International Handbooks on Gender series
Edited by Jill Steans and Daniela Tepe
Chapter 9: Feminist methodologies and world politics
There is no single distinct feminist method. Feminist political and ethical commitments, however, shape research questions and approaches profoundly. Rather than elevating the discussion of methods and methodology over all other concerns, as some scholarship in international relations (IR) does, feminist scholars use a variety of methods as long as they allow them to address questions they are interested in researching. As a profoundly interdisciplinary endeavor, feminist scholarship is guided by a feminist consciousness. As Brooke Ackerly, Maria Stern and Jacqui True (2006) summarize, feminist methodological debates include “self-conscious reflections on epistemological assumptions, ontological perspective, ethical responsibilities and method choices” (2006: 6, emphasis added). What is more, since feminist research is a critical endeavor, feminist methodological deliberations generally show an awareness of how research can serve to highlight or obscure particular power relations. Methodological choices, including those about particular methods, are always also political. Much feminist research aims to recover or highlight voices of those heretofore rarely acknowledged or heard – often women, whose lives are historically underrepresented in IR. This is not to say that all feminist scholars are only interested in “women” (or, more accurately, ciswomen) empirically or as a category of analysis. Many are also interested in how gender is constitutive of and/or constituted by global politics.
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