At the Center: Feminism, Social Science and Knowledge: Volume 20

Cover of At the Center: Feminism, Social Science and Knowledge
Subject:

Table of contents

(23 chapters)
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Purpose

This introduction provides an overview of the themes and chapters of this volume.

Research limitations/implications

The chapters illustrate current approaches to theories, research methods, pedagogy, and praxis in gender studies showing both continuity and change.

Practical/social implications

Newer approaches, gender-centered, intersectional, and global offer a critique of older ways of gathering and understanding data, ways that respond to and are impacted by social change.

Originality/value

The chapter and the volume are intended to encourage further advances in gender research.

Theories and Generation of Knowledges

Purpose/approach

On the occasion of the publication of the 20th volume of the Advances in Gender Research series, this chapter reviews the series goals and previous volumes and introduces the themes and chapters of the current one.

Research implications

The chapter shows both continuity and change in approaches to theories, research methods, pedagogy, and praxis in gender studies.

Practical/social implications

Newer approaches, gender-centered, intersectional and global, offer a critique of older ways of gathering and understanding data, ways that respond to and are impacted by social change.

Originality/value

The chapter and the volume are intended to encourage further advances in gender research.

Purpose

In this chapter, I assess the treatment of transgender within the sociology of gender and propose a new standard of transfeminist methodology that would work against transgender marginalization in social scientific research.

Methodology/approach

I assess the treatment of transgender within the sociology of gender by conducting a content analysis of all articles and chapters focusing on transgender people, experiences, bodies, and phenomena published between 1987 and 2014 in the journal Gender & Society (n = 12) and between 1996 and 2014 in the book series Advances in Gender Research (n = 5).

Findings

I first outline key tenets of feminist methodology and suggest additional transfeminist methodological considerations. I proceed to a content analysis of existing transgender research in two key publications to support my proposal of the development of transfeminist methodology.

Originality/value

This chapter highlights the need to expand feminist methodology for the study of transgender people and phenomena. Specifically, I propose the development of transfeminist methodology, an approach that centers on transgender experience and perspectives.

Purpose

The purpose of this chapter is to bring three recent and innovative feminist science and technology studies paradigms into dialogue on the topics of subjectivity and knowledge.

Findings

Each of the three frameworks – feminist postcolonial science and technology studies, queer ecologies, and new feminist materialisms – reconceptualizes and expands our understanding of subjectivity and knowledge. As projects invested in identifying and challenging the strategic conferral of subjectivity, they move from subjectivity located in all human life, to subjectivity as indivisible from nature, to a broader notion of subjectivity as both material and discursive. Despite some methodological differences, the three frameworks all broaden feminist conceptions of knowledge production and validation, advocating for increased consideration of scientific practices and material conditions in feminist scholarship.

Originality

This chapter examines three feminist science and technology studies paradigms by comparing and contrasting how each addresses notions of subjectivity and knowledge in ways that push us to rethink key epistemological issues.

Research Implications

This chapter identifies similarities and differences in the three frameworks’ discussions of subjectivity and knowledge production. By putting these frameworks into conversation, we identify methodological crossover, capture the coevolution of subjectivity and knowledge production in feminist theory, and emphasize the importance of matter in sociocultural explorations.

Purpose

This chapter aims to advance understandings of agency and embodiment by considering the relationship between identifying as a feminist and choosing to engage in sexually submissive practices with men.

Methodology/approach

Thematic analysis of seven feminist-identified women’s solicited diaries and follow-up interviews are paired with a feminist phenomenological framework of agency and embodiment in order to highlight how inhabiting and investing in dominant heterosexual norms is a means of locating oneself in one’s own desires and sexuality.

Findings

Engaging in sexual submission as a feminist can be met with feelings of guilt and a sense of justification; a number of participants questioned whether these sexual choices put their political identity in crisis or open to critique. Others felt that their choice to be submissive warranted no problematization – even if the female, feminist subject inhabits dominant heterosexual norms surrounding what it means to be a woman as defined by heteronormative, patriarchal terms.

Research limitations/implications

The present study is part of a broader PhD project based on heterosexuality and feminism in practice, where choosing submission also occurs between instances of sex (in everyday encounters with men) and beyond the context of sex (within the broader context of a romantic relationship). As such, choosing submission within the context of sex is only one aspect of this much more complex relationship.

Originality/value

This chapter aims to contribute to a growing body of literature that considers the way agency is conceptualized and in doing so, offers empirical evidence to show these theories are applicable to sexual practices as well as understandings of gender and feminism.

