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Chapter 7: Feminist Perspectives on Qualitative Educational Research
7. Feminist perspectives on qualitative educational research Alexandra Allan INTRODUCTION The debates surrounding feminist research and its relationship to qualitative methods are now well worn within the social sciences. A number of established handbooks exist to guide readers through the quagmire of these discussions (Bell and Roberts, 1981; Reinharz, 1992; Ribbens and Edwards, 1992; Stanley and Wise, 1993; Maynard and Purvis, 1994; Ramazanoglu and Holland, 2002; Delamont, 2003; and Letherby, 2003). Within the field of education these discussions have also been widely rehearsed, with a number of scholars suggesting that education is one of the main fields to have benefited from, and to have contributed the most to, feminist qualitative research practice (Oleson, 2005; Skeggs, 2005). This chapter will attempt to draw together some of the major themes which have dominated feminist research in previous decades (methods, ethics, the role of the researcher and epistemology and theory) in order to ask how they have been taken up or developed within educational research; to examine what feminist qualitative educational research has entailed and what may constitute its practice in the future. One of the major problems with an overview of this nature relates to the definition of the different concepts drawn upon. How do we attempt to understand or describe feminism, education and qualitative research when they are ‘umbrella’ terms which have all been used to refer to a wide range of practices, assumptions, processes and theoretical positions? Although subscribing to a basic understanding of feminism (as a political motivation to...
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