Gender and Diversity Studies

Books on a shelf.

Books on a shelf.
Image Credit: CC Lian Hüntelmann BY-NC-SA

Over the past twenty years, Women’s and Gender studies has established itself in many German universities – although its place is often precarious and not permanently secured. Nevertheless, there have been innovative research findings in almost all disciplines. Research approaches focused on a variety of diversity and inequality categories have gained increasing visibility. These two developments have brought the important insight that gender and diversity analyses critically evaluate knowledge and call its neutrality into question. They can expose distortions and blind spots, introducing exciting new research perspectives and more complex research results. New findings have been discovered in research areas as various as heart-attack diagnosis, refugees’ reasons for fleeing home to seek asylum, staffing choices and performance assessments at school. Each of these findings, in turn, can lead to improved practical applications.

In Germany, gender and diversity studies has primarily taken hold as line of questioning within specific disciplines and less so as a subject of its own, as it is in the United States, where universities devote entire departments to it.

While diversity studies can be found more and more often under that name, there are numerous research areas dealing with how to understand and approach diversity in general and in its specific dimensions. These fields include Postcolonial Studies, Critical Race Studies, Disability Studies, Trans-Studies, Anti-Semitism Studies, Romany Studies, Racism Studies, Critical Migration Studies, Elite Theory, Social Inequality Studies, and Queer Studies.

In Germany, gender and diversity studies is highly interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary. Organizationally, this is evident from institutionalized centers, such as the Center for the Promotion of Women’s and Gender Studies, founded in 1981 at Freie Universität, an institute whose activities crossed disciplinary lines and whose work the Margherita von Brentano Center has carried on since 2016. In terms of academic content, theoretical and methodological knowledge bases have been developed across disciplines.

Integrating gender and diversity as content for teaching and learning means familiarizing yourself with these knowledge bases in order to reflect upon and refine the content you teach. This involves three interconnected core aspects:

“Intersectionality... means that social categories such as gender, ethnicity, nationality, or class cannot be conceptualized in isolation from one another, but must be analyzed in their ‘interrelations’ or ‘intersections.’ Additive perspectives should be transcended by focusing on the simultaneous interplay of social inequalities. This is not only a question of taking multiple social categories into account, but also of analyzing their interactions. ” (Walgenbach 2012) The ...

From their beginnings, both Women’s/Gender Studies and Postcolonial Studies have had critical perspectives on the dominant conceptions of scholarship and its epistemological underpinnings. One aspect is the role of academics in the process of knowledge production , for example their relationship to the object(s) of investigation. “Knowledge from the point of view of the unmarked is truly fantastic, distorted, and irrational.” (Haraway, 1991, p. 587) The insistence on neutrality in ...

If we take a critical perspective on the processes and findings of knowledge production, we necessarily arrive at difficult questions about canon formation. The question of what counts as canonical depends on what is recognized as a discipline’s central knowledge and what is not. What are the criteria and standards of evaluation? Which authors and works are considered canonical and which ones are on the margins of the subject? “The canon is made and is related to power from multiple ...

Version April 2017. Unless otherwise stated, this content is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International licence