Research Methods

Purpose

Existing research tends to conceptualize age- and gender-based discrimination as distinct and unrelated social phenomena. A growing body of scholarship, however, highlights the importance of conceptualizing ageism as potentially gendered, and gender discrimination as inherently shaped by age. Using an intersectional theoretical perspective, this chapter examines how gender and age combine to shape women’s and men’s experiences of workplace mistreatment.

Methodology/approach

The data are obtained from the U.S. General Social Survey. The analysis begins with descriptive statistics, showing how rates of perceived age and gender mistreatment vary for men and women of different age groups. Multivariate logistic regressions follow.

Findings

Experiences of workplace mistreatment are significantly shaped by both gender and age. Among both men and women, workers in their 30s and 40s report relatively low levels of perceived age-based discrimination, compared to older or younger workers. It is precisely during this interval of relatively low rates of perceived age-based discrimination that women’s (but not men’s) perceptions of gender-based mistreatment rises dramatically. At all ages, women are significantly more likely to face either gender- or age-based discrimination than men, but the gap is especially large among workers in their 40s.

Originality/value

Women tend to perceive age- and gender-based mistreatment at different times of life, but a concurrent examination of gender- and age-based mistreatment reveals that women’s working lives are characterized by high rates of mistreatment throughout their careers, in a way that men’s are not. The results highlight the importance of conceptualizing gender and age as intersecting systems of inequality.

Purpose

This chapter analyzes the critical move in feminist scholarship to gender the discourse on risk mediation in dangerous ethnographic fieldwork, particularly in social justice research. Additionally, I draw on a reflexive analysis of my own fieldwork in Oaxaca, Mexico, to examine the intersectional impact of social location (gender, race, class, etc.) on risk management.

Methodology/approach

I synthesize key literature contributions in social science and feminist scholarship on doing dangerous fieldwork. Ethnographic data includes three months of participant observation and interviews with participants of the 2006 Oaxacan uprising.

Findings

I argue that the following themes represent axes of gendered risk mediation in social justice fieldwork: (1) the intersectional impact of social location on varied risks and the mediation of those risks, (2) impression management as an important tool for risk mediation, and (3) ethical dilemmas within risk mediation. The key dangers and risks in fieldwork include physical danger, emotional/psychological impacts, risk to research participants, ethical dangers, separation from family through international work, risk of imprisonment, and academic/professional risk.

Research limitations/implications

Analysis of personal experience in the field is limited to this one researcher’s experience; however, it mirrors key themes present in the literature. Reflexive analysis of social location on risk mediation is part of a continued call by feminist ethnographers to research practical risk mediation techniques and recognize the intersectional impacts of social location on fieldwork.

Practical implications

This chapter provides insights that instructors of ethnographic methods might use to discuss dangerous fieldsites and how to mediate risk.

Social implications

A failure to recognize risk in ethnographic research may disproportionately impact researchers most susceptible to particular risks.

Originality/value

Although feminist scholarship has long examined social location in fieldwork, analysis of risk management is limited. Additionally, this chapter adds to this scholarship by contributing key themes that unite the available research and a list of most-often discussed risks in fieldwork.

Purpose

The purpose of this chapter is to examine the ways in which gender is socially constructed through transnational adoption.

Methodology/approach

Feminist methodologies and reflexivity are put into practice. Life histories of women who participate in transnational adoptions are presented.

Findings

Life history narratives shed light on how these particular women, through the process of transnational adoption, experience gender differently and in more complex ways. Adoptive mothers’ negotiations (and renegotiations) of their own gender contribute to our understandings of how motherhood (and, thereby, womanhood) is constructed in broader society.

Research limitations/implications

Life histories provide rich, thick descriptions of social life. However, they are limited in terms of reliability and making generalizations about larger populations.

Practical implications

This chapter engages the reader, scholars, students, practitioners, and policy-makers in contemplating the processes of motherhood and womanhood.

Social implications

The chapter is a building block for future research on this topic and challenges our understandings of “motherhood” and “womanhood.”

Originality/value

This chapter is unique in that I include my own life narrative and story of becoming a mother through transnational adoption. Through reflexivity, the researcher becomes the subject and vice versa. These life history narratives offer insight through their expressions of “everyday knowledge” (Hill Collins, 2000) and bring new dimensions to the study of gender as these women’s experiences are situated within the intersections of the global economy, specific political systems, and individual identities.

