2011 BPS Annual Conference
Conference Venue: Marriott Hotel, Glasgow
British Psychological Society
From: 04 May 2011
To: 06 May 2011
Can you hear the silence? Womens experience (act) of knowing in relation to psychology, education and policy Convenor: Wendy Lowe
Objectives: The symposium aims to explore gendered silences in relation to institutions and policy, and to discuss the implications of these silences for theory and practice. Relevance of individual contributions: Each paper is relevant to the symposium because it contributes to a rich description of how women are constructed at the social, professional, institutional and human rights level by discourses of privilege. Each paper explores how institutional deficits can perform gender biases in knowledge structures and research thereby creating problematic experiences for women who are then pathologised. Across the fields of health, disability, education and psychology, each piece of research demonstrates how silence can be explored in order to deepen the normative framework of professionals’ practice. By emphasising contextualised intersubjectivity and institutional and political deficits, ways of enhancing women’s acts of knowing and emancipatory strategies are explored and discussed. The implications of contextualised intersubjectivity and social institutional deficits for practice are discussed. These implications need to be considered at the policy, professional, institutional and global level. The global imperatives to consider these issues have existed for a while. These papers discuss the means by which these imperatives could be met.
Paper 1: Silences in health professional practice and education: gender and the self
Wendy Lowe, Murdoch University
Objectives: The aim of this paper is to explore how health professionals are educated and some of the consequences of that education.
Design: This presentation adopts a qualitative feminist poststructural analysis to explore some of the effects of enactment of these curricula drawing on three case studies of education in rural health settings and interviews with 17 healthworkers.
Methods: Critical pedagogy, reflexivity and feminist deconstructive analysis were used to analyse discourses within three case studies of education in health. Thematic analysis identified core strands of meaning of how discourses constructed the field. From there, more detailed development of a theoretical framework and research questions were used to develop interview questions for the 17 participants.
Results: The results indicate that the enactment of curricula produce a particular sense of self for health workers – one that is bound up with notions of control and choice and one that may require struggle on an inner level with the self-regulation required to fit this norm. Discourses of privilege were not explored. Discourses of conformity suggest more of a slippage of self whereas discourses of empowerment that characterise the expert-novice relationship of professional:client interaction suggest otherwise. There is a silence relating to gender issues.
Conclusions: Further research is required to substantiate the claim that curricular reform within health professional education must include feminist methodology on how the professional self is constructed and the effect this has on patient interaction. Due to the small sample size findings from this study are limited in scope and generalisability.
Paper 2: The interface between gender and disability: what the silences say
Heidi Bjorgan, City University of New York
Objectives: This paper will explore how physically disabled women make meaning of their political rights by asking questions such as how do silences within historical policy form ‘acts of knowing’ for women in their daily lives? How do these silences at the local policy level support and create societal constructions?
Design: Using a qualitative poststructural analysis and drawing on Bhatkin’s theories of knowing key policy documents were analysed to identify intersections of gender and disability. Focus groups were conducted in order to address the marginalisation such women experience.
Methods: Volunteer participants were recruited drawing on specific inclusion and exclusion criteria. Participatory discussion groups with 23 women were held, recorded and transcribed in order to identify themes relating to gender and disability and acts of knowing.
Results: Privileged political discourses concerning women with disabilities rarely include the voices of women themselves. Women with disabilities may find themselves marginalised by their family, community and government. This research shows that in spite of this marginalisation and silence relating to the intersection of gender and disability, women do perform acts of knowing in their daily lives.
Conclusions: Key theoretical and policy directions arising from exploring the silence point to the development of an inclusive diverse framework that acknowledges women’s acts of knowing. The impact on service provision to women who have habitually been silenced and dismissed in their acts of knowing is explored. That qualitative nature of this study limits generalisability of the findings.
Paper 3: (Gendered) silences and assumptions in higher education policy
Pauline Whelan, Leeds Metropolitan University
Objectives: This paper aims to explore how individuals are constructed by discourses on Widening Participation in higher education and to explore what this may mean for educational theory, policy and practice.
Design: Using a critical discourse analysis of Widening Participation documentation from 12 cross-sector higher education institutions in England, I explore the assumptions and exclusions embedded in institutional strategy documentation.
Methods: Critical discourse analysis within a feminist pedagogical framework was used to elaborate the tensions, silences, assumptions and omissions of strategy documents.
Results: Assumptions embedded in institutional discourses are shown to insidiously perpetuate privileged traditional hierarchies. The reductionist and oversimplified deployment of psychological theory is critiqued. Strategies enacted to encourage traditionally marginalised groups into higher education frequently rely on pathological accounts of individuals by explaining low participation rates in terms of cognitive deficits and lack of personal aspirations. The gendered nature of policy assumptions reflects issues raised within contemporary debates around the feminisation of education.
Conclusions: The implications for theory and practice include a shift in emphasis from locating deficits within individuals to focusing on social institutional procedures and policies for working with traditionally marginalised groups of people. The gendered nature of policy assumptions must be considered with respect to the recent trends towards the feminisation of education.
Paper 4: Women’s experiences of chronic illness: Opening up the field
Ana Bê Pereira, Lancaster University
Objectives: This paper aims to explore some of the personal narratives, lay knowledges and emancipatory strategies developed by women with chronic illness. A theoretical framework was developed through which these experiences were addressed.
Design: This qualitative empirical study recruited volunteer women participants who had chronic illnesses using inclusion and exclusion criteria.
Methods: Using the narrative correspondence method, I explore how chronically ill women make sense of their experiences of disability.
Results: Lay strategies developed by women with chronic illness are often constructed outside the biomedical model and its references. I demonstrate how these women develop their own lay knowledges and strategies to address the experience of chronic illness.
Conclusions: Women with chronic illness are neither permanently ill nor permanently healthy, therefore, binary and Cartesian models of health and illness requires serious interrogation. New fluid and interlaced models of health and illness are necessary. An interdisciplinary theoretical framework grounded in feminism and disability studies is fundamental to fully make sense of these experiences of chronic illness.
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