Why ‘RFF’? Maddie’s Thoughts

What is a ‘Feminist Future’ anyway? And how can we ‘research it’?

 I find it very hard to say, in words, what I hope that this symposium will be ‘about’. Like Catherine-Rose has written, it seems to have grown out of our small, postgraduate, social and political science reading group (which in itself has mutated and grown beyond the bounds of a group that reads…) and so I suppose I hope that we re-create the experiences and processes of the reading group on a larger, louder, more colourful scale.

What have been these ‘experiences’ and ‘processes’? The reading group, for me, has been an incredible synthesis of growth, inspiration and support in an eye, heart and mind-opening space where the potential we have to make change, and the resources that we collectively share become too big to ignore. Perhaps it is hopelessly naïve but I really think that coming together to share ideas, learn collaboratively, ask questions and do things is a radical act. I want to help create and be part of an environment in which we can celebrate and constructively discuss what it means to do feminist research and be a feminist academic.

When we began planning the symposium we all wrote down a sentence or two on what we hoped it would be. I wrote that I wanted it to be “radical, inclusive and well-organised”. I have high hopes for the symposium, and perhaps it might not live up to them. It might be just like any other academic conference but with the extra buzz-words attached: “collaborative”, “creative”, “interdisciplinary” and with an art space of course: institutional food, powerpoint and mutual self-congratualtion. I guess we won’t be able to tell until its actually happening, but I’m convinced that by working towards these goals and consciously directing our energies in a collaborative direction that we can make something good happen, maybe even make something amazing happen, and if not well just keep working at it anyway until it does.

It is easy to forget sometimes what it is like outside a wonderful feminist reading group bubble, and I hope that the symposium will enable us to look outwards and inwards at the same time, looking at us and our research and the broader systemic conditions in which we work, how we shape them and how they shape us.  I’ve been thinking recently about the ‘dark side’ of academia, learning through other people’s stories what a messed up place ‘the university’ can be, and reading and thinking about the privileges and oppressions that I benefit from, sustain me in this system that I am a part of and that I want to change.

I want two things: I want my work to be relevant, not just interesting or well-written, I want it to pull your guts up out through your ears. Again this is probably impossibly naïve and ambitious for research ‘on roller derby’ but still. But I think that it is only in listening and sharing and working with other people that we can find out exactly what this ‘gut-ness’ is in our work – I think it has something to do with relatedness. Secondly I want to be part of making academia good, or better, making it what I know it can be.

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