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Teaching political science through memory work
Unformatted Document Text:  In our view gender equality discourse clearly opens up for certain discussions and problematisations of gender norms and ideals. At the same time, though, this discourse also sets limits as to what it is possible to scrutinise without things becoming unpleasant in the classroom. One way of interpreting this double meaning of gender discourse is that it amounts to a new naturalisation of the relations between women and men. It easily leads to a way of describing “the way things are” that has become an obvious and natural truth and at the same time part of what it means to be Swedish. Ann Towns, among other political scientists, has remarked that gender equality has become increasingly important in the construction of Swedishness: it has become the mark par excellence that distinguishes “our” modern society from “their” backward and oppressive culture (Towns 2002, cf Eldén 1998). The results from the research project clearly highlight that there are difficulties in achieving critical reflection on naturalised phenomena such as gender and nation. In this respect, however, our results also show that there are differences between the interpretations and discussions of the students that engaged in memory work as compared to those that analysed the more conventional material. The difficulties were far more acute for those students that worked with the handout. One possible explanation for this is that the students working with memory stories found it self- evident that their stories represented empirical material to be analysed, while the students working with the handouts often treated media material as the truth and equal to the more theoretical statements found in the course literature. There was no actual analysis or problematisation of constructions of the nation; instead a certain idea of national supremacy was presented, especially in the written assignments. Whereas this problem is also to be found in the memory work, our view is that the latter papers display more fruitful interpretations and a much broader range of analysis and understanding. Analysing the memory stories, especially in the 17

Authors: Wendt, Maria. and Åse, Cecilia.
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In our view gender equality discourse clearly opens up for certain discussions and
problematisations of gender norms and ideals. At the same time, though, this discourse also sets
limits as to what it is possible to scrutinise without things becoming unpleasant in the classroom.
One way of interpreting this double meaning of gender discourse is that it amounts to a new
naturalisation of the relations between women and men. It easily leads to a way of describing “the
way things are” that has become an obvious and natural truth and at the same time part of what it
means to be Swedish. Ann Towns, among other political scientists, has remarked that gender
equality has become increasingly important in the construction of Swedishness: it has become the
mark par excellence that distinguishes “our” modern society from “their” backward and
oppressive culture (Towns 2002, cf Eldén 1998).
The results from the research project clearly highlight that there are difficulties in achieving
critical reflection on naturalised phenomena such as gender and nation. In this respect, however,
our results also show that there are differences between the interpretations and discussions of the
students that engaged in memory work as compared to those that analysed the more conventional
material. The difficulties were far more acute for those students that worked with the handout.
One possible explanation for this is that the students working with memory stories found it self-
evident that their stories represented empirical material to be analysed, while the students
working with the handouts often treated media material as the truth and equal to the more
theoretical statements found in the course literature. There was no actual analysis or
problematisation of constructions of the nation; instead a certain idea of national supremacy was
presented, especially in the written assignments. Whereas this problem is also to be found in the
memory work, our view is that the latter papers display more fruitful interpretations and a much
broader range of analysis and understanding. Analysing the memory stories, especially in the
17


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