Project Update #8: Gender, Ethics, and the Politics of Violence Course
December 20, 2017
Part of the: World Bank & Sexual Violence Research Initiative Project: ‘Combatting Sexual Violence in Kyrgyzstan through Innovative Education and Information Technology (Kyrgyzstan, Central Asia)’
Dr Elena Kim, Dr Elena Molchanova, Aigerim Bakubatova, and Dr Frank G. Karioris
Throughout Fall 2017 (September to December) we ran our first course as part of the project. Our goal with the course was to begin working through the educational components of our World Bank & Sexual Violence Research Initiative (SVRI) project, which has, as the title of the project suggests, a strong component on innovative education.
While this was the first course run, we have been building up to this course for nearly a year. Beginning in December 2016, Dr. Karioris began working with faculty and administrators at AUCA to put together an academic Minor and Concentration in Gender Studies. These programs are the first academic programs in Gender Studies in Central Asia. The initiative for these programs came directly from students, many of whom had taken Dr. Karioris’ ‘Sociology of Gender’ course in Fall 2016.
Building off of these initiatives, in Fall 2017 Dr Molchanova, Dr Kim, and Dr Karioris created the first version of the course titled ‘Gender, Ethics, and the Politics of Violence’. This course set out to address the main elements of the World Bank & Sexual Violence Research Initiative (SVRI) project, looking to examine and interrogate sexual violence in various contexts theoretically and practically. A major element of the educational component of the project was to build up a cadre of individuals who had not only studied texts, but had learned practical elements about how to undertake research on issues of gender and sexual violence.
In this way, the course set out a variety of theoretical and disciplinary perspectives on the topic, followed by a focus on students’ interests and providing students the practical skills needed to undertake a research project in the near future. These included research design, and, importantly, filling out an Internal Review Board (IRB) form. The IRB is a document designed to ensure ethical research. It sets out not simply what one can and cannot do, but gets the researcher to think about each aspect of the project and the ethical dimensions of the project. Conducting ethical research is important for all projects, but it takes on greater important when addressing issues of gender and sexual violence. This particular topic adds complicated dimensions to designing and undertaking ethical research.
Throughout the semester our students took ownership of the class, discussions, and their own projects. Coming from various backgrounds, they brought their own experiences into their work, deepening and enriching the course and each other’s experiences. As educators, we could not have been more thrilled by the way the students approached the class. In the below videos you can see short reflections from two of the students from the course.
Interview 1: https://youtu.be/Bp_0Gox0SNs
Interview 2: https://youtu.be/AxAhMZseKl8
One of the great things about classroom experiences such as this is the fact that the faculty learns at least as much as the students do throughout the course. The three faculty members that contributed to the class throughout the semester come from distinct backgrounds. While many people might see this as a weakness, or as posing a challenge, throughout the semester it was of the highest value. Dr. Molchanova brought her extensive medical and psychological background, including nuanced case studies from her work. These cases provided flesh to the theoretical texts, giving life and voice to individuals. On the other side of the coin, Dr. Karioris’s strong background in Gender Studies provided everyone in the class an extensive knowledge of the literature on the topic. Dr. Kim led the class throughout the semester, bringing her enthusiasm and extensive knowledge gained from many years of fieldwork addressing a wide variety of issues related to gender.
With the closing of the first semester of the course, we prepare for the next group of students that will be taking the course. Building off of the first iteration, Spring 2018 has significantely more students enrolled in it, a good sign. Moving forward, the team will be taking lessons from the first semester and making adjustments to the curriculum. With that in mind, we belief that the first semester was, on the whole, exceptionally successful. We could not have asked for better students, and we are certain that they will continue working on issues related to gender. At least one of the students is continuing to work with the team, and so will be involved in future updates.