Rebecca Dingo joined the faculty this past fall after we wooed her away from her job at the University of Missouri where she was jointly appointed in English and Women’s & Gender Studies. The Editor of The Ink Pot recently sat down with her for a chat about her work and life at UMass.
Editor: Welcome to UMass, Rebecca! Tell me more about your first book.
Professor Dingo: My first book, Networking Arguments: Rhetoric, Transnational Feminism, and Public Policy Writing, looks at the shifts in global gender policy arguments that took place at the end of 20th and early 21st centuries as major supranational institutions sought to bring poor third world women into the global economy.
Ed.: Can you give me an example?
Dingo: Sure! My book begins in 1995 when the United Nations singled out gender as a factor in all policy decisions. Prior to that, women were considered in policies that targeted reproduction or childcare but not for every piece of policy. What interested me was how this progressive feminist agenda got implemented in various locations. In some places, the UN’s call shed light on structural inequalities. In others, it had the opposite effect: policies focused on women’s personal responsibility and their need to make better choices without considering how economic structures restrain agency. Essentially, I’m asking two important questions: how do arguments about gender inequality transform as political economies change and how, why, and under what circumstances do arguments travel and change?
Ed.: Do you teach this material to your students?
Dingo: This term, I am teaching some of it in my Transnational Rhetorical Studies course. We began the course with examining how transnational studies extend the core questions of post-colonial studies and then move on to developing transnational rhetorical methods. I ground each week with a “case study;” we are watching/reading documentary films such as Girl Model, Chimamanda Adichie’s short story “The American Embassy,” and US asylum court documents. UMass students are pretty interested in global politics. Or at least I think they are, because it’s a full class!
Ed.: Soon you’ll be taking over the Writing Program, right? You’ll be overseeing all of university writing courses.
Dingo: Yes, I’ll be taking that over next year. I look forward to continuing the great work of my colleagues, especially as writing changes over time.
Ed.: What do you do when you are not working?
Dingo: I have been taking advantage of the winter sports the northeast offers like skiing and skating. But I am also an avid documentary film watcher. In Columbia, MO there is always a buzz about documentary film due to their annual True/False film fest. There I fell in love with the craft of filmmaking! (I actually hope to make a documentary film one day….) And, I love to travel. I’m going to Lebanon to give a symposium at the American University at Beirut but my research and collaborations might be taking me to Namibia and South Africa soon.