Amrita Chhachhi and Thanh-Dam Truong
The discourse on poverty emerged in the context of capitalist industrialization and political debates on pauperism, and more specifically with the introduction of the Poor Laws whose principles on welfare and relief were firmly based on the idea of forging a system of wage labor concentrated on the male breadwinner. A major implication was the significant place occupied by the nuclear family in the field of poverty as welfare studies. Since the 1980s, feminists have made significant contribution to poverty knowledge by engaging with debates on gender, poverty, and social justice. The feminist critique of poverty knowledge formed part of a broader challenge to the androcentric and culturally specific assumptions of mainstream knowledge systems. In this context, Amartya Sen’s capability approach has been a major influence. Feminists introduced new conceptions of poverty that broaden the definition of poverty from basic needs to functionings, capabilities, assets, and livelihoods and a dynamic notion of vulnerability. Some key contributions of feminist poverty knowledge has been the deconstruction of the neo-classical concept of the household, the emergence of the care economy as a significant element in the experience of poverty, and the emphasis on subjectivity, agency and the notion of trade-offs. Feminist contributions to poverty knowledge have found particular resonance with the notions of care and justice. A greater challenge is how to frame care and justice within a global political society, given the power asymmetries between actors in the global framework.
Mona Lena Krook and Sarah Childs
The main contribution of research on women, gender, and state-level politics has been the introduction of the concept of gender and an expansion of traditional definitions of politics. These studies have continued to expand over the years, opening up some major areas of research as well as introducing challenges to feminist research on women, gender, and state-level politics. Social movements are among the key topics of recent studies. This is due to the fact that women have been largely excluded from other arenas of political participation. Work on political parties links to another major area of study. Although wide-ranging, it can be separated into research on electing versus being elected. Furthermore, women’s voting behavior and the election of female candidates are often treated as important questions in themselves. Another line of work, however, seeks to go beyond political priorities and presence to examine concrete policy outcomes. This research can be divided into three sets of questions: the behavior of female policy actors, the gendered nature of public policies, and the creation and evolution of gender equality policies. A fifth major literature points to the relationship between women, gender, and the state. The state is a central actor and topic in political science. Focusing on state-society interactions, feminists have been interested in understanding how states influence gender relations and, conversely, how gendered norms and practices shape state policies.
Celeste Montoya, Sarah McCullar, and Marjon Kamrani
Feminist international relations (IR) scholars have worked to expand understandings of the global processes through studies of gender. There are multiple forms of feminist scholars and scholarship, with each epistemology having its own understanding of gender and its role in influencing international relations. These include feminist empiricism, feminist standpoint, poststructuralist feminist approaches, and postcolonial feminism. Some of the early feminist IR scholarship placed most of their emphasis on critiquing patriarchy, sometimes resulting to a narrow and essentialist construction of masculinity. These early works note the absence of women and the denigration of the feminine, as well as the predominance of masculine subject matter and masculine partiality in IR. This began to change with the recognition of different types of masculinities, offering a broader conceptualization of gender and masculinities beyond attachment to sex. Beyond recognizing the relational differences between masculinity and femininity, feminist scholars have also pointed out the differential value accorded to each, thus emphasizing the problematic hierarchical nature of such binaries. Another goal of feminist scholars has been to uncover the feminine roles rendered invisible, to challenge the masculine nature of IR as a discipline as well as deal with descriptive and substantive representational issues within the field and practice of IR. Meanwhile, the study of sexualities focuses on power dynamics and the hierarchies associated with sexual identity in its many forms. The predominant themes in this study include sexuality in relation to the study of war and nation; sexuality as a commodity; and studies of hetero- and homonormativity.
