Kirsch & Ritchie: “Beyond the Personal”

Kirsch, Gesa E. and Joy S. Ritchie. “Beyond the Personal: Theorizing a Politics of Location in Composition Research.” College Composition and Communication. 46.1 (1995): 7-29. Web.


Kirsch and Ritchie’s work here is drawn from a 4Cs workshop on feminism and composition. They and colleagues feel a tension between the feminist perspectives they bring to composition and the existing epistemologies and methodologies of composition that “often presuppose objectivity and gender-neutrality” (8). Kirsch and Ritchie use “politicas of location” to both inform their own multiple stances within the field, but also to explore, “how we do our research” and “who we are in our work” (9) through appeal to lived experience and rigorous reflexive analysis. Kirsch and Ritchie argue that naive appeals to experience risk essentializing and afford the same hierarchical frameworks of privilege they critique. Experience as knowledge, they argue, must be extended to locate the experience of others, “especially those previously excluded or devalued” and not just the self (13). Kirsch and Ritchie continue by exploring the power relationships(cf. Foucoult) and ethical issues inherent in academic work and (ethnographic and other) methods such as soliciting personal information, conducting interviews, etc. They end by arguing for a reconception of ethics as informed by a feminist perspective that resists homogenizing, essentializing, totalizing, away from an “ethic of principle” and toward an “ethic of care” (21) while always striving for transparent communication of the “provisional nature of knowledge that our work generates and the moral dilemmas inherent in research” (24) which is apparent both at the micro/personal scale and the macro/social scale.

Conclusion: “We believe researchers in composition must engage in the same kinds of discussions that feminist researchers are having in other disciplines concerning the ‘politics of location’ in research. We hope to advance that discussion by presenting some of the feminist critiques of philosophical, methodological, and ethical assumptions underlying traditional research” (9).


feminism, methods, epistemology, composition, reflection

Bibliographic Notes

Words: ~10,500

Pages: 22

References: 61

Affiliations: Kirsch: Wayne State; Ritchie: Nebraska-Lincoln


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