Purpose

This chapter critically analyzes the disparity between presumptive theoretical and technical development literatures and local ways of inhabiting gender and conceptualizing justice in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. This study explores local understandings of sexual violence, gender, and justice to capture a picture of gender, victimhood, and agency that destabilizes hegemonic global narratives of widespread violence and oppression.

Research implications

Dominant academic and policy literatures often rely on universalized framings of gender, sexual violence, and justice. Broader critiques of Western presuppositions regarding the lived realities of women’s experiences are necessary to bridge the gap between representation and reality.

Practical implications

Without understanding the lives and experiences of women like those in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, imported programs to improve women’s “access to justice” and to “empower” women fail to render an inclusive justice and, ironically, reinforce essentialized conceptions of gender that are themselves an obstacle to women’s empowerment.

Social implications

The danger of perpetuating hollow myths of oppression and suffering necessitates a re-evaluation of how scholars and development professionals capture the complexity of gender, sexual violence, and conceptions of justice in Indonesia, as well as other countries in the Global South.

Originality/value

This study builds on existing critical literature to problematize global assumptions about sexual violence, and emphasizes how essentialized representations of the feminine as fixed and universally oppressed silence the myriad voices of women of Yogyakarta.

Praxis and Pedagogy

Purpose

This chapter critiques the forceful institutionalization of gender mainstreaming into development programs.

Methodology/approach

The data was generated from literature review and a research-based case study of the World Bank’s Community-Based Rural Development Projects in a Ghanaian township using ethnographic research methods such as participant-observation, focus group discussion, and individual interviews.

Findings

Our study found that gender mainstreaming has become popular, with the majority of international development agencies, such as The World Bank, AusAID, USAID, and the UNDP, adopting it as an overarching framework for developing and delivering their programs and services. The concept has also made its way into government policies globally over the past decade and has a strong influence on aid projects, even on gender-neutral programs. Our ethnographic research revealed that it is problematic to simply use gender mainstreaming as a policy initiative. The research case study presented showed that, in their quest to involve women in decision-making processes in rural localities, officials who implemented the CBRDP targeted women, although improving gender equality (through the process of gender mainstreaming) was not an objective of the CBRDP project per se. As a result, the project was jeopardized, some local people misconceptualized the CBRDP as a “women’s empowerment initiative,” leading to apathy on the part of men, some of whom resented the CBRDP by preventing their wives and daughters from participating in it, ultimately causing a negative outcome.

Originality/value

We seek to alert international development organizations and practitioners that implementing gender mainstreaming programs and policies without considering local conditions and social relationships will fail to deliver the desired outcomes for the intended beneficiaries.

Purpose

In this study we examine how doing research on gender impacts identity, sense of self, and relation to community; and how fieldwork is mediated by gender structures.

Methodology/approach

We draw on feminist epistemology, qualitative methodologies, and critical pedagogies to analyze the fieldwork experiences of 15 women students and nine men fieldwork partners in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan.

Findings

By conducting fieldwork which challenged gender norms, students and partners gained greater awareness of themselves and confidence. Their actions challenged the appropriate place of women (and minority ethnicities) as perceived by research participants in these communities. The experience rendered the community a site of hope and learning for them, working to empower them as well as building relationships grounded in lived experiences with their communities.

Research limitation

Women’s voices are more prominent in this analysis than men’s.

Originality/value

This chapter points to the potentially empowering aspects of doing gender-related fieldwork in the developing context, as well as how gender and other power structures mediate fieldwork experiences in Muslim communities in South Asia.

Purpose

This

Authors’ note: To capture the collaborative feminist process in writing this article, we list authors’ name alphabetically rather than the traditional presentation of lead author first.

chapter provides a critical discussion of how we conceptualize, conduct, and reflect upon our research in a feminist classroom at a women’s university in Bangladesh. It examines our feminist pedagogy and the epistemological, conceptual, methodological, and ethical issues we encountered in our research.

Authors’ note: To capture the collaborative feminist process in writing this article, we list authors’ name alphabetically rather than the traditional presentation of lead author first.

Methodology/approach

We use Third World, Materialist, and Poststructuralist feminist perspectives with an intersectional transnational lens to analyze our self-reflections about feminist pedagogy and the messy business of conducting our research. We draw on student participant interviews and responses to follow-up questions to support key arguments.

Findings

Much feminist pedagogy discourse constructs consciousness-raising and empowerment as positive. However, our research indicates our students’ experiences of these processes as well as our own as teachers and researchers is contradictory; outcomes are often unintended and not always positive, despite our best intentions.

