International Handbooks on Gender series
Edited by Jill Steans and Daniela Tepe
Chapter 40: Feminist political economy
Feminists ‘do’ political economy in distinctive, diverse and important ways. In drawing on materialist, poststructuralist and postcolonial perspectives (Elias, 2011: 105), feminists approach their research questions from various and sometimes incommensurable epistemological orientations, ‘diverse spatial and temporal locations’ and ‘several disciplinary locations’ (Peterson, 2012: 15). This chapter offers an outline of where feminists target their analyses and describes something of the uniqueness of feminist approaches to systems of production, exchange, consumption and reproduction. With ‘a long and distinguished intellectual history’, feminist political economy has been developing a ‘theoretical as well as an empirical and policy-orientated body of literature’ over some time (Hoskyns and Rai, 2007: 298–299). While feminist analyses of the global political economy share a commitment to examining socio-economic processes as always and inherently gendered, a variety of origins, methods, theoretical orientations and empirical approaches to the study of gender exist within and across feminist scholarship. Feminists do not agree on the relationship between sex and the body, nor do they agree on how to approach and study gender. Classifications of feminist political economy are particularly difficult given feminism’s ongoing commitment to challenging the boundaries that discipline academic bodies. Indeed, ‘some of the key contributors to feminist IPE scholarship are writers who would not necessarily locate themselves within the field’ (Elias, 2011: 102). Although many of the scholars cited here define themselves as scholars of either international relations (IR) or international political economy (IPE), feminist political economists do not work only in these disciplines.
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