Whether scholarly or popular, today’s commentaries on human dilemmas increasingly invoke empathic ways of understanding. In Changing Places, eleven authors, based mostly in Canada, show how their positions and perspectives have been changed by working against the grain. They refuse to sever sentient experiences from the grounds of knowledge and of politics, but instead see questions of gender as embodied in spaces both metaphorical and lived.
Amongst their subjects are the ways in which federal budgets affect women on low incomes; the daily struggles of cartoon characters in a traditionally-gendered world; cross-dressing and its implications in Newfoundland ballads; and tales from an ambiguously constituted past that hide the existence of female pioneers. The significance of the emotional politics of motherhood is explained by a literary specialist examining the discourse of the state, and by an anthropologist whose research amongst Irish women finds that infertility draws boundaries around empathy: the discussion takes a different turn, however, with a journalist’s account of path-makers in Aboriginal societies.
A critical introduction places the authors’ work in the evolving subject matter of women’s/gender studies, and offers students a bridge to the ethical and methodological issues of the discipline. Empathy engages some of the key areas of disciplinary concern: othering and its critique; the subjectivities of self; reporting about experience; and the significance of reflexive modes of inquiry.