>I am passing along a request for assistance. A professor at the
>U. of Wisconsin--Madison who is teaching a food systems course
>which incorporates service learning and ethics for the common
>good asked me to help him obtain information on "women's ways of
>knowing." The students will be undergraduates.
>Specifically he is looking for recommendations of women writers
>on agriculture and community building. If you have ideas, email
>him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
Gerry, I'm also posting this to SANET since I missed my last Friday's
URL Hunt and Post Session thanks to the return of Darth Cheezer from
a trip to Washington state, where his motorcycle broke down just
outside the Hanford Nuclear Reservation and marooned him for many
My two ducats worth: if you want to foster discusion/learning about
women's ways of knowing, ask the women in the class. Let the students
do the lit review/searches and build the syllabus. Y'all can learn
together as ya go. Medium and message. Make the practice the theory,
and vice versa. This isn't the sort of thing that lends itself well
to the Pre-Course Creation of the Authoritative Syllabus. Which is
pretty much the antithesis of what you're trying to incorporate, if
you catch my drift.
As for women writers on ag and community building, there's been a
mess of this on SANET, in the past 7 years. Go to the archives at
and start leafing thru and see what the women here have had to say.
There was a wonderful discussion of gender in agriculture...hm, I
can't quite remember when, but I do remember someone accused me of
being--hold your breath, you'll need it to gasp with--a FEMINIST.
Search also for the many discussions of the sociology of science, the
epistemology of agriculture, religion and spirituality's relation to
"objective" knowledge, and related issues. Search on those keywords.
Vandana Shiva on women as seed breeders and the multinational Seed
State's threat to this knowledge base
Andy Clark and Jane Gates's fwd of an item on "lost crops of Africa"
Kathy Lawrence on the role of women in ag
Gillian Drake's thread on women's contributions to ag starting at:
Various discussions of ecofeminism, including this one starting with
Jessica Laub's answer to a question:
Betty Gras's, Marcie Rose's, Rich Molini's and others' discussion of
women, feminism, food, and work, including these:
I've got a transcript of a panel from the 1997 Upper Midwest Organic
Farming Conference: "Women as Activists in Rural Communities."
Speakers were Sr. Miriam Brown, of the Churches Center for Land and
People; Diane Kaufmann of Sundance Farms; and Jane Hawley Stevens of
Nature's Acres herbals. I was trying to turn this into the first CIAS
/Issues Paper/ prior to moving to SF...and it got way back-burnered,
thanks to the fact that four hours a day is a lot less than 10 or 11.
But these three women talked about the personal and social challenges
of taking a role as activists in rural communities, and how their
socialization as women at first impaired but then liberated their
involvement as activists.
As for other resources on the sociology of knowledge with a gender perspective:
/Women's Ways of Knowing/, Mary Field Belenky, ed., Harper Collins
1997. It's based on interviews with women, and discusses in pretty
good detail an epistemology of women's ways of knowing.
If I'm not mistaken this was an interview-based expansion on an
earlier work by the same authors and editors, /Knowledge, Difference,
and Power: Women's Ways of Knowing/, which I seem to remember reading
when it was new...in about 1986. It made a lot of men in academe
really really angry. It still does, but people have since then
learned to suppress their opinions and project blame for their
cowardice onto liberals ("PC"). :^)
I still find Carolyn Merchant's /The Death of Nature: Women, Ecology,
and the Scientific Revolution/ (1980...was it Harper?) a mind-blower,
and I've read the thing at least 40 times. She outlines the gendered
mythos of Cartesian rationalism, which otherized women and women's
ways of knowing...at the same time it was otherizing the earth. She
traces the environmental/ecological crisis to this alienation.
Anything by Merchant since then on ecofeminism could be useful...she
often places her observations on women's ways of thinking within the
context of environmentalism and environmental ethics. This is
appropriate, since women's knowledge is distinguished by its
awareness of context.
Evelyn Fox Keller's /Reflections on Gender and Science/ is out of
print, but you should be able to turn up a copy at Avol's or
McDermott's (Lisa and Pat McDermott could find you a copy, I'm
sure--they've been helpful to me over the years in locating OOP works
on these topics). But this was one of the seedbed works on the topic.
