|Marilyn Porter's Professional Side|
- My current position is as University Research Professor (2003-2008) and Professor of Sociology at Memorial University. I am also actively involved in the Women's Studies programme. I have recently complteted my terms as Sociology Editor of the Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology (2003-2--6) and Coordinator of the Feminist Journals Network.
Here is something of my professional biography:
Full Name: Marilyn Bernard Porter
Nationality: British and Canadian
Department of Sociology
Memorial University of Newfoundland
St. John's, Newfoundland AlC 5S7
(709) 737-4467 (Office)
(709) 739-7982 (Home)
(709) 739- 0838 (Fax)
I was born in North Wales, UK, on a sheep farm on 30 May 1942. According to my mother it was a lovely still summer night. It was in the middle of the Second World War and my father was away, sweeping mines in the North Sea.
I went to St. Mary's School, Wantage - a small, lady like place, designed to educate future ambassadors', or generals' wives rather than ambassadors or generals themselves. From there I went to Trinity College, Dublin, 1961-65, where I took a degree in Modern History and Political Thought. In September 2005 I went back for the 40th reunion of my graduation and met up with old friends, together for the first time in 40 years and still the same as when we were young.
The next few years were serendipitous, as were the lives of many young women at the time. I took a Diploma in Education, at Oxford University, and then taught in schools in the Bristol area and later in Botswana, where I went in 1968 with my (then) husband and my first child, Fenella. In Botswana, I became interested in anthropology. Back in Bristol, by this time with a second child, Luke, I took a conversion degree in Sociology as the closest available discipline to Anthropology.
By this time, the Women's Movement was in full fling, and it made sense for me to focus on a feminist topic for my Ph.D thesis, despite the fragmentary state of feminist theory and method, and the almost complete lack of feminist supervision. At the same time, I was heavily involved in feminist discussions and activities, including teaching some of the early Women's Studies courses in Bristol.
A few of us involved in teaching came together and produced one of the first Women's Studies Readers - Half the Sky: A Reader in Women's Studies (ed.), Virago, l979. That same group of women celebrated the 20th anniversary of the publication of that book in June 1999 in Bristol.
My first real break in the job market came when I got a temporary lectureship in Sociology at Manchester University in 1978. Then, as now, it teemed with life and debate and I thoroughly enjoyed and valued my time there (which extended to four years). But life took a different course, especially when the Thatcher cuts made tenured jobs in the UK scarcer than ever. With my son, Luke, I took up a one year sessional appointment in the Sociology Department at Memorial University of Newfoundland in 1980. It took until 1984 to turn that into a tenure track position, but my move to Newfoundland turned out to be one of the decisive turning points of my life, and twenty years later I am still here.
During my first decade in Canada I immersed myself in learning as much as possible about my new country and becoming involved in feminist and sociological organisations, including stints as President of both the Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women and the Canadian Sociology and Anthropology Association. At the local level, I became active in a number of feminist and social justice groups, including the St. John’s Status of Women Council. I devoted my research efforts to trying to understand the situation of women in Newfoundland, especially the economic lives of women in rural communities, (see publications in my CV).
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When I arrived in Newfoundland, it was to find a place with a culture, politics and history entirely different to the one I had left, or to any other places where I had visited or worked. I had to start again to try to understand how this society worked, and in particular how Newfoundland women organised and made sense of their lives. I also joined a small, but growing band of feminist scholars working to make visible the lives and experiences of Newfoundland women. Much of this work is collected in Place and Persistence in the Lives of Newfoundland Women, Avebury, 1993.
Their Lives and Times - Women in Newfoundland and Labrador: A Collage, (ed.) Creative Press, 1995 (joint editor with Barbara Neis and Carmelita McGrath) is particularly important because it allowed us to gather a great deal of work on Newfoundland women together - by both older and newer scholars, and by creative artists.I have recently edited a successor to this volume, with Linda Cullum and Carmelita McGrath. Entitled Weather's Edge: Women in Newfoundland and Labrador: A Compendium this book includes academic and creative work carried out since 1995, together with memoirs and policy pieces. I have recently edited a successor to this volume, with Linda Cullum and Carmelita McGrath. Entitled Weather's Edge: Women in Newfoundland and Labrador: A Compendium this book includes academic and creative work carried out since 1995, together with memoirs and policy pieces. We are proud to reflect the energy and diversity that characterize this next generation of feminist scholars and writers working on issues that affect women in Newfoundland and LabradorWe are proud to reflect the energy and diversity that characterise this next generation of feminist scholars and writers working on issues that affect women in Newfoundland and Labrador.
The 1990s saw me becoming increasingly interested in connecting Newfoundland and Canadian knowledge and contacts with the wider world. This led in two directions. First, I became increasingly involved in institutional linkage, development and research projects in countries of the South, especially in Indonesia. Secondly, I became active in the feminist NGO contributions to the UN debates, especially those that culminated in the 4th Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995. Another aspect of this work was involvement in ‘development' as an activity and as an issue for women. This part of my work is currently best represented by the book I edited with Ellen Judd, and published by Zed Books. Feminists Doing Development: A Practical Critique, (ed.) Zed Books.
More recently, my efforts have gone into the development of the Feminist Journals Network, a global network of 32 feminist journals of all kinds from 18 countries. This stemmed initially from an informal meeting of feminist journal editors at the Tromso 'Women's Worlds' in 1999 (At the time I was Editor of Atlantis: A Women’s Studies Journal (1995-2002)). The first full meeting of the network was organised in Halifax in September 2001, and since then we have tried to meet annually, usually in conjunction with other feminist conferences.
In 1990, I paid a serendipitous visit to Indonesia, and instantly became fascinated by this complex nation. I began working with some women at the University of Indonesia, who were just beginning to establish Women's Studies in Indonesia. In particular I met and began working with Prof. Dr. Saparinah Sadli. This work mainly took the form of a series of university linkage projects, the latest of which is ‘Nursing, Women's Health and Community Development in Indonesia', 1998-2004.
As the new millennium grows older and I near retirement, I am continuing my interest in feminism and development issues, but also returning to my roots in research on Newfoundland women. One of my recent projects focusses on the role of upper class St. John’s women in the formation of the distinctive Newfoundland society in the first part of the 20th century. I am also working on a project Strengthening Coastal Communities in Tanzania, taking responsibility for understanding women’s position in coastal communities, developing their interests and finding ways to strengthen their economic and social position.
However, my major project at the moment is an interdisciplinary, international comparative narrative project entitled “Women’s Experience of Their Reproductive Lives: A Comparative Life Story Project: Newfoundland, Indonesia and Pakistan”. Working with three colleagues from Memorial University (Natalie Beausoleil, Phyllis Artiss and Diana Gustafson) and teams from Indonesia (Anita Rahman, Kristi Poerwandari and Tita Marlita) and Pakistan (Tahera Aftab, Shakila Nawab and Zareen Ilyas) we have collected focussed life stories from three or more generations of women in the same family and drawn from diverse backgrounds. We are currently analysing the very rich data within the countries, but will shortly move on to analysing the data as a whole and comparatively.
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