Women and Gender Studies is an interdisciplinary program that has the strength of borrowing from the methods of different disciplines, said Prof. Aparna Rayaprol while speaking at the Centre for Women’s Studies on Feminist Research Methods on November 6, 2013.
It is the feminist perspective of gender equality that informs and directs the research questions. The different methods of social sciences, literary and cultural studies, humanities and even natural sciences have contributed to research in gender studies. Historically, androcentric research was quite gender blind and the first task of women’s studies was to correct this by adding women and gender as central variables. This was essential but not enough as gender was still a marginal variable without changing the larger perspectives of the study, she added.
Prof. Apaprna said that Standpoint Feminism brought gender from the margin to the centre by focusing on issues that were women centric. But often, the intersections of class, caste, race, religion and sexual orientation were not highlighted. It was the postmodern feminist perspective that recognized difference without essentializing categories such as caste and gender, she stated.
She opined that in contemporary times, the methods of intersectionality will allow rich ethnographies that do not ask people to privilege either their gender or caste idea but attempt to understand the nuanced intersections of both. The methods may be large surveys or detailed and intensive life histories but the perspective must be one that allows for understand contemporary gender issues without essentializing femininity and masculinity, she added.
Prof. Apaprna said that the researcher must look at why women are assaulted rather than making artificial divisions between public and private spaces. Instead of a top down perspective research must be bottom up one giving tremendous importance to the respondents. Research must also have goals that are compatible with the struggles of women’s movements and try to understand the context of these struggles, she said while concluding her talk.