Interview with Lorraine Dowler
Lorraine Dowler is an associate professor of geography and women, gender, and sexuality studies at Penn State University. Her interests focus in the intersections of gender, nationalism and war. She is the author of several publications focusing on issues of gender and war in Northern Ireland, feminist geopolitics, and care praxis. Her current research project is a feminist examination of the feminist geopolitics of the Cold War, the War on Terror and The New Military. This research project examines how individual women and men were/are viewed as ethical or deviant as their actions were interpreted by way of adaptation or transgression of the national moral landscape. As part of this analysis Dr. Dowler has conducted extensive interviews with women who trained to be astronauts during the NASA Mercury program, contemporary women firefighters and female soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Dr. Dowler will be one of our featured speakers during the keynote panel at the 2017 Feminist Geography Conference.
How did you come to feminist research?
It amazes me now but the proposal for my dissertation did not mention gender at all. While I was conducting ethnographic fieldwork in Belfast in the mid 90’s I realized that the experiences of the women and men did not align themselves to the type of work I was reading at that time in political geography. When I returned back to the United States the work from feminist scholars who were examining gender roles in times of violent conflict were inspirational.
What are you excited to be working on right now?
For feminist scholars there is often a paradoxical relationship between what excites us intellectually and the feelings of sadness for the on the ground realities of the communities we research. I am currently very interested in the relationship between care and scale and how that might lead to a discussion of a careful geopolitics.
What was last article or book you read that got you excited?
I tend to read a lot of public scholarship about issues of war. I am currently reading “Anatomy of a Soldier” by Harry Parker who depicts the violence of the battlefield through material objects surrounding individuals such as boots, a helmet, a bike or a snowflake. I read books such as this to help me write differently. I am currently working on a book that details how the struggles of women who trained to be astronauts in the Mercury Missions, women in the military and women firefighters have not only struggled to be counted in these areas of civil service, but how they persisted on behalf of American women, more generally, to count as equal citizens. I am trying to write the book in a way that tells a story that is informed by theory but can be read more broadly. It is taking a very very long time!
How do you find feminist geography productive?
As much as I value interdisciplinary feminist theory and could not do the work I do without it, I consider myself as feminist geographer. For me, understanding place, space and scale as contributory factors to gendered violence is critical to an intersectional and transnational praxis.
What do you do outside of work to care for yourself? What are you involved in?
Self care is especially important for all scholars who deal with social justice issues. For me, walking my dog, an ongoing yoga practice and spending time in my kitchen experimenting with healthy and fun recipes enables me to maintain my research, teaching and activism.