Enjoy the warmer weather as the semester draws to a close.

On Teaching

  • Grading: Ugh We all struggle with and generally dislike grading student work and determining final grades. Some faculty, especially in the sciences and engineering, deploy extensive and carefully calibrated rubrics that make ...
    Posted Apr 15, 2019, 9:34 AM by Rita Breidenbach
  • Important Health Resources for Students The number of students experiencing depression and anxiety has risen dramatically in recent years. Consider including these important services on your spring syllabi to support student mental and emotional health ...
    Posted Jan 18, 2019, 12:16 PM by Rita Breidenbach
  • Promote Student Completion of Online Evaluations You can encourage students to complete course evaluations and improve feedback:Designate class time for the evaluation and don't wait until the last day of the semester.Let students ...
    Posted Nov 29, 2018, 11:34 AM by Rita Breidenbach
  • Take ACTION against microaggressions in the classroom Microaggressions are relatively slight, subtle, and often unintentional words or actions that cause hurt and harm. Allowed to occurred unchecked can harm the classroom environment and the relation between faculty ...
    Posted Oct 12, 2018, 12:21 PM by Rita Breidenbach
  • Call for Women Scholars: Promote Your Expertise Women scholars and practitioners may wish to more actively promote their expertise following the notorious case of A History Panel [which Set Off] a Diversity Firestorm, as reported by the ...
    Posted Sep 25, 2018, 1:41 PM by Rita Breidenbach
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Welcome to The New School Faculty Professional Development Network, your resource for all things related to faculty, including teaching and learning, research and creative practice, grants, new faculty support services, and leadership development. 

On Feminist Economics
  with Sheba Tejani

Assistant Professor of International Affairs, Schools of Public Engagement

What makes research feminist?

I think feminist research is research that engages with questions of power with the goal of undermining, subverting and breaking down structures that perpetuate inequalities and advancing justice for marginalized groups.  Feminist research has an expressly political purpose. But I think we can go further than that and say that research can also be feminist in approach or methodology, for instance, using research methods that are self-reflexive, participatory and that attempt to attenuate power differences between the researcher and researched can also be considered feminist.

How would you describe your pedagogical approach to teaching and learning in your courses?

First off, I like to arrange seating in the classroom so that we are in a circle and facing each other. This encourages more dialogue between students and hopefully creates an environment that feels more equal. I’m not fond of lecturing so I run almost all my classes as seminars and discussions where we engage in a critical dialogue with the text together. I feel it is my role to provoke students to question their priorities and think independently instead of being satisfied with a particular notion of what it means to be critical. Whenever relevant, I also invite students to share personal experiences which I think can be a powerful way to reflect on important political questions.

What do you find most challenging about radically reconceptualizing the study of economics?

I find that the theoretical tools we have at our disposal in economics are a bit blunt and they limit the kind of questions we can ask. Economists tend to approach the world somewhat mechanistically and we look for universal economic laws or generalizations that hold across space and time and we tend to use positive research methods. I think it is important to pay much more attention to the particular historical, social and political contexts of the societies and economies we study, to discard this stance of detached and objective researcher and to implicate ourselves in our work. But of course there are certain conventions, routines and practices in economics that make this quite hard to do. Economics as a discipline is wedded to certain methodologies and challenging them means it’s harder to publish and be taken seriously as an economist.

Is economics sexist? Or is the way that we teach and practice economics sexist?

Well, feminists have long argued that economics has a bias and that it employs certain hierarchical dualisms that are deeply gendered both theoretically and methodologically. For instance, the representative agent in economic theory is a rational economic man who maximizes his utility and is guided purely by self-interest. This construction is itself gendered and based on a dubious masculine-feminine dualism. Methodologically speaking as well, there is a premium on formal and mathematical methods in economics, which are considered to be rigorous and ‘hard’ science, unlike qualitative methods that are considered feminine and low-brow. But I would not say economics is inherently sexist; it is as sexist as its concepts and practices are, which can always be reformed.

What does the “feminization of labor” mean?

The feminization of labor is generally used to describe a process by which the share of female employment in an industry rises along with a decline in the quality of work. Feminization usually means that work is becoming more flexible, seasonal, insecure and provides little or no benefits. This was the kind of work that women first obtained in the manufacturing sector in developing countries in the 1960s and even to this day women are segmented into relatively low value added and precarious jobs in different sectors.

Any readings that you’d recommend?  

Two classic works are Beyond Economic Man (1993) and Feminist Economics Today (2003) both edited by Marianne Ferber and Julie Nelson that contain influential essays in the field. Silvia Federici’s Caliban and the Witch (1998) is a great historical look at the role of social reproduction in capitalism. For something more recent, I would recommend The Handbook of Research on Gender and Economic Life (2013), edited by Deborah Figart, which has an interesting collection of feminist economic articles on a variety of issues. It’s also available as an ebook in the New School library!

Read prior interviews here.