Sexuate difference in education and art

Submitting Institution

University of Dundee

Unit of Assessment


Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Language, Communication and Culture: Cultural Studies, Literary Studies
Philosophy and Religious Studies: History and Philosophy of Specific Fields

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Summary of the impact

The impact was on practitioners in art and education who used research on sexuate difference in their practices. Sexuate differences are bodily, social and cultural differences around gender that are not strictly based on sexual difference; for instance, they can be cultural differences around pregnancy. The research raised awareness of the significance of gender in contemporary cultural production and the development of educational practices. Three conferences and a network website generated dialogue, new works and novel ways of thinking about gender across artistic and educational communities. Public space for art works was made available through a website and public events.

Underpinning research

The project was underpinned by Dr Rachel Jones's (Lecturer, then Senior Lecturer until August 2012) research in feminist philosophy produced between 2000 and 2012. The main research work of international excellence was a monograph, Irigaray: Towards a Sexuate Philosophy, on the French feminist philosopher Luce Irigaray (2011). The monograph is in a longstanding and influential series published by Polity Press, after excellent reports from their international readers. The monograph has been well-received in academic reviews, including International Journal of Philosophical Studies 20 (5), 2012 and L'Esprit Créateur, Volume 52, Number 3, Fall 2012. Alongside the monograph, Jones published an article on Irigaray and Lyotard in Hypatia that explores many of the key ideas linked to the impact: `Irigaray and Lyotard: Birth, Infancy, and Metaphysics' (2011). Hypatia is one of the foremost international feminist journals with a remit to broaden and refine feminist philosophy.

These two high level research outputs were prepared for by over a decade of research on feminism and the work of Irigaray, beginning with the chapter "Aesthetics in the Gaps: Subverting the Sublime for a Female Subject" in Differential Aesthetics (2001). This was followed by chapters on gender and philosophy in several edited collections; multiple conference papers on feminist philosophy delivered in the UK, Europe, Australia and North America; and invited papers on feminism and embodiment, such as `Embodied Art: Thinking Through the Skin' for the Art, Body, Embodiment: COGS interdisciplinary symposium (2005). Conferences were organised by Jones around key ideas, such as the conference `Natality, Embodiment and the Political: Feminist Conversations' in 2009. This was further supported by editorial work for Women's Philosophy Review and participation in the Women in Philosophy of Education Seminar hosted by the University of Edinburgh (2010-12).

In the research, Jones argues that gender must be understood through the concept of sexuate difference and that feminist thought, following Irigaray, demonstrates the importance of sexuate difference in the social and political place of women. The leading impact-oriented research questions are then `What is the nature of sexuate difference?' and `How should social and political structures take account of that difference?' The insistence is on taking account of the differences between men and women without seeing these as either simply biologically determined or wholly culturally constructed, but as unfolding across lived experience in ways that are inextricable from bodily, social and cultural processes. This means challenging the dominant discourses of feminism understood in terms of equality and asking how we can best attend to difference in socio-political institutions and practices.

In order to bring these research ideas to practitioners in art and education, Jones successfully applied for a grant designed to bring gender and feminism into contemporary debates in art, science and education (Royal Society of Edinburgh Funded Research Network in the Arts and Humanities: Engendering Dialogue: feminist thought and contemporary debates in art, science, and education. (award of £18,442 made June 2010; project ran for 24 months from September 2010) The award of the grant was itself recognition of the excellence of her research and of its potential for impact.

References to the research

1. Rachel Jones, Irigaray: Towards a Sexuate Philosophy (Polity, 2011). (ISBN: 9780745651040).

2. `Irigaray and Lyotard: Birth, Infancy, and Metaphysics' Hypatia, Volume 27, Issue 1, pages 139-162, Winter 2012. (DOI: 10.1111/j.1527-2001.2011.01236.x).


3. Jones, R 2000, 'Aesthetics in the Gaps: Subverting the Sublime for a Female Subject'. in P Florence & N Foster (eds), Differential Aesthetics: Art Practices, Philosophy and Feminist Understandings. Ashgate, pp. 119. (ISBN: 9780754614937).

4. "The Relational Ontologies of Cavarero and B: Natality, Time and the Self", in Alterity: Feminist Reflections in Ethics, ed. H. Fielding, G. Hiltmann, and D. Olkowski (Palgrave, 2007). (DOI: 9780230506879).


5. R. Jones, co-edited, with C. Battersby, C. Constable, & J. Purdom,, Going Australian: Reconfiguring Feminism and Philosophy, Hypatia 15 (2) Special Issue, May 2000. (DOI: 10.1111/j.1527-2001.2000.tb00310.x).