Social implications

Our work seeks to destabilize problematic notions of empowerment and consciousness-raising by contributing accounts of how feminist pedagogy impacts students in sometimes negative, unintended ways. These contributions should be utilized to better understand power relations between students and teachers, as well as refine pedagogical approaches to best address and reevaluate their impacts on students.

Originality/value

Rather than perpetuate decontextualized and overly optimistic notions of feminist pedagogy, consciousness-raising, and empowerment that fail to capture the complexities and contradictions of women’s lives and the gendered relations in which they participate, this chapter stands as a call to feminists to problematize their key concepts and practices and lay them open to critique.

Historical Perspectives

Purpose

We evaluate the use of metaphors in academic literature on women in academia. Utilizing the work of Husu (2001) and the concept of intersectionality, we explore the ways in which notions of structure and/or agency are reflected in metaphors and the consequences of this.

Methodology/approach

The research comprised an analysis of 113 articles on women in academia and a subanalysis of 17 articles on women in Political Science published in academic journals between 2004 and 2013.

Findings

In the case of metaphors about academic institutions, the most popular metaphors are the glass ceiling, the leaky pipeline, and the old boys’ network, and, in the case of metaphors about women academics, strangers/outsiders and mothers/housekeepers.

Usage of metaphors in the literature analyzed suggests that the literature often now works with a more nuanced conception of the structure/agency problematic than at the time Husu was writing: instead of focusing on either structures or agents in isolation, the literature has begun to look more critically at the interplay between them, although this may not be replicated at a disciplinary level.

Originality/value

We highlight the potential benefits of interdependent metaphors which are able to reflect more fully the structurally situated nature of (female) agency. These metaphors, while recognizing the (multiple and intersecting) structural constraints that women may face both within and outwith the academy, are able to capture more fully the different forms female power and agency can take. Consequently, they contribute both to the politicization of problems that female academics may face and to the stimulation of collective responses for a fairer and better academy.

Purpose

This chapter discusses how gender scholarship has transformed the study of immigration in the United States since the 1970s.

Methodology/approach

This discussion is based on a synthesized review of immigration studies and their connections to gender scholarship in different historical contexts.

Findings

Over the past four decades, gender scholarship has significantly shaped the theories, methodologies, and core concerns in immigration studies in the United States. Before the 1970s, immigration research focused on men. Studies of immigrant women began in the 1980s, which not only challenged previous gender-blind perspectives but also highlighted women’s unique experiences. From the mid-1980s to the early 1990s, the study of gender and immigration focused on immigrant women’s vulnerabilities in the global economy and enhancing women’s status at home through employment in the host society. Since the 1990s, more diverse topics have emerged to involve discussion on globalization and transnationalism. These gendering trends in immigration studies have not taken place in an intellectual vacuum. Rather, they have been influenced by developments in gender scholarship within different historical contexts.

Research limitations/implications

To enrich gender-focused and feminism-informed research in immigration studies, scholars will have to build connections across subareas and engage in dialogues with each other. More immigrant groups must also be studied to reflect the extremely diverse make-up of current immigrants in the United States. Intersectional analyses are also needed to avoid homogenizing studied groups. Finally, mainstream immigration research must begin to perceive gender as an essential analytical framework.

Purpose

This chapter focuses on how the repression of political ideologies can silence feminist voices. It examines how writings by women working with the U.S. Communist Party in the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, and early 1960s have been overlooked even though they presaged important linchpins of U.S. second-wave feminist thought.

Methodology/approach

This study is based on historical and archival research.

Findings

Decades before the rise of second-wave feminism, women in the CPUSA had: (1) produced a political economy of domestic labor; (2) employed an intersectional analysis of the interlocking oppressions of race, gender, class, and nation; and (3) called for a global feminist analysis that linked these multiple oppressions to colonialism and imperialism.

Social implications

This study illustrates the costs of political repression and how the canon of feminist thought can be enhanced by resuscitating subjugated knowledges.

Originality/value

Too little attention has focused on the silencing of women because of their political ideologies. This chapter addresses this lacuna in feminist studies and calls into question the oft-repeated notion that the periods between the waves of U.S. feminism were times of movement stagnation. It shows how theory construction can flourish even when feminist activism wanes.

About the Authors

Pages 311-318
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Cover of At the Center: Feminism, Social Science and Knowledge
DOI
10.1108/S1529-2126201520
Publication date
2015-08-21
Book series
Advances in Gender Research
Editors
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
ISBN
978-1-78560-078-4
eISBN
978-1-78560-078-4
Book series ISSN
1529-2126