Meredith Reid Sarkees and Marie T. Henehan
As a distinct discipline, international studies is relatively young, emerging in the United States only after World War II. The study of the status of women in international studies is also a fairly new field, appearing more recently than that in other fields in academia, including political science. In the United States, political science evolved through at least six distinct phases. The first two phases occurred during the American Revolution and the post-Civil War era, while the next four took place in the twentieth century, described by David Easton as the formal (legal), the traditional (informal or pre-behavioral), the behavioral, and the post-behavioral stages. It was during this period that the study of women in politics began. As political science began to solidify itself as a separate academic discipline at the beginning of the twentieth century, there was also an attempt to include international relations within its domain. Despite the increase in the number of women in international studies and the advances that women have made in publications and positions, the field remains dominated by men. In other words, it is still not an equitable place for women to work. In order to overcome many of these enduring barriers, there should be a greater willingness to investigate and publish more studies about the status of women and to take more proactive steps to resolve the issues that have stalled women’s progress.
Mary K. Meyer McAleese and Susan S. Northcutt
The interdisciplinary field of international studies has traditionally been a male-dominated field. Indeed, the field of international relations, both theory and practice, has been argued to be gendered in highly masculinist ways. Whether as practitioners or as scholars, women have had a difficult time entering and advancing in such male-dominated fields, both in the United States and around the world. Their admittance and full acceptance in the profession has been hindered by laws and regulations, institutional practices and inertia, gendered stereotypes and customary expectations, overt discrimination and subtle biases, or benign neglect. As such, women have adopted a number of different strategies to make their ways into such male-dominated fields. These include working to expand the field to encompass questions of interest to women, developing new networks with other women for mentorship and resource development, and organizing themselves into distinct groups to promote women’s professional interests and advancement. One of these women’s organizations is Women’s Caucus for International Studies (WCIS), a formal section within the International Studies Association (ISA). Since its formal organization in 1996, the Women’s Caucus has worked hard to fulfill its mission of upgrading the status of women in the profession. Specifically, it seeks to promote equal opportunities for women in their professional lives, as well as women’s professional development. The Caucus fulfills its mission in numerous ways, including sponsoring scores of panels and roundtables focused on women’s professional development, and organizing mentoring networks, both inside the Caucus and beyond.
Race(ing) International Relations: A Critical Overview of Postcolonial Feminism in International Relations
Geeta Chowdhry and L.H.M. Ling
Postcolonial feminism in international relations (PFIR) is a disciplinary field devoted to the study of world politics as a site of power relations shaped by colonization. PFIR combines postcolonial and feminist insights to explore questions such as how the stratum of elite power intersects with subterranean layers of colonization to produce our contemporary world politics; how these interrelationships between race, gender, sex, and class inform matrices of power in world politics; and how we account for elite and subaltern agency and resistance to the hegemonic sphere of world politics. PFIR is similar to Marxism, constructivism, and postmodernism in that they all posit that the masses underwrite hegemonic rule and, in so doing, ultimately have the means to do away with it. One difference is that PFIR emanates from the position of the subaltern; more specifically, the colonized’s colonized such as women, children, the illiterate, the poor, the landless, and the voiceless. Three major components are involved in PFIR in its analysis of world politics: culture, politics, and material structures. Also, eight common foci emerge in PFIR: intersectionality, representation, and power; materiality; relationality; multiplicity; intersubjectivity; contrapuntality; complicity; and resistance and accountability. PFIR gives rise to two interrelated projects: an empirical inquiry into the construction and exercise of power in daily life, and theory building that reflects this empirical base. A future challenge for PFIR is to elucidate how we can transform, not just alleviate, the hegemonies that persist around the world.
