The Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Circle, College of Liberal Arts, Fall 2015

The Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Circle, College of Liberal Arts, Fall 2015

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Research and Teaching Philosophy

As a social scientist whose scholarship merges US history and critical theory, my pedagogy and research strives to creating community and change perspectives through the fiber arts — primarily through hand quilting. My research focuses on American women's participation in mass movements through their sewing circles; my teaching applies the sewing circle as a method of learning.

My curriculum and instruction is inspired by Elsa Barkely Brown and Chandra Talpade Mohanty. Brown situates her teaching within the aesthetics of African-American quilting. In their strip piecing, Black quilters eschewed the uniform grid and color schemes of Anglo-American blocks. Instead, balance is achieved with unpredictable scale and color contrasts. Brown sees her students as representing each unique piece of these quilts; all are necessary yet each retain their individuality.

Brown’s praxis is related to that of Mohanty, who defined feminist solidarity as a curricula theory anchored in the co-responsibility of teacher and students. Mohanty’s collective methodology forces students to “read up the ladder of privilege” in order to better understand how systems of domination serve the few while devastating the lives of others. Hence, my courses compare experiences of global south cultures to those of the global north across time and space. Throughout the semester, I apply the sewing circle as a form of socially engaged pedagogy by incorporating quilting into my teaching practice. Groups of students lead discussions as they piece together small squares. Discussion points are based upon their bi-weekly critical reflective essays generated from a variety of course materials drawn from global feminist scholarship.

Dialogue emerges from the informal relationships and trust encouraged from group sewing. Voice, representation, and knowledge production merge within this form of feminist quilting salon, where students’ lives are not invalidated. Rather, they are related to others’ stories. Hence, students are empowered to challenge accepted norms through the exercise of quilting, often articulating their views regarding social issues – as well as their sense of aesthetics. In sum, the sewing circle thoughtfully and collectively navigates the perils and promises within the activist-educational space.