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USF professor teaches gender studies in post-Soviet countries

TAMPA, Fla. -- Sara Crawley, associate professor of sociology at USF, has been working on a project to teach feminist and queer theory, subjects not easily accessible, to scholars from post-soviet countries including Russia, Albania and Armenia.

The project, entitled Gender, Sexuality and Power, is the first project on gender studies funded by the Open Society Foundation’s Open Society International Higher Education Support Program (HESP).

“The project is to create an opportunity for academics from the former Soviet Union to have access to learning feminist theory and queer theory,” Crawley said.

For three years, participants will meet twice a year to hold graduate-level workshops to introduce and discuss topics relating to gender studies, feminist and queer theory to scholars from various universities across the post-Soviet area.

“Part of the project is not just to give workshops but also to have the participants getting working done through the workshops,” Crawley said. “So they are writing syllabi, doing culture analysis, doing projects and writing papers depending on the discipline they are working on; they are thinking of all sorts of applications.”

Queer theory, which has its origins in feminist theory, relates to the study of sexuality, which has larger implications in academia than just the biological implications, including theories of masculinity and femininity, gender performance and a critique of culture.

These topics have not been readily accessible in post-Soviet countries, originally due to the political implications than due to the financial limitations facing education in these countries.

Many issues previously facing this sort of dialogue between countries include an inherent distrust of western ideas in eastern countries. Also, gender studies often seem to have a very western focus, which does not always work in countries with different histories and perspectives.

This project facilitates dialogue and the exchange of knowledge and scholarships to countries that do not have easy access to it.

“Knowledge that is produced in the Untied States is sold,” Crawley said. “In the post-Soviet era, universities simply cannot afford the cost. This has real implications for participating in academic conversations.”

The project will continue for three years, with part of the project’s hopes that participants will develop women or gender studies programs at their universities. This fall, a Fulbright scholar will be studying for a year at USF with Crawley.


Filed under:Arts and Sciences Sociology Women’s and Gender Studies   
Author: Megan Mangrum