The study of women is only one of the possibilities to question our knowledge by looking at the empirical facts on women so that a common space can be made. The main problem lies in the void of the map of knowledge on women based on empirical situation and condition of the Indonesian society. This means that so far, women issue that we understand as a shared idea always derives from other people’s view instead of our own views which actually bound us with the land we live in.
In the attempt to fill this void of the map of knowledge, the cooperation to hold research workshop can be an important aspect in filling the void of the map of knowledge as a shared stepping stone. A researcher is demanded to continue the action and reflection process in producing or reproducing knowledge−which also needs a space where the analysis can be continuously sharpened and refreshed. Considering this, in 27-30 January 2009, we conducted a feminist qualitative research methods workshop. This workshop was joined by seven WRI’s researchers and attended by researchers from Kartini Network, Magister of Communication of the University of Indonesia, and the Center for Social Representations Study Jakarta.
Even though this event was titled Qualitative Research Methods, this workshop did not only discuss the technical methodology of qualitative research. Instead, it went deeper into dismantling the dominant way of thinking resulted from the social construction of women which often shadows researchers. Critically examining the truth of thought and understanding of women is important to be discussed in the workshop because with critical awareness of social reality, a researcher will have a conceptual framework and sharp analysis in reading social reality faced by women.
The Objectives of the Workshop
- To dismantle the dominant way of thinking as a result of social construction which has long been the influence of the society including for us as social researchers.
- To question the social construction of thought, view, and understanding of women.
- To sharpen the problem analysis of the social reality faced by women.
- To encourage researchers’ critical thinking to have a conceptual framework in reading the description of research results.
- To understand delivery method.
This workshop utilized participative discussion technique and was guided by the experts in qualitative research methods such as Dr. Risa Permanadeli, Dr. Aris Arif Mundayat, dan Myra Diarsi, M.A.
Description of Workshop Session
Day 1: Dismantling the Dominant Narrative of the History of Women (Historic Context)
The thought, view, and understanding of women which result from the various backgrounds that are influenced by religious narrative, culture, political battle, economy, and other interest.
- This session focused more on seeing the history of thought, view, and understanding of women in the western world and Indonesia.
- The dismantling of the dominant thought, view, and understanding of women (Reinterpretation of the history of women).
- Dismantling the power relation in gender relation.
- Participants were expected to understand the long history of women subordination in the discourse in the society.
- Participants were expected to be able to do reinterpretation of the long history of the subordination process.
- There would be participants’ comparative skills in understanding the thought, view, and understanding of women.
Day 2: Understanding the Dominant Social Reality (the Context of the Present)
- The understanding of dominant social reality which affects the thought, view, and understanding of women (the present context).
- This session focused more on seeing the social reality of Indonesian women.
- Reformulating the problems of Indonesian women’s social reality.
- Participants were asked to see and understand the social reality of women which results from the background explained on the first day.
- Participants were expected to be able to understand the problems of Indonesian women.
Day 3: Research as a Tool to See Women’s Social Reality
- Utilizing research as a tool to see women’s social reality.
- Methodological approaches chosen to reveal the social reality of women in the research areas.
- When to use qualitative analysis
- Developing framework analysis from the observation conducted
- Identifying the strength of the research areas (the areas selection process, background in selecting research areas, the understanding of research areas, etc.)
- The strategy in describing the field and interview method to discover the social reality of women in the researched areas.
Participants would recognize the strategy and method in discovering the social reality of women.
Day 4: Research Methodology and Analysis (Practice)
- Technique in selecting research subject, finding issue, and collecting data to fill the need of the data sought.
- Interview techniques to comprehensively understand the problem.
- Techniques in writing field notes, field logs, and field journals.
- Qualitative data management.
- The role of theory and paradigm in framing data analysis
- Construct an argument which combines data, interpretation, reference, and theory
Participants were able to construct an argument based on data interpretation gained through the assumption of the existing theory.
Important Notes from the Sessions
Based on the thought of Frederick Engels (1884) in his book “The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State”, the history of human civilization was started from the hunting phase when women were holding important position in controlling land and residence and in procreation while men were responsible for getting food through hunting. In this phase, the pattern of lineages was based on matrilineal pattern based on mother’s lineages. However, in later development when human finally felt the need to have ownership of material assets, the power relations and lineages pattern started to shift to patriarchy which was based on father’s/man’s lineages. As a result, men had bigger material assets accumulation and higher mobility compared to women. The implications can be seen from the emergence of the dichotomy of public-private roles of men and women, the shift in relationship pattern from polyandry to monogamy and even polygamy. The accumulation of the capital and power over trading sector made power relation between women and men became even more imbalanced which in the end strengthened the values of patriarchy−the values that prioritize men than women. Men could progress rapidly in controlling several public activities in public sphere while women were confined in private sphere performing reproductive work.
