Affinity, Collaboration, and the Politics of Classroom Speaking

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Alexandra W. Schultheis Moore, Associate Professor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:

Abstract: In Simians, Cyborgs, and Women, Donna Haraway defines a political organization by affinity which recognizes "permanently partial identities and contradictory standpoints," where "struggle is to see from both perspectives at once because each reveals the dominations and possibilities unimaginable from the other vantage point" (154). Affinity politics, as an alternative to identity politics, is driven by the choice of shared concerns and strategies rather than by fixed identificatory markers. It exists only through conscious, committed, and voluntary participation; it cannot outlast nor predate its members, nor claim the support of the uninvolved. These characteristics make affinity an apt model for a classroom devoted to the exploration of how identities are constructed and deployed through language and representation. In the Women's Studies and English literature and composition classes we have designed and taught together at the University of Rochester, we have used Haraway's concept of affinity as a foundation for structuring both our collaborative pedagogy and feminist syllabi. In sharing some of our experiences here, we suggest that affinity politics encourages an unusually open and frank classroom environment, which forces participants to be responsible for their contributions and silences. Our goal as teachers is neither to direct nor censor student comments, but continually to ask our students (what it means) to be accountable for their words.

Additional Information

Feminist Teacher 11.2 (Fall/Winter): 123-132.
Language: English
Date: 1997
Pedagogy, Women's studies, Identity, Speech, Classroom discussion

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