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Real or imagined women? Staff representations of international women postgraduate students
journal contributionposted on 2003-04-01, 00:00 authored by Elizabeth Bullen, J Kenway
In Australia's globalising universities many support staff and teaching staff now work with international women postgraduate students. But are they aware of the issues facing these women, and is their understanding of them adequate? Indeed, how do they represent them? In this paper we draw on a small-scale pilot study involving key university personnel. We argue that the ways in which such staff represent this group of students is problematic. Focusing primarily on academic issues and on the literature on learning styles, we analyse these staff members' representations of international women postgraduate students from a postcolonial perspective. We explore the extent to which such representations, and the learning styles literature that reflects and informs them, are what Edward Said calls 'Orientalist'. In so doing, we point to both the constitution of the international woman student as postcolonial female subject and show how this situates her in relation to the prevalent learning styles discourse. Further we argue that such representations of the students differ in crucial ways from the students' self-representations, suggesting that in certain subtle ways such staff members are engaging with 'imagined' rather than 'real' women.