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Disciplining Feminism: How Women's Studies Transformed the Academy and Was Transformed by Itby Ellen Messer-davidow
Synopses & Reviews
How was academic feminism formed by the very institutions it originally set out to transform? This is the question Ellen Messer-Davidow seeks to answer in Disciplining Feminism. Launched thirty years ago as a bold venture to cut across disciplines and bridge the gap between scholarly knowledge and social activism, feminism in the academy, the author argues, is now entrenched in its institutional structures and separated from national political struggle.
Working within a firm theoretical framework and drawing on years of both personal involvement and fieldwork in and outside of academe, Messer-Davidow traces the metamorphosis of a once insurgent project in three steps. After illustrating how early feminists meshed their activism with institutional processes to gain footholds on campuses and in disciplinary associations, she turns to the relay between institutionalization and intellectualization, examining the way feminist studies coalesced into an academic field beginning in the mid-1970s. Without denying the successes of this feminist passage into the established system of higher learning, Messer-Davidow nonetheless insists that the process of institutionalization itself necessarily alters all new entrants—no matter how radical. Her final chapters look to the future of feminism in an increasingly conservative environment and to the possibilities for social change in general.
Disciplining Feminism’s interdisciplinary scope and cross-sector analysis will attract a broad range of readers interested in women’s studies, American higher education, and the dynamics of social transformation.
A cultural studies account of the changes produced in feminism as it became part of the academy and of the highly orchestrated attack on higher education by the right-wing.
About the Author
Ellen Messer-Davidow is Professor of English at the University of Minnesota, as well as on the faculty of the Women’s Studies Department, the Center for Advanced Feminist Studies, the Program in American Studies, and the Department of Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature. She is the coeditor of several books, including (En)Gendering Knowledge: Feminists in Academe and Knowledges: Historical and Critical Studies in Disciplinarity.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Knowing and Doing
Part 1. Confronting the Institutional Disciplinary Order
1. Disciplining Women
2. Constructing Sex Discrimination
Part 2. Institutionalizing and Intellectualizing Feminist Studies
3. Articulating Projects
4. Formatting Feminist Studies
5. Proliferating the Discourse
Part 3. Crystallizing the Future
6. Remaking Change Agency
7. Playing by the New Rules
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