Saturday, November 21, 2009

Failed Attempt to Return to South Africa

I researched and wrote a proposal to the Fulbright Institute as a way to return to South Africa in 2007. My focus at that time was to integrate gender studies and religious studies through some basic courses like women and religion and violence against women and the faith community. The proposal was not successful. I submitted applications in 2006 and 2007. The format below is Fulbright's:

While I have no regrets I still very much would like the opportunity to return. As a minister with a focus on interfaith social justice issues I would be interested in exploring how the vareious faith communities work together to address the issue of violence against women and what that looks like.

State of Proposed Research
Qiyamah A. Rahman, South Africa – Women’s Studies and Religious Studies
New Directions in Gender /Women Studies and Religious Studies: Interdisciplinary Curricula Development Utilizing African Feminist Pedagogy in Historically Black Universities in South African

Introduction - Entering the twenty-first century with the weakest higher education system in the world will surely not bode well for Africans in the global knowledge economy. Despite these overwhelming challenges, African Higher Education (AHE) in South Africa is in the midst of some exciting initiatives.
I was born in 1948, the year that apartheid came to power and so I have grown up with, watched, worked for, prayed for and witnessed the dismantling of apartheid. Forty-six years later, I was in South Africa in 1994 conducting research on violence against women when they held their first democratic elections. This research project is my personal contribution to the new South Africa.

Description - New Directions in Gender /Women Studies and Religious Studies Programs: Interdisciplinary Curricula Development Utilizing African Feminist Pedagogy in Historically Black Institutions in South African is a one year project designed to develop interdisciplinary curricula utilizing African feminist pedagogy. African feminist pedagogy approaches learning as a liberatory process and the classroom as a site of resistance. It is a revolutionary process of teaching and learning that is counter hegemonic and emphasizes critical thinking and awareness
The gender/women’s studies and religious studies in South Africa, specifically Historically Black Universities (HBU’s), often tend to comprise separate and distinct disciplines. However, Historically White Universities (HWU’s), in particular, The University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Religious Studies Department has recently launched a Project titled, “Religion in a Globalizing World” that includes gender studies, human rights, globalization and post-colonialism. Additionally, the African Gender Institute at the UCT obtained Ford Foundation funding to support a programme of intense capacity building with African-based researchers focused on gender, sexuality and politics. A distinctive strength of the proposed research project is to further development of multidisciplinary expertise in gender/women’s studies and religious studies at HBU’s. The lack of an interdisciplinary approach poses a unique opportunity to initiate and encourage collaborative efforts. Ultimately, the globalization of knowledge dictates that universities be able to reconfigure their educational and research efforts based on forming interdisciplinary teams of scholars. Furthermore, the gender/women’s studies focus of South Africa’s Higher Education’s production of knowledge has primarily addressed access, participation and gender equality in educational leadership, but has failed to sufficiently consider and generate research on gender/women’s studies curriculum and pedagogical strategies. Hence, this research project generates needed research on both gender studies curriculum and on pedagogical strategies. Preliminary research suggests that religious studies at HBU’s have not for the most part made adequate room for gender analysis. Thus, this research will foster collaboration between gender/women’s studies and religious studies to develop an interdisciplinary approach which will expand opportunities for faculty and students.

Implementation - Phase I begins with an assessment at the University of Cape Town’s Religious Studies Department and the African Gender Institute to determine how these departments have evolved over time and what was required to do so. The University of Cape Town appears to have both a strong and well funded Gender/Women’s Studies Department and Religious Studies Department that potentially can provide direction for HBU’s as they consider and conceptualize interdisciplinary approaches within their unique frameworks. There is the potential for partnership and cross-fertilization between HBU’s and HWU’s to promote interdisciplinary gender/women’s studies and religious studies courses that ultimately represent a viable partnership between resource rich institutions and those with fewer resources.
Phase II – Upon completion of the assessments I will review the data and develop a survey instrument to be administered to staff, faculty and selected members of the student body at designated HBU’s. The intent is to gather information pertaining to the culture of the programs, including structure and curriculum, mission statements, and the feasibility of creating two or three interdisciplinary courses. Additionally, the data will identify what level of professional development currently exists for instructors and if there is a need for increased exposure to curriculum development, teaching pedagogy and methodology. Also, compiling syllabi from various institutions will determine what, if any, interdisciplinary courses currently exist. Some preliminary investigation has already identified two courses that appear to be commonly taught in GWS: “Women and Religion” and “ Violence Against Women.”
Phase III, identifies an HBU as a test site for an interdisciplinary course between gender/women’s studies and religious studies. Further, course curricula for the top two to three courses identified by the feasibility study will be developed and one course selected as a team taught with a South African co-hort at an HBU.
Phase IV is dependent upon future funding generated to convene a 3-5 day “teaching clinic” with the teaching staff of the HBUs. Workshops on some of the following topics are proposed: Integrating and teaching Gender/Women’ Studies and Religious Studies (RS); Overview of Gender/Women’s Studies and RS resources; the use of African Feminist Pedagogy for GWS and RS; Updates and Developments in Curriculum Development for GWS and RS; Forming Partnerships and Identifying Research and Teaching Grants to Strengthen Learning at HBUs in GWS and RS and Available on-line resources and How to Access them.

Contacts - In preparation for this research project I have contacted the University of Cape Town, Historically Black Universities, the University of South Africa, African American Institute (South African Office); The Council on Higher Education and SisterLove, Inc.

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