It was not all smooth or without opposition or [without] traditional disciplines thinking that these were unwelcome additions, that they were not scientific enough-you can just imagine the sort of argument. But fifteen years down the line we have fully developed programs going from undergraduate through to Ph.D. courses. We have very developed European programs, international programs, through the ERASMUS network and the SOCRATES network. We have just successfully completed an application to create a national graduate school for women's studies, which is a federation of every program in the Netherlands.
After a two year procedure, this was finally recognized by the Royal Commission, which is a very intricate, difficult procedure in the Netherlands. But we got their stamp of approval, so we are an official graduate school in women's studies, handing out feminist Ph.Ds. [This was] born in careful negotiations with the disciplines so that we don't give the impression that we are creating the famous academic ghetto. This is the business of getting a very first class education in which one third of their curriculum has to be on gender issues and we take care of that.
It has been very well funded and been particularly active, very pragmatic; the Dutch are very down to earth. It is reputed as one of the strongest programs, certainly in Europe. I work on several commissions on the European level and the Netherlands, together with the Scandinavians, have the largest expenditure for women's and gender studies.
You did much of your Doctoral work in Paris. What do you think of the recent threat to close the Centre de recherche en études feminines organized by Hélène Cixous? Is this a general trend to be anticipated throughout Europe?
I signed the petition to support the centre, though I've had my problems with her [Cixous] in the course of time. I think this is part of a general trend in France not to develop women's studies very much. Of course, the Université of Paris VIII at Saint-Denis, where Cixous teaches, is now a rather marginal university in the French educational system. But it is a symptomatic event of how the Parisian scene has developed. We work extensively in our European network with Toulouse. And Toulouse, for instance, does not have the same problems that they are having in Paris at all. Toulouse has grown; they have a couple of new positions for women's studies and the number of students are up. They are functioning very well at the European level and they are very present on the scene, which is much more than I can say for Paris.
There has been a strange non-development there and I do not know how to analyze it. In the Université of Paris VII where a great deal of the leading figures of women's, studies were located ... everything came to an end when they retired because they had not secured their positions for women's studies. They could not, because they were integrated Professorships, so they simply got replaced by non-feminist scholars. So Paris VII got practically wiped out and I thought it was dramatic that they would also attack Paris VIII where Cixous was. Although I've had my disagreements with her, I've certainly written in support [of the centre].
It is quite disconcerting, the extent to which that particular generation in France did not manage to ensure a follow up. Whether it be Foucault or Deleuze (but that is a choice of his not to have a school), the only one who has really created a school, of course, is Derrida, who made sure that his disciples got into jobs and perpetrated his work, etc. All the others just let it go. It must be a very sort of peculiar French trait of not passing the torch on or not caring whether or not it goes on. Certainly French history and philosophy shows that every radical generation is followed by two or three very dull and boring reactionary ones, and another radical one comes up and then it is followed by two or three reactionary ones. It seems to be a see-saw of radicalism.
What are your thoughts on the growth of women's studies courses across Western Europe and North America particularly? Is this institutionalization the beginning or the conclusion of a generation of feminism?
You must be very careful with that. All the comparative work we have done at the ; European level shows that you have to analyze case by case. One example is the United States. After being there for a year, I would say that they are not growing at all. On the contrary, things are going pretty badly when it comes to any radical epistemologies. I would say that the women's studies courses there are not acting as a motor of any major curriculum change.