Women’s Organisations and Memory Work

I have been thinking again about Women’s Organizations in Malaysia (and Thailand) and the work they do, and the ways in which they deal with nationality. Reading some of the literature on feminist women’s organizations, there is apparently some debate about whether or not an organization can consider itself part of the feminist women’s movement. Some people argue that any group that organizes itself to support women is part of the feminist movement. You may wish to read this article by Patricia Martin, published in Gender and Society: http://www.webpages.uidaho.edu/~tcraig/Yancey-Martin.pdf

Many women’s organizations act in support of women’s rights around the world, and therefore a sense of equality and inclusion is a central ethos, irrespective of race, nationality class,  etc. So, debates about who to include (what nationalities, migrants or locals, etc) can challenge the ethos of a women’s organization.

Memory Work

I have also been reading about a method called ‘Memory Work’. It is a great way to work in groups to raise consciousness about a specific issue (such as race, ethnicity, nationality). Women in Malaysia might like to use it in their organizations. Let me know if you do!

First you decide on a topic of which you each have some experience, however small or apparently trivial (race in Malaysia, for example). Then individually you write a short story in the third person describing an experience you had related to that topic. You don’t analyse or interpret the experience, or try to make any sense of it at this stage. But do include small details and lots of description.

Next, you share the stories with each other in a group. Together you:

1)Look for similarities and differences in the stories, and for themes that emerge.

2)Discuss the shared cultural ideas, assumptions, ways of doing things, ways of seeing things as individuals and as groups of people, that the stories reveal.

3)Discuss what things have not been said, what are the silences

4) Discuss how things could be done differently (I added this last one).

I am no expert on the subject of memory work; I have to thank my colleague Dr Line Nyhagen Predelli for telling me a little about it. You can read more here:

Niamh Stephenson (2005). Living history, undoing linearity: Memory-work as a research method in the social sciences’. International Journal of Social Research Methodology 8 (1): 33-45.

 

 

 

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