Solidarity and support: feminist memory work focus groups with working-class women studying social science degrees in Australia

Dee Michell, Liz Beddoe, Heather Fraser, Michele Jarldorn

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    1 Citation (Scopus)


    This paper reports on our use of a two-phased, feminist memory work in a project conducted with 11 women, social science students at an Australian university. We begin by describing government-led attempts to widen participation in Australian universities because 10 of the 11 women who participated in our project were from non-traditional backgrounds. We discuss qualitative group research, identifying some of the benefits and limitations of focus groups, before differentiating them from feminist memory work and analysing key findings. Using excerpts from participants’ written stories and oral discussions, we analyse some of the obstacles the women faced trying to complete their studies. Our attention then turns to methodological concerns where we examine memory work as a feminist inquiry method. As second-wave feminists understood several decades ago through their use of consciousness-raising groups, we describe how we derived many benefits from using feminist memory work. The method invites deep reflection on the intersections between the personal and political and can be productive of insights about how people feel, not just think, about their experiences. A sense of solidarity can stem from this awareness amongst participants who have a chance to workshop and thus reinterpret their own stories and those of others, which can mean a growth in self-confidence and a reduction in self-blame.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)175-189
    Number of pages15
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 7 Feb 2017


    • feminist memory work
    • Non-traditional university students
    • social science degrees, support, solidarity, consciousness raising
    • women


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