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Introduction / How to Use this Site

The Challenge: Area Studies
and Women's Studies in the Classroom

How are new, more global perspectives and the rise of transnational movements (both feminist and non-feminist) redefining women's studies in North America and elsewhere? What impact is the new scholarship on women and gender having on the various area studies disciplines? How can we translate these issues and debates into the college classroom? This anthology, a project of the Five College Women's Studies Research Center, showcases the efforts of a group of talented teacher-scholars to think in sophisticated yet practical ways about these problems.

The Authors and the Issues

The contributors to this collection represent a variety of disciplinary, political, and experiential perspectives, as well as a very wide range of teaching styles and philosophies. In these essays and teaching materials they address such disciplinary and pedagogical problems as: How do we combine gender and area studies when it is becoming harder and harder to agree either on what "gender" is or what the "areas" are? What is the most valuable new work being done across disciplines? How does one introduce students to the most cutting-edge scholarship in a way that inspires them to look deeper? Which books and films work best to get students thinking in a complex way? What is the place of the novel in teaching global and "area" women's studies? Where is postmodernism useful? What is the role of activism in the classroom? What do students' preconceived notions about a given instructor's race, national origin, religion or political perspectives do to the learning process? And how can one combat racist and ethnocentric assumptions --and sheer ignorance-- in a humane and pedagogically effective way?

This site aims to bring the economic, cultural, religious and political currents of today into teaching and scholarship. The essays range from efforts to chart the current direction of the international women's health movement to looking at how globalization affects women in different regions of the world; from asking how a range of Muslim scholars are currently interpreting Koranic teachings on gender to demonstrating the impact of the International Monetary Fund's Structural Adjustment Policies on women and families; from probing the original strategic purpose of the "Area Studies" to providing a historical appraisal of the last twenty-five years of international feminist organizing.

Finally, in an effort to shorten the distance between thinking and doing, between the way we talk outside the classroom and how we teach and learn inside it, this site provides practical suggestions about organizing courses, in the form of syllabi, assignments and directions for class discussion on a range of different women's studies and area studies topics. The curriculum materials on this site include, among others, syllabi for courses on Women's Health in Africa, Global Women's Activism, Women and Islam, and Women and Development. Often the syllabi are linked to more reflective short essays focusing on some of the intellectual and pedagogical challenges and possibilities of this kind of teaching.

To Move Around the Site

The horizontal bar across the top of this and other prefatory pages sends you to any of five regional contents pages (Latin America/Caribbean, Africa, Asia, Middle East and Global/ Transregional). Get to any other region at any point by clicking on it on the vertical navigation bar to the left (or, in prefatory pages, the top) of each contents page. Access any article by clicking on the last name of its author, also listed on the vertical navigation bar. Reach articles or syllabi from the main part of each contents page by clicking on the article or syllabus title. A full, alphabetical list of the articles is found in the article index, and a list of all syllabi in the syllabus index.

Search any name or keyword using the search function, found below and on the frontpage and contents pages.

To Use the Materials from this Anthology

You are welcome to download and print articles and course materials from this site or to put a link to this anthology on your own site. If you use an author's work, please acknowledge her or him by name. Please contact the individual authors, who hold the copyrights, if you wish to republish or quote extensively from their work. There is no standard way to acknowledge the use of someone else's syllabus, but if you do incorporate any of these course materials in whole or in part into your own teaching, we hope that you will find some appropriate way to acknowledge the time and effort put into them by their authors.

To Contact Us

This anthology is about what we are trying to do as women's studies, gender studies and area studies teachers and scholars in North American colleges and universities at the beginning of the 21st Century. This site, and the project out of which it has come, has been very much a collective enterprise; it is also a fairly new kind of enterprise. As far as we know there is nothing else quite like this out on the net and we are very interested to hear what you think about it. Please add your comments to our visitors' book or contact individual authors directly (many of them have included their e-mail addresses at the end of their article). You can also e-mail us at

Thanks for visiting, come back often, and tell your friends and colleagues we're here.

Margaret R. Hunt
Editor and Project Coordinator
Five College Women's Studies Research Center
South Hadley, Massachusetts, USA

October 26, 2000

Funded in part
by the
Ford Foundation


article index

 syllabus index

 project history

area studies regions/ top


The opinions expressed on this site are those of the individual contributors
and they do not necessarily represent the views of the Five College Women's Studies Research Center,
Five Colleges, Inc. or the Ford Foundation