International Handbooks on Gender series
Edited by Jill Steans and Daniela Tepe
Chapter 31: Feminist security studies
To frame this (inevitably partial) overview of the discipline, I ask two questions, the first of which is: What is feminist security studies (FSS)? I propose that FSS is the study of security politics and practices – broadly conceived – that is attentive to ‘the concept, nature, and practice of gender’ (Zalewksi, 1995: 341). Marysia Zalewski has suggested that there are two central, guiding questions that motivate feminist security studies: ‘“What work is gender doing?” and: “What about women?”’ (Zalewski, 1995: 341). These guiding questions hold true today. Some FSS scholars take the lives and experiences of women in the context of security politics and practices as their central concern, while others engage with FSS as a series of critical investigations of how the category of gender itself and the corollary identities we associate with subjects come to have meaning in the world through security politics and practices. The second question that helps introduce the topic is: What does feminist security studies contribute to our understanding of the world and the relations of power that inform and infuse it? What, in other words, do feminist security studies scholars do? There are two answers to this question. On the one hand, FSS scholarship is deeply, and deliberately, subversive: it disrupts. Located somewhat uncomfortably in, or at the margins of, the discipline of international relations (IR), FSS challenges the core tenets of that discipline’s treatment of the concept of security.
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