Who is producing our Gender-based knowledge?

Updated: Feb 4, 2019

Over the last 12 years, I have consciously chosen to pursue a career path that entails working in both academia as well as NGOs, private & public sector organizations around the world including India, Nepal, Australia, Denmark, Poland and now Switzerland with Gender as my focal point.

My professional journey, until a couple of years ago, always involved walking the tight rope and maintaining a ‘balance’ between the academic sphere and professional non-academic world of NGOs, Corporations, start-ups engaged in Gender work. To come to think of it - why should one have to maintain a balance between the two realms when both realms seek to address the same issue, in this case, gender? Shouldn't the two compliment and intertwine each other? The distinctive compartmentalization between the academic sphere and the realm outside of academia became increasingly apparent as I delved deeper into the Gender arena. What I am implying here is the impracticality of implementing academic theories rooted in Gender (but not limited to it) into addressing everyday issues of women around the world. Owing to the over arching fact that knowledge in the academic realm was (and still is) being largely produced by women (& men) belonging to a privileged strata of society – privileges that are rooted in class, race, nationality & other paradigms. It is no secret that often the production of knowledge on women’s issues involves narrations from the purview of the aforementioned dominant section. As a result, women based on whom academic narrations have been produced i.e. the subject themselves have been denied the opportunity to document their experiences from their own perspective.

This predicament is certainly not mine alone, and is shared by numerous other like-minded women & men working in the Gender spectrum within & outside academic circles. Thankfully, recent years have witnessed the revival & rise of ‘subaltern perspective’. Subaltern studies, with specific reference to Gender, refers to the branch of studies that enables ordinary women like you and me - women from the masses - to document our stories, journeys and tailor made solutions into the academic realm. No longer is it imperative to possess a string of academic titles attached to one’s name to be able to document findings and legitimize them as a powerful knowledge tool providing practical solutions which are being increasingly used as prototype to cater to various issues that stem in the Gender arena and beyond.

The journey of knowledge production from the ‘margins’ has gained immense momentum in last couple of years where women from various facets of life – from those working in big corporations to stay-at-home mothers, from women in start-ups to women engaged in the informal sector like domestic workers among others- have stepped out and documented their journeys entailing their hardships and successes into academic knowledge. Thus, in a way creating a thriving community that is beginning to surpass the barriers of class, nationality and race, connected through subaltern knowledge production and its subsequent dissemination.

This is certainly a turning point in academia rooted in Gender (as well as other genres) as it exhibits that we are becoming increasingly ready to cultivate and adopt knowledge that comes from the subjects themselves i.e. those of us who endure the gender based experiences. This is the success of subalternism of the 21st century- slowly seeking to bridge the disconnect between classroom based academic knowledge on women’s issues and everyday experiences of real women. Women, globally are not only able to narrate but also document and formalize their personal experiences embedded in Gender into viable knowledge that is being increasingly published and incorporated in textbooks in educational institutions around the world.

The proof is all around us to see – next time you are taking a walk down a street, step into a book store or an academic institution’s library or if the cold winter breeze prevents you from venturing outside your cozy homes simply browse through the internet and the evidence speaks for itself - there is more academic knowledge available today that has been created by women from everyday walks of life than, there ever was in the past.

Today, we are witnessing an increasing number of women from diverse strata of the global society, document their valuable experiences embedded in gender & it’s intersectional paradigms into viable & legitimate forms of knowledge, which is distributed and taught in educational institutions around the world. This production & consequent adoption of subaltern knowledge rooted in Gender is steadily changing the manifesto of educational institutions globally which in turn is reshaping & cultivating a thriving world community working towards gender equality.

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