On May 2nd, the University of Minnesota will publish a book that is very important to me and to my co-editors. Since 1999, I have been working with my graduate advisor and friend, Jennifer Pierce (Associate Professor of American Studies, University of Minnesota) and my fellow graduate student and friend, Hokulani Aikau (now Assistant Professor of Indigenous Politics at the University of Hawai’i) on an edited anthology of feminist narratives entitled Feminist Waves, Feminist Generations: Life Narratives from the Academy (University of Minnesota Press, 2007). Together, we were interested in telling a more nuanced story about how feminism has grown and transformed in the academy over the last three decades. We co-authored the introduction, and each of us has written our own feminist narrative of how we first encountered feminism, what it means to us to be feminist scholars and teachers, and how we view our own biography in relation to generations of feminists in the academy. My chapter is entitled “On Taking Feminism for Granted” and reflects on the ups and downs of identifying as a feminist and looking for an intellectual and political home in the 1990s.
This project has empowered and energized all of us co-editors. In 2000, we sent out a request for submissions that produced a rich medley of feminist narratives. Methodologically, personal narratives have the potential of providing the kind of detail that is often missing in synthetic historical accounts. Narratives can bring to light new or untapped perspectives on broader historical processes and phenomena that may undermine, refute, or contradict dominant views. Feminist Waves, Feminist Generations: Life Stories from the Academy focuses on feminist generations in the academy through the lens of movement and mobile trajectories. We use feminist generations as a reference point for the timing of one’s entry into graduate school, and feminist waves as a metaphor for the movement and relocation of theories, politics, methods, and ways of knowing across time and place. We argue that thinking about feminist waves as movement highlights the variations within generational groups as well as the continuities between them.
The scholars who have contributed to the volume range in age from 20-60 years old. They are trained in diverse fields including History, Sociology, Anthropology, Queer Studies, American Studies, Women’s Studies, English, and Political Science. They were born in various countries and raised in disparate circumstances. What the contributors share is as interesting as the ways in which these scholars differ: They have each, at some point, found themselves a part of a feminist community within the University of Minnesota. We hold place constant in order to examine how ideas, people, and resources come together and inform one another across and within generations of feminist scholars in the academy. We use these life stories from three decades of feminist scholars from the University of Minnesota as a case study of feminist generations more broadly. As such, we use the local to address our broader theoretical and conceptual questions.
I am proud of this book because I think it qualifies as a “good read.” It challenges us to think about the social organization of knowledge, the value of feminist institutions and networks, and the always provocative interplay of biography and history. I think it will be both inspiring and enlightening for the next generation of feminist scholars, many of whom I am lucky to work with and teach here at Grinnell. I also hope that the book will operate as an invitation to other feminist scholars to reflect on their own intellectual biographies and feminist trajectories. I think undergraduates students also will enjoy the book for the insights provided by the range of feminist stories that are brought together here. It is important to me that as we teach and learn through feminism today that we are keenly aware of how our current work is situated in a legacy of risk and courage, disappointment and pain that has brought feminism into the lives of individuals and into the enduring institutions of higher education.