Here are some FAQ’s answered by the first Durham IP reading group 

  1.  Can we have men in our reading group?

    The first reading group was a women-only space as an important part of the project is to interrogate Midgley’s suggestion that women in Oxford thrived intellectually in the period under consideration because there were fewer men around due to the disruptions of World War II.

    Through various iterations of the reading group, we have found that students from other under-represented groups also have a lot to gain from this kind of a space. Moreover, we think the work of these women and the practice of collaborative philosophy should be shared as widely as possible. Thus, ideally, we would like the reading groups to be open to all, however, this can sometimes put a lot of pressure on the facilitator to maintain the ethos of the group. As such, we leave it to facilitators to decide how best to create a space where underrepresented voices can be heard.

  2. Do you have any guidelines as to how to conduct the meeting?

    It is important to us that facilitators feel they can make whatever decisions are needed to create the right kind of space for their context. However, here are some suggestions of things that worked for us:

    • Taking turns facilitating the meeting can add to the collaborative feel and help spread the workload. For example, you could each ‘specialise’ in the work of one member of the quartet.
    • Have the facilitator begin the session by introducing the material and framing some discussion questions. This means that even those who haven’t done the reading can still participate to some degree. It is also nice if this introduction includes bringing out links between the women’s work.
    • Try to relate the readings to your lives, or just current affairs/real-life examples. We find that this really helps to contextualise and understand the topics. It also helps to bring members of the group together and get people feeling more comfortable sharing. If you’re the facilitator, be prepared to take the lead on this!
    • Think about the room! We have found that a circular layout, or a café/room with sofas is best for creating a comfortable space for people to share. Tea/coffee/cocoa & biscuits also helps with this.
    • Don’t worry if you don’t understand! Even if you’re the facilitator of the group, you don’t need to completely understand each text. A valuable part of the reading group is that you all work together to try to understand the text and what it means to you. Moreover, being comfortable admitting that we don’t know, is an important part of breaking down combative discussion practices.
  3. What if there’s too much reading for us?

    We have tried to keep the readings below 20 pages to account for this. However, there is no reason you can’t have the meetings fortnightly or monthly instead of weekly to lessen the load. Each organiser should choose the format which best suits their group, it needn’t be a rigid format!

  4. How much time will you dedicate to the sessions?

    Reading groups usually schedule a two-hour session, this allows for latecomers and time to arrive/leave the building. An hour is usually not enough time to present and discuss, however, again, we leave it to individual facilitators to decide what works best. A drink in the pub after the session also usually goes down well!

  5. We plan to document our ‘findings’. What shall we do with them?

    Leave comments on the reading group meeting pages of the website or tweet us using #InParenthesisRG. Send us an email and we’ll post it on the website. We’d also welcome suggestions for reading or topics for future meetings. If you’d like to write a Blog post, get in touch.