collective action, and decolonization.’ (Carmina)

‘I think studying gender, development and globalisation opened my eyes to many more topics than I would have expected. I think this year at LSE was a great experience for me as it educated me in not only gender theories and gender & development but also in postcolonial studies, critical race theory and many other topics!’  (Juli)

‘My experience studying gender has been truly transformative and mostly positive. I have really enjoyed, been inspired by, and learned a great deal from the academic talent of the people who have surrounded me, both students and staff. At times it’s been frustrating and extremely stressful, but I feel that what I learned this past year will continue to influence and motivate many aspects of my life.’ (Cassie)

Good luck!

About the author

Sangita

MSc Gender, Development and Globalisation (part-time)

Posted In: LSE

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