Memory Work and Reflexive Gendered Bodies: Examining Rural Landscapes in the Making (13750)
How do the urban often middle-class feminist bodies of researchers transform, alter or provide tension in rural spaces? Haraway’s (1988) concept of situated knowledges provides a useful way of interrogating the idea of material bodies located in place. Further, her idea of limited knowledge claims in feminist research makes apparent that in research, bodies are bound to shifting practices of privilege and/or subordination. In using a critical reflexive autoethnographic approach via memory work, I retrospectively examine the moments in spaces that become filled with gendered knowledges and expectations, which shape and at times alter both researcher and participants.
Within the discipline of rural studies and rural feminist studies autoethnography has been rarely adopted as a research method. Central to autoethnography is the use of writing to explore the dialectics of personal stories and multiple power relations. Spry (2001) emphasizes the dialogical potential of autoethnography in connecting the dynamics of self and society and challenges the notion that data emerges only through established methods such as observation or interviews. I argue in this paper that autoethnography allows for the exploration of multiple situations, locations, emotions, connections and disconnections which occur within gendered and other dimensions of power in the process of field work.
To examine the autobiograpical and its relation to the gendering of cultural, social and political space we draw on two memories. The first describes a road trip to Mudumuckla an isolated area in the far West of Ceduna, South Australia to interview a young woman. This memory reveals how gendered space comes into being and those moments that transform the dynamic of the relationship between researcher and researched. The second memory is in juxtaposition to the first and captures the story of an academic with a rural background working in an urban academic space and examines how reflexive bodies gender landscapes as well as being gendered by landscape.