No discussion of women's ways of knowing is complete without Keller's
fabulous biography of Barbara McClintock: /A Feeling for the
Organism/. I think it came out in '93--just after I started at CIAS.
Don't know the publisher. But the discussion of McClintock's gift of
intuition as both an extraordinary scientific gift...and the thing
that got her blackballed in academe...is outstanding. It's worth the
price of the book for the cover photo of the elder McClintock and an
ear of her beloved corn.
ANYTHING by Karen Warren at Macalester; my goodness, but she does
rock, and you should consider having her come in as a guest
lecturer/discussant. /Ecofeminism: Women, Culture, Nature/ (IU Press,
1997) is a tour de force. She is a stunning philosopher, and a
I remember reading an essay in the early 90s on "old wives' tales" by
Linda Alcoff at Syracuse; I don't remember where it was published,
but it was a wonderful discussion of the construction of women's ways
of knowing/communicating as inferior.
The demonization of women's ways of knowing as healers was succinctly
summarized in Barbara Ehrenreich's and Deirdre English's /Witches,
Midwives, and Nurses: A History of Women Healers/, a 1973 pamphlet
that's surely out of print, but I'll bet the women's studies
collection at Memorial Library has it; it's a must-read, IMO, for
your topic, and another seedbed work.
Helen Longino's /Science as Social Knowledge/ (Princeton...early 90s,
I think '91?) takes perspectives from Michel Foucault, Donna Haraway,
and Jurgen Habermas, and offers a stunning critique of the notion of
"objective" data and interpretation.
See Vandana Shiva's statement on "Monocultures, Monopolies, Myths,
and Masculinization of Agriculture" at the International Conference
on Women in Agriculture, 1998:
She could not attend the conference, but this statement was circulated there.
POSSIBLE CASE STUDIES
A fabulous case study for women's knowing--and the costs of knowing
what women know, in historical context--is Sor Juana Inez de la Cruz.
Stephanie Merrim has a new work out about women's writing and
knowledge in the 17th century, with Sor Juana Inez as a lens. I first
learned about her by reading Eduardo Galeano's /Memoria del Fuego/
trilogy, the last volume of which appeared in 1984. I don't know the
title of Merrim's work...but I know it's very new. Gerry, check Room
of One's Own. Actually, Gerry, ask for some resources there.
Another good case study is Hildegard of Bingen, the 12th century
churchwoman from the Rhine. Bear and Co. in Santa Fe was the first
house to translate her works into English in the early 80s. She had
long been dismissed as a mystic (just as Rachel Carson was once
branded a "druid priestess"--apparently there was a time when that
was considered an insult). But now it's possible to see her thinking
and work as major miracles--that they even managed to exist within
the framework of a very patriarchal church structure. Of course the
Inquisition put an end to all that (ref. Carolyn Merchant).
At UW-Madison, check in with Linda Gordon in the history dept. (L&S)
and Mariamne Whatley (education and C&I). Judy Leavitt at
Madison...she's an historian of medicine and if I'm not mistaken
lives in Steve S's neighborhood. :^)
Janice Bogstad at UW-Eau Claire teaches a course on women's studies
research techniques, including women's ways of learning; I met her I
believe it was at the UW-System women's conference...some years ago...
Meenakshi Gigi Durham, in the journalism department at UT-Austin,
studies women's and girls' ways of knowing, using media, and
The Society for the History of Technology has long had a stream of
folks interested in this issue. Gerry, I don't have any contacts
there anymore, but Judy Leavitt might.
I can't remember who forwarded me this URL from the National Society
for Experiential Education:
But there is a lot of overlap between the mainstream criticisms of
experiential ed and of women's ways of knowing. What was intriguing
to me about this: the notion that authority-based and experiential
learning are viewed by some as binary, and opposed, states...just as
An amigo at one of the two-year UW campuses recently sent me this URL:
It's a bibliography on feminist epistemology.
I can't remember who sent me this URL, a bibliography on ways of knowing:
I'd better stop now. My brain hurts. :^) Hope this is of some help to you.
Center for Integrated Ag Systems, UW-Madison
UW voice mail: 608-262-8018
Home office: 415-504-6474 (504-MISH)
Home office fax: Same as above, phone first for enabling
I'm a problem solver. --Xena, warrior princess
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