COLLAGING AND COLLECTING MEMORIES OF LIVED and Embodied Academic Selves
Our research methodology for this collective and reflective process was inspired by several recent and ongoing textual and visual attempts to collectively share experiences within academia. These include auto-ethnographical approaches to international relations (Inayatullah 2011; Martini and Jauhola 2014), collective biography as feminist methodology (Palmusaarinenojala 2014; Davies et al. 2013), the work of the
Bordering Actors research collective (2014)3, collage research (Sarma 2014) and exploring collaborative methods as a critical methodology for social science (Guillaume 2015).
Collective memory work and collective biography, for example, are a set of methodologies that were developed primarily in the context of the sociology of education, drawing on the works of Frigga Haug (Haug et al. 1987). This is not a method that one should follow precisely but rather a process that provides possibilities for action (Davies et al. 2013, p. 684). Memories, recollections and, in our case, visual representations are brought into a “diffractive relation with one another” (Davies et al. 2013, p. 684). According to Guillaume, “collaboration can be a critical methodology in social sciences, namely as a critical process of knowledge production, management and valorization” (Guillaume 2015, p. 189). Moreover, “collaboration as a mode of research also implies a particular way of understanding intellectual activity and presentation of research—a dialogical mode of approaching the generation of knowledge” (Guillaume 2015, p. 192).
In our approach, we embraced the focus on the mundane and everyday experience, expecting that our intervention would allow us to “name the daily structures, stories and scenarios that undermine and minimize women in universities” (Brabazon 2014, p. 48). We also recognize that, although we have specifically targeted our questions at feminists, some of the experiences have more to do with ‘being a woman’ or ‘man’ in academia, whilst others are specific to that of ‘being a feminist’ and ‘doing feminist work’.
We approached colleagues who had, in their works and interaction with the discipline, self-identified as feminists and contributed to the study of international relations. We approached around 20 early career and senior scholars4 who had self-identified in a loose and wide sense as participating in the feminist IR research environment and asked them to write in response to the following questions:
- 1) On their experiences as early career (post-doc) feminists: what experiences, challenges and survival strategies have you met and used in the context of Finnish international relations/affairs?
- 2) What is your vision (realistic or utopian) of feminist international relations in Finland?
In total, we received answers from half of those we approached. The answers were read by both of us, reflected upon and then collaged together thematically. We used a mix of individual and collective collage methodology in this process (on individual collaging, see Sarma 2014). We will include all of our participant data within double quote marks, but without a reference, to make it clear which statements come from our dataset.
In addition to written texts, we also invited participants to send images that represent or relate to the themes in our questions. Images could be photos, screen captures, scraps from magazines or books, links on the internet and so on. These two sets of images were then worked into two collages (Collages 1 and 2). Collaging is a sense-making project, which aims to engage the senses beyond just our intellect (Sarma 2014; Sylvester 2009). A rationalising mode of making sense of the experiences of early career feminists in Finnish IR pushes the affective dimensions aside, yet these are equally important, if not more so, in defining one’s place and possibilities in academia (see, e.g., Ahmed 2010, 2015). Visuality is a useful way of highlighting the emotional aspects of working in Finnish IR. As
politics and power are present in the affective everyday encounters early career feminist scholars have with the malestream of Finnish IR, recalling and valorising emotionality textually and visually is important to us. In that sense, this chapter reports the ‘past histories of contact’, which relate to the particular power structures of the academic discipline of IR in Finland (see Ahmed 2004, p. 7; Irni 2013, p. 348).
Here Saara’s individual artistic vision defines what the end result looks like: she chose which images to use; some of the images from the collective image set are repeated, and the sizes of the images vary. In other words, here the individual artist makes aesthetic choices using the collectively collated material. It would be possible to make the collages collectively, but for the purposes and resources available for this particular project we chose a mixed approach. We, however, acknowledge that the final writing process for this chapter follows a more canonical academic approach and reiterates subject positions of being researcher and researched. Yet the collective process will continue after this writing process is over. We will use this text as a basis for a feminist academic workshop that was organised in 2016, allowing us to use the text as material for further collaging, sharing experiences and possible activism. The rest of the chapter draws on the experiences and dreams shared with us during the spring months of 2015.