Normalization And “Outsiderhood”

Feminist Readings of a Neoliberal Welfare State

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This volume presents an illuminating analysis of the ways in which normalization processes and practices operate in a welfare state in an age of neoliberalism. This informative book problematizes the ...
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A ROOM OF OUR OWN: A COLLECTIVE BIOGRAPHY OF AN EXERCISE IN INTERDISCIPLINARY FEMINISM

Pp. 106-116 (11)

Siv Fahlgren, Katja Gillander Gadin, Katarina Giritli Nygren, Anders Johansson and Eva Soderberg

Abstract

The interdisciplinary research project “Challenging gender” was a joint effort by members of two Swedish universities. Researchers were grouped by five different themes, while together they became “the Arena”. The present authors’ theme focused on normalization processes, and included gender researchers from literary studies, sociology, social work, and public health studies. The purpose of this chapter is to explore what it is to challenge normalization processes as researchers; the context is interdisciplinary gender research under a neo-liberal regime. To deepen their understanding of what the process has occasioned, the researchers used “collective biography”, a memory-work method developed by Bronwyn Davies, who led the researchers’ work of writing down their memories prompted by experience of striations and of lines of flight. In this chapter the memories so produced are discussed in the light of Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own. Thanks to the financial resources the project was able to muster, we were able to create the kind of collective “room” where we could take the opportunity to be creative and challenge structural patterns – but equally where we could give vent to our frustration at these same patterns. Our memories seemed to waver between fragile but uplifting flashes of optimism and a feeling that nothing would work, and not only just the one or the other – always somewhere in between. Our theoretical understanding of normality grew out of that most dangerous of ideas: that we should open our minds to the unpredictable, the non-normalizing, to whatever could be different.

Keywords:

collective biography, memory-work, interdisciplinary feminism, normalization, neoliberalism, communities, boundaries, striations, lines of flight, listening.

Affiliation:

Department of Social Sciences, Mid Sweden University, 851 70 Sundsvall, Sweden.