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The Centre for Women’s Studies at TISS was recognized as an Advanced Centre by the University Grants Commission (UGC) in 2011 as part of its XI Plan (2007-2012). The Centre has been contributing significantly through the activities mandated by the UGC such as research, teaching, training, documentation, networking, dissemination and extension activities over the past three decades.
The Centre has the vision to emerge as a critical centre of feminist knowledge and activism, involved in gender related knowledge production and dissemination within the higher education system in India with its spheres of influence extending to social movements, state policy, and diverse socio-cultural, economic, and political institutions and processes. More specifically in the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, we at the Centre for Women’s Studies attempt to engage with other academic programs, in the spirit of interdisciplinary work. We hope this helps us make meaningful contributions to research, action projects and administrative policies of the Institute.
The spectrum of activities of the Centre revolves primarily around teaching, research, and collaborative action-oriented work. The M. A. in Women’s Studies and M.Phil. and Direct PhD in Women’s Studies programmes are the pillars of our teaching. The Centre’s faculty members are engaged in teaching both the full-fledged M. A. in Women’s Studies program since 2009, the M.Phil/PhD. programme since 2013, as well as several other courses to post graduate students across other programs of the Institute in Mumbai and Tuljapur campus. Our MA programme has traditionally attracted a wide variety of students both national and international. While our MA programme helps build a methodological and theoretical basis for understandings of gender, the Mphil builds on our interdisciplinary strengths. The direct PhD programme carries particular meaning for a field like ours where, for persons in gender-marginal locations returning to education after breaks for a variety of reasons, we hope to build a safe space for academic work. We also contribute specific courses, including choice-based courses, in other interdisciplinary programs of the Institute. We are involved in preparing of teaching materials and aids.
The Centre has also been involved in networking and extension for national and international advocacy on programme and policy matters on women’s issues. Research work with civil society organisations and philanthropic organisations on issues of discrimination on the basis of gender and sexuality, child marriage, gender-based violence on the internet, are some of the areas that have been developed as part of Centre work. The Centre has also, in the recent past, worked to collaborate with other universities to share and mentor WS programmes there. Several of our faculty are involved in research and documentation, consultancy on gender themes, and organizing and conducting of training programs, seminars and conferences on a range of issues. This is where the diversity and rich experience of the Centre’s composition is reflected.
Apart from scheduled courses, we conduct writing workshops for MPhil scholars, theory and methodology modules for the direct PhD scholars. We hope, in the days ahead, to create a space called The Writing Camp that can take this forward in a more structured format.
Students have always been an integral part of the Centre’s identity, on campus and within academic spaces. Students participate in strength at the IAWS conferences, and have contributed greatly toward the feminist exercise of reflexivity in these spaces. Students have been at the forefront of various campus initiatives like Kafila, a students’ festival, Period, a performance and commentary aimed toward building gender-awareness on campus, are some of these. Guzargah, a student-led initiative shared between the MA and Mphil scholars, organises student-organised seminars. Students’ publications in the form of working paper series are a feature of the Centre’s work and activities, and have greatly contributed to the quality of dissertations. Our learnings from these, of the value of situated knowledges, continue to grow.
The Placement Cell has been developed almost entirely by the students, and as it continues to grow, provides a growing identity and platform for students and researchers.
In addition to awards instituted by the Institute, the Chaya Datar Award for best student MA dissertation in Women’s Studies was announced in 2011, and continues to be a source of inspiration to students. Alumni of the centre continue to carry gender work forward in national and international fora, and make us proud!
Extension and networking
The ACWS has, in the past, as part of its extension work, organized various Refresher Courses for Faculty members from other Universities and Colleges. Faculty at the Centre continue to be resource persons in various refresher courses conducted at State and national levels, and gender consultants.
The Centre has been able to engage meaningfully with a number of women’s organizations, feminist groups and individuals from different people’s movements through organising seminars, workshops and training programmes. Further the Centre faculty have been consistently networking with other Women’s Studies Centres, women’s groups and the NGO sector in past 3 years. This networking has strengthened our field attachment component and helped us to build strong bonds, exchange ideas and participate in collective actions with different organizations in which our students have been placed.
Inter-institutional linkages and collaborations
The faculty of the Centre are members of expert panels in the government, in ICCs in public and private sector corporations, also serve as members of Selection Committees as experts in numerous Central and State Universities, in Fulbright Nehru Fellowship Boards. Faculty have also got Research Project grants from ICSSR, UGC, Ford Foundation, American Jewish World Service, MHRD – GOI, UNDP, WHO, ICRW and Save the Children: Bal Raksha Bharat for different research studies. The Centre is an active member of the Indian Association of Women’s Studies (IAWS), with institutional representation in the IAWS at present, and faculty associated with the Centre continue to be members, office bearers and coordinators of sub-themes at National Conferences.
Library and documentation:
The Women’s Studies Library, maintained through the Special Assistance program of the UGC, has an impressive collection of about 4000 books and monographs on a wide range of feminist themes that gives back up support for research, training and teaching. The library is used extensively by the Institute faculty, staff and students and is open to visiting scholars, M.Phil and PhD researchers, journalists and others interested in gender issues. Special efforts are made to collect and document materials on Indian and South Asian Women’s issues. Being an Advanced Centre for Women’s Studies which has a specialised documentation centre, the library is a unique contribution to the documentation of specialised material such as conference documents, pamphlets, and rare materials that even has historical value within the Women Studies Academia. The support of the UGC towards the expansion and maintenance of the Documentation Centre/ Library is a valuable addition to researchers and scholars of Women’s Studies and its interdisciplinary focus. The catalogue may be accessed through Catalogue
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