Lois McNay's own reflections
Lois MacNay reflects on her first encounters: – My first visit as Professor II to the Centre for Gender Research at Oslo University was both enjoyable and intellectually enriching.
Symposium collage: Top right, Lois McNay gives her paper; top center, McNay in discussions with Christel Stormhøj and Cathrine Holst; top left, Hannah Helseth gives her paper; and bottom left, Harriet B. Nielsen gives her paper. Photo: Reinert Skumsnes, Sunniva Serigstad and Minji Song
My tenure in the post was inaugurated by attendance at the centre’s weekly staff meeting. I was impressed not only by the friendly and inclusive ethos of the meeting but also by the intellectual liveliness of the discussion that arose in response to the presentation I gave. I spoke to staff and MA students about my current work on gender in critical theory and this gave rise to a stimulating discussion on several related topics including the status of feminism within political theory and the academy more generally.
The congenial intellectual tone set by the staff meeting was continued in the symposium which was one of the main purposes of my visit to Oslo. Contributors delivered thought provoking papers on the idea of ‘theorising from experience’ and what this meant for them in the context of a possible convergence between feminist thought and critical theory. It was striking that, although the papers were wide-ranging and from different disciplinary backgrounds, several overarching themes emerged. A number of papers drew on the work of the sociologist Pierre Bourdieu and the critical race theorist, bell hooks in an interesting fashion to establish an intellectual conduit between Frankfurt School Critical theory and feminism. There was also a very interesting discussion about the status of experience for theory; what is meant by experience, should it be regarded as a negative or positive category, how to avoid the politics of suffer mongering and a critically limiting subjectivism and so on. The discussion made clear that this was a very fruitful line of enquiry and the doctoral workshop planned for September 2019 will hopefully provide an opportunity to explore in more detail the theoretical issues raised here in relation to the work of Bourdieu, Foucault and Honneth.