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Intruders in the sacred grove of science? : a critical analysis of women academics' participation in research in the humanities and social sciences.

Knowledge production or research in South Africa, as elsewhere in the world, does not



occur within 'innocent' spaces devoid of personal, social, political, economic and cultural



contexts. Research in the Humanities and Social Sciences has been largely the domain of



white, male academics operating within positivistic, western, or eurocentric paradigms that



have consequently cast all differing modes of knowledge production as 'other'. Research



has been 'normalised' within particular frames of reference that have often served to



marginalize knowledge production emanating from other contexts such as a feminist



perspective or a black perspective.



This thesis presents a critical analysis of the participation of women academics in research



in the Humanities and Social Sciences in South Africa. I argue in this study that the



discourses and practices of the academy have traditionally operated to marginalize, and



continues to marginalize women effectively excluding them from the arena of research.



Whilst there are many studies that have been conducted investigating women in academia,



the emphases have been essentially on establishing baseline data such as the numbers and



positions women occupy and explanations for the situations that exist. There are, however,



very few studies that have extended the analysis to focus on women as researchers and



knowledge producers within academia as is the case with this study. I also advance the



analyses by arguing for a shift from the widely accepted conceptions that cast women



academics as the problem and focus attention instead on the often hostile culture or climate



of academia.



I argue further that the historical exclusion of women and more especially black women,



from the production of knowledge or research has contributed to the exclusion of women



from positions of power in the social, cultural, political, economic and academic contexts.



My own passion for these issues is directly linked to a conviction that in its public



absence, and in the assumption that knowledge about gender is largely irrelevant to the



possibility of social justice, lies some of the deep roots of women's complex degradations.



This study grew out of my participation in the former Centre for Science Development's



(now part of the National Research Foundation) audit of women academics and



researchers in the Humanities and Social Sciences in South Africa and was carried out in



three phases. The first phase entailed a secondary analysis of the audit data, drawing



comparisons between the national findings and the findings for the province of KwaZulu-Natal.



Besides conducting a general analysis the data was also disaggregated according to



the historically designated racial categories to establish how black women, in particular,



were faring.



Having established a statistical picture, the second phase was concerned with exploring the



qualitative understandings of women academics in research, through the eyes of six black



women academics from KwaZulu-Natal. The six women in the study were selected from



the University of Durban-Westville, the University of Zululand (both historically



disadvantaged institutions) and the University of Natal (a historically advantaged



institution).



Although it is my contention that all research is necessarily autobiographical, the third



phase of the study turned my 'subtext' of being the researcher who is simultaneously



'other' into 'text'. In the autobiographical data I author and reflect on my own experiences



as an academic and researcher who is 'other'.



Conducted in a style that challenges the mainstream or what is described as 'male-stream'



conventions and understandings of research practice, I inscribe the personal into the



'scientific' by employing an autobiographical, feminist 'gaze' throughout this study. The



narrative style of communicating parts of the study to the audience, and my attempt to blur



the divide between researcher and researched, express a significant feminist desire to



infuse the generic aspects of feminist theory, feminist methodology, feminist practice and



feminist politics into each other.



Finally the insights gained from this study about the general participation of women



academics in research and more especially, the position and experiences of black women



academics, including myself, achieve many objectives. Not only does it provide baseline



information for the province of KwaZulu-Natal in relation to the national trends but also



serves to unpack this baseline information with respect to the historically designated racial



categories and deepens our understandings of the problems through insights into the day-to-day lived experiences of black women in particular. All of which are integral to



informing equity and redress initiatives designed to bring about transformation and



democratisation in the arena of research in the humanities and social sciences. / Thesis (Ph.D.) - University of Durban-Westville, 2000.

Identiferoai:union.ndltd.org:netd.ac.za/oai:union.ndltd.org:ukzn/oai:http://researchspace.ukzn.ac.za:10413/3750
Date January 2000
CreatorsSingh, Suchitra.
ContributorsJansen, Jonathan D., Patitu, Carol.
Source SetsSouth African National ETD Portal
LanguageEnglish
Detected LanguageEnglish
TypeThesis

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