The following interview was conducted with Joe Kadi as part of WSF’s Women’s Studies Archive Project. His answers appear below as they were written by him, with the one exception that any names mentioned have been redacted as part of the interview methodology used.
- What does feminism mean to you? How has this changed over your academic career? How do you reflect your feminist principles in your research and/or pedagogy, both when teaching a Women’s Studies course and when teaching a course in another field?
Feminism is a social change movement working for justice and liberation for all (by all, I’m including all creatures on the planet). My understanding of feminism has been this way for more than 30 years. My feminist principles are reflected in how I teach – I think it’s important to put them into action in the classroom, not just talk about them. That’s why I run a participatory classroom, why I exhibit and ensure that others exhibit fundamental respect for everyone in the group, and encourage everyone to speak and develop their voice.
- How did you first become involved in feminist scholarship? When in your academic career did you first become aware of feminist issues and how did it affect your research interests? What made you specifically want to teach a Women’s Studies (WMST) course?
I don’t like the term feminist scholarship, and don’t use that term to describe what I do. I became a feminist activist in the 1980s. I went to U of T in my late 20s, which was the first opportunity I had to go to university, and took women’s studies because I wanted to strengthen my activist work.
- During your academic career, have there been any feminist issues on which you have changed your opinion? What were they, and what changed your mind?
As a contract faculty person, I don’t really have an academic career. My work is extremely unstable, as I am hired from term to term. So that is something to consider when looking at the results from the study – the differences between contract faculty and tenured faculty (which I realize you probably are doing, [redacted], I’m not being snotty here!). I’m not sure what you mean by changed my mind. On issues such as the importance of an intersectional approach, reproductive justice, environmental justice, and so forth, I have not changed my mind, although my understanding of all of these issues has deepened and strengthened considerably.
- How do you bring feminist scholarship into other departments or fields outside of Women’s Studies, either when teaching or doing research.
I teach in other departments at Mount Royal, and run my classroom with the same feminist pedagogy (participatory classroom) and make sure that issues of race, class, and gender are at the forefront, as I do in a women’s studies class.
The following questions are intended for participants who have taught Women’s Studies at the University of Calgary for an extended period of time (more than one year, or three or more courses). If you do not fit this criteria, you may still answer these questions if you wish, but they may not be relevant to your specific experiences.
- What were your perceptions of the feminist scholarship being done at the University of Calgary during your time there?
I don’t really have a perception of this, because of being a contract faculty person. Any research contract faculty do is outside of the academy, done on our own time, and our own nickel. Tenured faculty don’t tend to invite us to work with them on research.
- What was your favourite thing about teaching Women’s Studies at the University of Calgary?
Getting to be with my students!!!!!!!!!!!!! They are so amazing and inspiring!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
- What was it like teaching Women’s Studies at the University of Calgary? How receptive were the students to what you were teaching? What was their level of engagement? How diverse were your classrooms? Were there many men taking Women’s Studies?
This is a long question – you may want to follow up with me if you have a recording device as I will be giving the short answer here. For the most part U of C women’s studies students have been open, receptive, hardworking, and deeply engaged. Of course there has been resistance and pushback; this has to be expected whenever we bring important social issues of our day into the classroom or any other setting. It doesn’t bother me when there is resistance, as I know how to deal with it. In terms of diversity, yes, I believe we have a good level of diversity, in terms of gender identity, sexual identity, able-bodied/disabled, race, class, and less so with age (but I appreciate it when there are older folks in the classroom, because they have such a wealth of information to share). There’s typically a handful of men in the class. In one notable Intro class, I had 10 men, which was super. One was a member of the UC football team, who had a strong commitment to gender justice and wasn’t afraid to talk about it.
- Did you encounter any conflicts of opinion with students, administration, or other instructors during your time at the University of Calgary? How were they resolved?
You don’t really want to hear what I think about the administration at U of C, and the lack of support I have seen for women’s studies. This has changed significantly in the past couple of years, in large part because of the incredible work done by [redacted], who has managed to find important allies at the University. It is so wonderful to see where the program is now, as opposed to where it was a few years ago (sorry I can’t remember the specific dates) when I seriously thought we were going down the tubes.
- How did feminist theory evolve during your time teaching Women’s Studies at the University of Calgary? How did this affect your research and/or pedagogy? Are there any feminist topics or issues you wish had received more focus?
Feminist theories have evolved through the decades. Our intersectional work has deepened and strengthened. I love seeing this.
- Why was Women’s Studies important during the time period that you taught it, especially within Calgary or Alberta? Did this importance change throughout your time here and, if so, how? What kind of connections did the Women’s Studies program have with the community at large?
I believe women’s studies is important at all times, given how fucked up our society is, and how much we need a liberation movement that takes race, class, gender, all social issues, seriously, that gives voice to marginalized folks, that understands issues of power, and that has a history of successful social change work. Here in AB, we need to ensure that environmental issues are always part of our intersectional analysis, given the Tar Sands issue, and our boom and bust economy, which is all that non-renewable energy will ever give us. In terms of community connections, I have lots of those – it’s important for me to bring folks into the classroom so that students can see the kind of work that’s being done, and who is doing it, and how they might easily fit into the social change work community.
- To the best of your recollection, what was the formal structure of the Women’s Studies program during your time teaching Women’s Studies courses at the University of Calgary? Where was the program located in the University bureaucracy? Who was in charge and what were their roles? What relationship did the Women’s Studies program have with other faculties and departments?
Formal structure? When I started 10 years ago, we were with the Communication (or was it Communication and Culture department?). We were under the radar, I think. [Redacted] and [redacted] were in charge, I think. Again, because of being contract, I’m not sure about the relationship the program had with other faculties.
- To the best of your recollection, what sort of Women’s Studies courses existed during your time at the University of Calgary? How many instructors were involved with the program and how were they assigned to courses?
There used to be a lot more courses! You can see that I got to teach the History of Western Feminist Thought course, the Pop Culture course, and things like that, which are now gone. Also, there were several contract faculty working in the program. For a while it’s just been me, although this fall a contract faculty person will be teaching the Intro class.
- Did the Women’s Studies program face any challenges to its longevity, stability, or existence during your time at the University of Calgary? What were they and how were they overcome?
I’ve touched on this before. I want to emphasize again that if it hadn’t been for the work and determination of [redacted], I doubt we would have survived.
- Are there any further comments, stories, or experiences, you would like to share about your time as a Women’s Studies instructor at the University of Calgary?
I’m thankful you’ve taken on this project. We have lost so much of our history already, and I’m not just talking about UC here, I mean feminism generally. The documentation needs to happen. I think it would be great to have student voices as part of this project (not to overwhelm you, [redacted], it’s just an idea). I often get emails from students five years after they’ve taken a class, telling me they’re using feminism ideas and principles in their daily work life and home life.