In this blog I want to draw parallels in the ethnographic inquiry as a methodology used in feminist research and that used for CCA research.
Women’s Studies programs in the academes emerged from women’s movements outside of academe. ‘Feminism’ itself was and is, first and foremost, activism, and then an academic enterprise. Starting with the movements for voting rights for women, and moving to ‘sisterhood’ and collectivity, and sexual rights over own bodies, to the ‘third wave’ feminism that seems to emphasize women as individuals rather than as a unified group, feminism and feminist scholarship has moved hand-in-hand. Feminism as an academic enterprise began with questioning the ‘objective’ inquiries often undertaken by male sociologists in the working sites that employed men. Feminist scholarship took women scholars to the field sites that were populated by women, such as domestic spaces. They foregrounded the knowledges that women possessed, and attempted to give what was understood as ‘mundane’ and the ‘everyday’, the ‘ordinary’, the status of valid knowledge.
CCA also believes in the same principles in its inquiry. Its goal is to foreground the voices that are excluded and erased from the dominant discourses. It aims to give new insights into the phenomena it studies by listening to the powerless. In the process, it hopes to not only contribute to academic knowledge that often misses out on the deep insights of the marginalized populations, but also enacts an oppositional politics within the academe by doing so. It challenges some of the taken-for-granted ways of knowing within the academe. It professes bodily involvement in the field; speaking to the people on the margins, and being reflexive about the power relations at all phases of research, not only at the level of analysis but also at the level of entering the field as a researcher conducting inquiry into the lives of the researched. Finally CCA is primarily an activist methodology that seeks to lay bare the unjust relations of power.
From this short reflection on the feminist and CCA methodologies of doing Social Science research, I am prompted to draw a rather obvious parallel that both the methodologies are rooted in Marxism. For both, the research inquiry is emancipatory. In the present times, the enemies for both, CCA and feminism, are the same – neoliberal, right-wing ideologies that impose and maintain oppressive structures over the populations that each of the methodologies works for. I would like to close this blogpost with one question then. Since CCA professes ethnographic approach to research, how do we differentiate ethnographic inquiry for a CCA project and ethnographic inquiry for a feminist project?