Melinda Adams and Gwynn Thomas
Women’s activism has assumed an international dimension beginning in the nineteenth century. Transnational feminism has been shaped by debates over a wide range of issues: how to name and describe feminist inspired action that crosses national borders; how to create organizations, networks, and movements that acknowledge the multiple power differentials that exist among women while still allowing for concerted political action; and how to craft effective mobilization strategies in the face of highly differing forms of activism. These debates have fueled a surge in scholarly interest in the transnational activities of feminist groups, transforming the ways in which women’s studies, political science, international relations, sociology, and geography investigate the relationships between national and international levels of politics. The scholarship on transnational feminist actions has been influenced in large part by the concept of transnational advocacy networks/transnational feminist networks, which often bring together multiple kinds of actors such as social movements, international nongovernmental organizations, and more nationally or locally based actors. Another issue tackled by scholars who are politically committed to the goals of transnational feminist activism is how feminists are likely to achieve their goals and produce change through their transnational activities. These scholars can be expected to continue to develop their own research agendas on transnational feminist activism and to influence how transnational politics and globalization are studied in other fields.
After the end of World War II, women’s rights advocates at the United Nations vigorously campaigned for equality between the sexes. At the UN Charter Conference held in San Francisco in 1945, women delegates fought for the recognition of sex-based discrimination as a violation of human rights in Article 1 of the Charter. At the UN, issues relating to women were primarily placed under the purview of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), established in June 1946 with the mandate to “prepare recommendations and report to the Economic and Social Council on promoting women’s rights in political, economic, civil, social and educational fields.” Three main perspectives underpin feminist International Relations (IR) literature on the UN, gender and women: promoting women’s participation and inclusion of women’s issues at the UN; gender critique of the UN, geared towards institutional transformation; and challenging the universality of the UN. Despite some fundamental differences between these three strands of thinking, their political significance is widely acknowledged in the literature. The co-existence of these contentious viewpoints resonates with the vibrant feminist politics at the UN, and offers a fruitful avenue for envisioning a better intergovernmental organization. This is particularly relevant in light of feminist scholars’ engagement with activism and policymaking at the UN from the very beginning. Nevertheless, there are issues that deserve further consideration, such as the workings of the UN, as reflected in its unique diplomatic characteristics and bureaucratic practices.
For centuries, women have been struggling for the recognition of their rights. Women’s rights are still being dismissed by United Nations (UN) human rights bodies and even governments, despite the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex. It was not until the 1993 UN World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna, Austria that states began to recognize women’s rights as human rights. However, this institutional change cannot solely be credited to the UN, but more importantly to the work of international women’s organizations. According to the social movement theory, these organizations have been permeating intergovernmental structures and, with the help of their constituents and experienced leaders, framing women’s rights as human rights in different ways throughout time. It is through mobilizing resources and seizing political opportunities that women’s rights activists rationalize how discrimination and exclusion resulted from gendered traditions, and that societal change is crucial in accepting women’s rights as fully human. But seeing as there are still oppositions to the issue of women’s rights as human rights, further research still needs to be conducted. Some possible venues for research include how well women’s rights as human rights travel across different institutions, violence against women, how and in what way women’s rights enhance human rights, and the changes that have taken place in mainstream human rights and specialized women’s rights institutions since the late 1980s as well as their impact.
Karen Erickson and Elisabeth Prügl
Academic organizations introduce gender, race, nationality, and other signifiers of power into the field of international studies. Research on the status of women in the international studies profession has typically focused on the distributions of women and men according to academic rank, salaries, and employment. A number of detailed case studies have explored practices in particular academic departments and universities in order to elucidate the mechanisms in place that help to reproduce gender inequality. We can gauge the progress that women have made with regard to their status and role in academic organizations over the years by looking at the International Studies Association (ISA). The ISA presents a mixed picture of international studies as a field of gendered power. While women have entered leadership positions in the association, they have done so mostly at lower levels, while men continue to dominate the positions at the top, the ISA president and executive director. Women have made some advances into editorial positions, but gatekeeping in the scholarly journals published under the auspices of the ISA remains largely a male preserve. Furthermore, women and men in the ISA reproduce gender difference and inequality by re-enacting gender divisions of labor while participating in an economy that circulates symbolic capital. An important consideration for future research is the assumption that international studies is a field of complex gendered power that cannot be easily explained by purely singular tools of analysis.