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Volunteer Forum some reflections on the first reading group

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  1. These are some reflections on the first reading group that I wanted to share with you. I think they might be useful for future sessions, but they are not written for a bigger audience. I will write a blog entry specifically for that purpose. To start with, I think that it was really nice that we had people from such different backgrounds turning up. Seven people was not as much as I thought, but all people who were there seemed really nice and interested in the topic, which is great. A few things, however, were not so great. The room was definitively no ideal choice, because it was hot and sticky. I was late, because my university card was blocked (it should have been reactivated after my submission, but for some reason that didn’t happen). Normally, I am quite early when I organise something, so I entered the room with a slight feeling of discomfort and guilt, which is far from ideal. I have to confess that I love reading groups and I love theory, so it broke my heart that this session was far from what I think both could be. Mostly, this has to do with mistakes on my side. I am not saying this to be overly self-critical, but because I think that it can be very productive to analyse and critically examine what we do (or not do) as facilitators to improve our own experience and that of other participants. To start with, I think that it would be good to have a clear division of tasks, either by collectively planning and running sessions together, or by doing it alone. I found it really useful to discuss the session with Sam beforehand, but I did not send the plan for the session around and I guess it was not entirely clear (at least to me) whether she or others would act as participants or co-facilitators. This brings me to the second question: The audience/target group for our reading groups. I think now we have ended up with an interesting but not necessarily optimal compromise: We have chosen a topic that is mainly relevant for us, but I have chosen a reading that is as accessible as possible. Personally, I would have loved to work on a more recent, but far more challenging text – but again, this might just be me J. If we see the reading group primarily as a space of experimenting with topics and learning styles, interdisciplinarity is probably not the ideal topic. As we were saying yesterday in the little de-brief afterwards, it might be worth starting with an analytical concept that is of direct relevance to all participants (e.g. gender) and let people explain their different readings to each other. Practically that could mean that we try to facilitate a discussion that challenges any fixed definition of the term whilst acknowledging the potential of different definitions with respect to their respective epistemological, theoretical and methodological frameworks and with respect to particular research topics. In terms of a concrete action plan, I could imagine two things: Firstly, we move on to another topic and, maybe, a different style. Secondly, we offer a follow-up session with some cutting edge feminist theory on inter- or transdisciplinarity before moving on to the next topic. That might reduce the number of participants further, but it could also attract new people (I personally know some who could be interested). Id be happy to organise another session on the topic, especially because apart from offering an intellectual adventure it would also give me an opportunity to develop my approach and facilitation. This is just some unpolished thoughts about the session yesterday, and I would be really happy to hear what you think!
  2. Well done on running a reading group, Katharina! I really wish I had been there! I thought it was a really interesting article with important implications for us as a project - I'd like to hear more about what you all concluded about this. Katharina, I wouldn't worry too much about it not going perfectly. This was just an initial attempt at running a reading group. I definitely agree that we need defined roles beforehand - maybe each event should have a primary organiser and a 'helper' who can give whatever assistance necessary, help co-lead the session if needed, or whatever? That way the other team members can simply be attendees and it won't get too chaotic with people not knowing what they should be doing. Or alternatively, instead of being hierarchical about it, maybe we should just make it so that each event has 2 organisers. I think it's a great idea to do some more reading about interdisciplinarity in women's/gender studies. I'd be well up for it. Maybe we should even think of easter vacation as a time in which we do lots of reading and thinking as a team, followed by all our events etc. in summer term...
  3. I think you're being quite hard on yourself Katharina :) Considering it was the first reading group, and none of us knew how it would go/how many people would show up etc - i think it went well. On a personal level, I enjoyed being encouraged to read something I wouldn't usually choose to read (only because I'm in that space of only reading PhD-related texts!) and although I was completely out of my comfort-zone, having to discuss the text with a) people I didn't know and b) people from different departments - this is a good challenge! I felt out of my depth but again, it was a good challenge. From a group perspective, I think clearer roles would help, although I thought it went well but obvioulsy I was in a very different position than you.

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