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Teaching feminism : problems of critical claims and student certainty.

Stopford, Richard (2020) 'Teaching feminism : problems of critical claims and student certainty.', Philosophy & social criticism., 46 (10). pp. 1203-1224.


Learning about feminism can be a revelation for many students. However, for others, it can be a confounding, troubling experience. These difficulties return as problems for the teacher: how to help sceptical, resistant students understand the theory. Moreover, understanding what can be so troubling about learning feminism helps us to better understand the situation of feminist modules in the contexts of broader humanities curricula. Obviously, these are complex issues, and I wish to focus on just two specific points: how feminist theories make critical claims and the challenges that emerge for students as a result; how feminist theory claims find challenges in student certainty. Firstly, feminist theory claims, which describe sociocultural states of affairs while at the same time destabilising them, are operating with critical norms. These critical norms are at odds with norms of descriptive theory claims that students find elsewhere in their curriculum. As such, I want to explore the effects of this clash in student learning experience, and the difficulties that teachers face a result. In the second part of the article, I use Wittgenstein’s analysis of certainty to explore how feminist theory claims often challenge the very foundations of students’ understanding of themselves, and the world around them. As such, learning in the feminist classroom is not merely an issue of learning about and then adjudicating between theories. Feminist theories implicate the way in which we live, and the conditions of intelligibility for theories as such. In light of my discussions, I do not think there are onesize solutions to these issues. However, I think that recognising these problems in theory can help us to articulate them in the classroom, and this might go some way to alleviating the structural challenges faced by teachers of feminism.

Item Type:Article
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Publisher statement:Stopford, Richard (2020). Teaching feminism: Problems of critical claims and student certainty. Philosophy & Social Criticism 46(10): 1203-1224. Copyright © The Author(s) DOI: 10.1177/0191453720903473
Date accepted:No date available
Date deposited:10 March 2020
Date of first online publication:13 February 2020
Date first made open access:10 March 2020

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