Praxis and Feminism

In schools and universities, the production of knowledge has been dominated by patriarchal discourses. Questions such as ‘whose knowledge counts?’ and ‘what is education for?’ invite a robust reappraisal of the importance of feminist theory. According to Blackmore (2013) ‘For feminists, research is praxis, in that theory and practice are interconnected, and that any distinctions between theory/methodology/method are false.’ While critical feminism has openly drawn upon praxis to support meaningful theorizing, the converse appears to be under-theorised. A database search for the phrase ‘praxis and feminism’ matched no articles published 2010 - 2016 yet a search for ‘feminist praxis’ in the same period yielded nearly 2,500 results. If teaching and knowledge processes adopted by schools and universities are to respect the cultural background of students rather than impose predetermined approaches that may not relate to the existing understandings and interests of learners, then the lifeworlds of girls and women must be taken seriously. Signature pedagogies have been and continue to be implemented in feminist research in schools and universities, particularly Participatory Action Research, Repertoires of Practice and Teacher as Researcher. This session explores feminist theory and practice, bringing a deeper theorising of praxis in education. In doing so, we foreground the importance of girls’ and women’s lifeworlds in shaping a viable practice and theory for future generations. Au (2012) insists that ‘we stand a better chance of getting a clearer, more strongly objective understanding of patriarchy and sexism if we take up the standpoint of women.’ Data will be presented from focus groups of Masters students and staff regarding their standpoints in relation to the above issues. We draw on feminist theorists including Hypatia, de Beauvoir, Arendt, Millett, Grande and from Australia, Goldstein and Greer. A consideration of Indigenous women’s standpoints will also be offered. As education in Australia is increasingly encouraged to become ‘theory-free’, the politics of theory re-emerges as a site for analytical discussion. Education, in schools and in universities, produces intellectual dispositions. It is the contention of this paper that these dispositions are best shaped by a form of praxis which is overtly guided by feminist theory.