The spirit to seek for knowledge was developed in the era of modernity which was in the 16th century. Knowledge is an illustration of the reality of life which can be discovered through several ways like cognition, rationality, and reason. In the context of research, the principle of knowledge based on the reality of life becomes very important. Through this principle, a researcher can be encouraged to create new knowledge based on the findings in the field. This is what differentiates a researcher and a data collector. A data collector only works to collect as much data as possible and describes it while a researcher works further by examining and analyzing data to create a new knowledge based on scientific principle which can be accounted for.
The important principles in creating knowledge are:
- Review of the existing knowledge.
- Be critical in considering what is lack or what has been included as knowledge.
- The existing knowledge has to be more accurately redefined based on the new reality found.
- At the stage of data collection, it is important for a researcher to be familiar with the concept of “empty” which means that a researcher has to be able to refrain himself/herself from judging an informant based on his/her own view. The researcher has to avoid making judgments and categorizing informants. The data generated from the informant have to be considered as important data for analysis. This ‘empty’ principle does not necessarily mean that we deny the researcher’s standpoint and side in the context of feminist research. The researcher’s side will appear during the analysis phase of the finding using feminist perspective. During the phase of data collection a researcher should try his/her best to be open to as much information as possible to enrich the research findings.
Therefore, the meanings of “zero/empty” when conducting data collection are:
- To be critical towards theory and concept which have been previously understood by the researcher.
- The researcher’s knowledge on certain theory and concept should not restrict the researcher to be critical towards phenomenon or finding reality in the field. As a result, data collection is not merely a process of checking and matching with the existing theory.
- To be open to gather as much data as possible to create new knowledge.
- The difference between Indonesian women and women in Modern Europe is the fact that women in modern society experience changes in four aspects (space or sphere, role and function, responsibility, and money) while women in Indonesia do not experience changes and are still trapped by the culture. In Europe, there have been 3 feminist waves or frameworks which include the realization of the differences as citizen, the attempt to realize equality, and the recognition and acknowledgement of existence. The second wave was mostly used as the basis for social movements. While in Indonesia, the feminist movement does not have clear periodization. Even so, several experts believe that in Indonesia, we have only reached the second wave of feminism.
- How to understand women’s bodies in several different contexts, i.e. as an individual body, social body, political body, and mindful body. These meanings of the body will help in explaining how subjectivity and female self-awareness are always contested by the reality of norm, value, and social system that surround us. Women are not fully free to understand themselves and ironically, women in general do not have the authority over their own bodies which are dictated by the people around them.
- Language is the medium for the exchange of symbols. Through language, gender identity is socially constructed. When language is considered as a truth (regime of truth) −even when the truth is socially constructed, it means that the truth can change. The understanding of the informants’ logic of the language will help the researcher in doing the analysis of the data gained from the informants which are not only in the form of oral expressions, but beyond it. Because of the fact that the oral expressions (parole) of Indonesian women have not reflected the truth which commonly lies in subconscious realm (language), it is important to always look at the cultural context and value system that surround the informant. This is because they are the main factors which influence the informants’ awareness in delivering their reality of life.
Important Notes for WRI’s Future Workshop
After the dynamic and inspiring workshop ended, the participants provided several inputs related to the research skills that still need to be improved. They are:
- Research in practice which explains how an ideal research is technically conducted. The topic of the flow of research had briefly been discussed the day before, but it only covered a little on technical aspects. Research practice will talk about the ideal form of field notes, field logs, and field journals.
- Research management. We had discussed the adjustment of the application of the ideal research type. In the discussion, it could be seen that research management plays an important role in running a research. Research management is important to be discussed especially when considering the phenomenon that several research institutions only have limited time and funding from donor institutions while at the same time, they are expected to run an ideal research with maximum results.
- Research which theoretically and practically utilizes feminist method. As a researcher who concentrates on women issue and equality, it is a mandatory to have a strong understanding of research which utilizes feminist method. This becomes much more important for WRI’s researchers because feminist research has its own characteristics and writing style which are different from the general research.
- Looking at the condition of the Indonesian women at the present context and integrating it with the feminist beliefs. Very often there is confusion in positioning oneself in a problem, for example in affirmative action for women. On one hand, there is a need to work like the radical feminists to consider an election as a matter of competition that has to be won. Sometimes we also doubt the view and choose to be liberal or even play safely by becoming moderate. In the context of research, the inability to take a stand can be motivated by two things: incomplete understanding of the spirit of feminism or the fear to take a stand.
- Looking at women in the media culture perspective. The representation of women in media is always interesting to look at. For example is the emergence of the representation of oppressed and dependent women who showcase tears. On the other hand, there is also a profile of 90’s women from the chick flicks movies like Sex and the City in which the women are pictured as independent, tough, sexy, and indifferent. The women in this movie do not see themselves as victims and instead, they want power. This becomes important because media expansion to private sphere inevitable result in the shift of the meaning of “becoming women”.
- Academic writing especially for writing the research results. ***