Chapter 9: The gender-and-federalism research field: past, present and future
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This chapter explores the development of the gender-federalism field focused on interactions between ‘federal arrangements’ and gender regimes. Initially the field focused on the question: ‘is federalism good or bad for women?’ It highlighted obstacles to women’s attainment of equal rights and full citizenship created by ‘federal arrangements’ blocking such changes as family-law reforms. More recently, gender-federalism scholars conceptualized such interactions as a ‘two-way street’ on which ‘federal arrangements’ affect women’s political activism but that women’s increased activism since the 1960s also began to change federal politics, discourses and institutions. Initiated by feminist political scientists in older ‘Western’ federations, the field now includes researchers in federations in the global south who explore issues focused on how interactions between ‘federalization’ and ‘democratization’ affect women’s political organizing, participation and representation. Following a brief historical overview, the chapter outlines areas of gendered inquiry that are common to federations and to formerly unitary states undergoing the devolution of power and ‘federalization’ including Belgium, Spain and the UK. It also identifies the field’s key issues and theories as well as new questions such as why women’s legislative representation is significantly higher in federations than in unitary states and in regional governments despite the rarity of regional, electoral quotas. The chapter concludes with a brief speculation about the field’s future and how its insights can be made more widely available to gender scholars and scholars of federalism.

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