6. Dr Rachel Jones and Dr Helen Chapman were joint general editors of Women's Philosophy Review (WPR), a refereed journal with an editorial board of leading British academics in the field. WPR was the only dedicated journal for feminist philosophy in the UK. As co-editor Dr Jones oversaw the production of 5 issues from 2001 onwards.


Jones, R. Engendering Dialogue: Feminist Thought and Contemporary Debates in Art, Science and Education. Royal Society of Edinburgh Research Network Grant (2010 - 2012): £18,442.

Details of the impact

The research network, symposia, workshops, exhibitions and dialogues allowed for the following specific impacts:

  • increased awareness among educational and art practitioners of recent feminist thought for educational and art practice; (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
  • increased awareness of pedagogical and artistic relations involving gender, by creators, administrators, educationists and users; (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
  • dissemination of a range of strategies for negotiating gender issues, based on feminist philosophy, prison and community education, philosophy for children, and art practices. (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7)


There were 26 respondents to a survey on the Engendering Dialogue events (38% non-academics). 70 % agreed/strongly agreed these events increased/developed their understanding of the significance of gender in areas in which they work or practice. 85% of respondents agreed/strongly agreed these events made them aware of new practices, approaches or theories relevant to areas of work or practice. (4)

These figures, allied to responses from several individuals, suggest this understanding and awareness are leading to concrete changes in practice. For example, respondents said that the events:

  • led directly to collaboration between two young artists who as a result will be taking part in a women's art collective in Leith, July 2013 (4);
  • had a direct impact on gender related activities among young women in Dundee: one participant notes the event gave her the confidence to help establish a University feminist society and to attend a Rape Crisis Scottish conference on her own; this generated contacts leading to a Rape Crisis workshop for the Dundee feminist society (4);
  • had a direct impact on teaching practice, this included one primary school teacher and a teacher trainer (4).

Many participants testified to the value of cross-generational networking, contact, and collaboration between theorists and practitioners (in the arts and across different pedagogical contexts). The point of this research and its impact is to facilitate such change by allowing concepts, problems and practical strategies from feminist philosophy to gain traction outside academia (80% of survey respondents agreed/strongly agreed that the events were useful for stimulating/ supporting activities outside academia). It thereby contributed to the Scottish Government aim of raising gender awareness; increased awareness of philosophical resources around gender; and added to changes in social networks as well as pedagogical and art practice. (4, 6)

This development from increases in awareness and understanding to concrete changes was supported by events bringing artists and educationists together with researchers at symposia and exhibitions. The following groups were brought together in events where new art works, discussion papers and connections were forged around concepts developed in the research. In parallel to a public lecture and symposium on feminism and the visual arts, an exhibition was organised at the University's Centrespace gallery (Dundee Contemporary Arts). A workshop was held to allow young artists to benefit from contact with more established practitioners and feminist philosophers. Artists involved included Eleanor Morgan, Beth Savage, Hannah Champion, Beth Fisher, Janet McKenzie, Ingrid Pollard and Gina Wall. (7)

A panel discussion on art and feminist philosophy with artists (Fisher, Pollard and Wall) was held in the exhibition space as part of the symposium; this was open to the public. Young Scottish artists (Savage and Champion) produced performance pieces specifically for the project in direct response to questions posed about bodies and gender by the feminist philosophy that framed the event. The workshop and discussions explored how gender does (and does not) affect art practice. All the events were attended by Dr Jones, artists and theorists, including members of a Dundee-based performance art collective. (1, 2, 3, 5)

For the work on feminist philosophy and education, a symposium was held with teachers and individuals involved in teacher training (in the UK, Ireland and the USA), philosophy for children, teaching within the prison, and community education. Key participants were: Kath Jones, leader of Blooming Minds, on the transformational effects of teaching of philosophy in primary schools, accompanied by a student teacher involved in the Blooming Minds project; Amy Shuffleton, Department of Educational Foundations, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater; Ann Louise Gilligan, Director, Centre for Progressive Change, Dublin; and Merlyn Riggs, an Aberdeen-based artist and facilitator working with food to generate educational interventions, particularly in relation to work with prostitutes and the police. A particular focus at the symposium was the significance of gender in the context of work and education in prisons, with Jim King, Head of Offender Learning & Skills Services, Scottish Prison Service, and filmmaker Jonathan Cummins, working with political prisoners in Northern Ireland. (1, 2, 3, 5)

Sources to corroborate the impact

  1. Network website:
  2. Network conference programmes (available on request).
  3. Conference exhibition showing works of art resulting directly from the Network events (pdfs available on request).
  4. Participant feedback (qualitative and quantitative) on network collected via anonymised survey on SurveyMonkey (available on request).
  5. Press release for symposium 2:
  6. Published report from Royal Society of Edinburgh on the Network and its activities.
  7. Testimony from Warwick academic on the impact of the links developed at the impact events for the case-study (available on request).