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date: 23 August 2019

Feminist Ontologies, Epistemologies, Methodologies, and Methods in International Relations

Abstract and Keywords

Feminism operates on various feminist epistemologies, methodologies, and methods. While there is no consensus on how to organize or label these, there are a few generalities that can be drawn between these epistemologies, particularly in the international relations (IR) context. Classifying these epistemologies generally under the umbrella (or in the constellation) of postpositivism makes clear the contrasts between positivist social science and more critical approaches. Moreover, within the many critical approaches in feminist IR are many points of convergence and divergence. Feminist IR theory also focuses on the complexities of gender as a social and relational construction, in contrast to how nonfeminist ontologies focus on the rights of women, but including those of children and men as well. Hence, the postpositivist ontology takes on a more complex meaning. Rather than trying to uncover “how things really are,” postpositivists study how social realities (the Westphalian system, international migration or trafficking, or even modern war) came to be, and also how these realities came to be understood as norms, institutions, or social facts—often examining the gendered underpinnings of each. Most feminist IR theorists (and IR constructivists) share an “ontology of becoming” where the focus is on the intersubjective process of norm evolution.

Keywords: feminism, feminist epistemologies, feminist methodologies, feminist methods, feminist IR theory, postpositivism, feminist international relations, gender, social realities, feminist ontologies

Introduction

The problem of trying to define feminism is as old as feminism itself. Likewise, defining “feminist international relations” (or “international relations feminism”) is bound to be problematic. This essay therefore starts with a disclaimer: try as we might, it is impossible to pin down any definitive definition of feminism, never mind feminist epistemologies, methodologies, or methods. This point (that there are multiple understandings of feminism) is made by Peterson (1992), Sylvester (1994), Marchand (1998), Caprioli (2004), Krook and Squires (2006), and Steans (2006), among many others. These theorists range from self-described positivists (Caprioli) to postmodern or standpoint feminists (Sylvester), and yet even they do not “cover” all understandings of feminism. Instead, the following will attempt to organize some of the existing literature.

The majority of this essay will focus on the various feminist epistemologies, methodologies, and methods. As will be demonstrated along the way, there are many possibilities for each. Feminist work in International Relations (IR) does not adhere to any one epistemology, methodology, or method. However, any analysis grounded in feminist ontology is well served to set a goal of consistency in epistemology, methodology, and method. This essay will return to this theme of consistency at numerous points.

The goal of the essay is to make explicit the variations between many different types of feminist work (are they varying epistemologies? methodologies?), so that we can better understand the sources of disagreement and convergence. Although it may make sense to envision possibilities for epistemology, methodology, and method to exist within a galaxy, with clusters or constellations around various points, for clarity’s sake this essay will attempt to organize these terms into spectra. The following vocabulary for the spectra will be employed:

  • Epistemology: positivist to postpositivist

  • Methodology: empiricist to interpretivist

  • Method: quantitative to qualitative

Separating these concepts into binaries would go against the spirit of many versions of feminist theory; instead, these may be understood as a continuum or spectrum, and not a definitive or all-inclusive one at that.

It is already clear that there is no consensus on how to organize or label various feminist epistemologies, methodologies, and methods. For example, what is the difference between constructivism, critical constructivism, postpositivism, poststructuralism, postmodernism, postcolonialism, and antifoundationalism? While the lines between these categories may be blurred (or even nonexistent), it is possible to speak in generalities. Constructivism, as a subfield of IR theory, is generally grouped with realism and liberalism as one of the “big three” metatheories. While some constructivists adhere to a positivist epistemology, and focus on causal analysis, others are more postpositivist in orientation. Constructivism broadly understood adheres to a philosophy that reality is socially constructed (see Berger and Luckmann 1967; Wendt 1992). Critical constructivism problematizes the idea of reality (even a socially constructed one); with postmodernism and post-structuralism, this branch of constructivism tends to focus on the historical processes that have led us to understand concepts such as “reality,” “truth,” and “evidence.” Postmodernism and especially post-structuralism concentrate on the power relations inherent in the construction of these concepts. Postcolonial work does much of the same, but from a standpoint that is explicitly non-Western, nonmale, and/or nonhegemonic. All of these theories can be understood as antifoundationalist, because they do not assume that “reality” and “truth” are universal.

Some of the most influential theorists of the twentieth century (Michel Foucault comes to mind) have resisted being labeled as “post-structuralist” or “antifoundationalist” thinkers. Others intentionally blur the lines between these distinctions. This discussion, while valid, lies largely outside the scope of the topic at hand, which is to provide a broad and introductory overview to feminist IR epistemologies, methodologies, and methods. Rather than answer these complex questions, this essay seeks to include all of these epistemologies generally under the umbrella (or in the constellation) of postpositivism. This is done in order to make clear the contrasts between positivist social science and more critical approaches. Within the many critical approaches are many points of convergence and divergence.

So for now, it will suffice to return to the visual aid of the spectra (or constellations) in epistemology, methodology, and method. To be sure, feminist IR projects and theorists have located themselves along various points of these spectra (or constellations) over the years, although much of feminist IR is admittedly postpositivist, interpretivist, and qualitative (Peterson 1992:12). What all feminist projects seem to share, however, is a critical ontology. For example, feminist theorists in IR tend to question the state-centrism of mainstream IR theory, and posit instead that states (and all relations of power) are socially constructed; states are not material facts but “social facts” that are based on commonly held norms. These norms, feminist IR theorists point out, are deeply gendered. According to J. Ann Tickner, “feminists start from an ontology of social relations in which individuals are embedded in, and constituted by, historically unequal political, economic, and social structures” (Tickner in Ackerly et al. 2006:25). These political, economic, and social structures, contingent on space and evolving over time, produce a shared notion of what the international system looks like (anarchic or interconnected), how the state should behave given that system, what roles the state should play, and so on. These understandings are political imaginaries (see, for example, Gibson-Graham 2006, a feminist critique of the neoliberal capitalist political imaginary). Feminist theorists argue that, like the norms propping them up, political imaginaries are inherently gendered.

For many (but not all) feminist theorists, this critical, intersubjective ontology leads to a belief that the world we have created can in fact be remade. Thus the goals of lessening the shackles of power relations, of emancipation, and for transformation are at the forefront for many scholars of feminist IR (see for example Harding 1987; Peterson 1992:11–13; Sylvester 1994; J.A. Tickner 1997:616; 2005:21; Krook and Squires 2006:46). Whether or not we can reimagine our political world, a shared intersubjective ontology assumes that feminist theorists are interested in suggesting, pointing out, interpreting, and/or understanding the relations of power that have led to the gendered political realm as we understand it.

This essay will proceed as follows: first, a discussion of feminist ontology is in order, along with a discussion of what makes feminism in IR different from other IR metatheories, namely the centrality of the concepts of gender and gendering within feminist IR. Second, these ideas will be expanded into a brief discussion of epistemology, methodology, and method. The place of feminist IR within the broader field will be discussed on all these counts. Third, the majority of this essay will be a wide-ranging (but incomplete) survey of some of the most common epistemologies, methodologies, and methods in contemporary feminist IR.

What Is Feminist IR? What Is “Gendered” IR?

One of the divides between nonfeminist and feminist IR theory could possibly be summarized as a difference between two ontologies: “women matter” (material reality) and “gender matters” (social reality). In other words, while nonfeminist IR scholarship may take seriously the rights of women (and children and men), it generally does not focus attention on the complexities of gender as a social and relational construction. What does it mean to say that gender matters, and what does it mean when feminist IR theorists say that international politics is gendered?

Peter Beckman and Francine D’Amico (1994:6) have conceptualized the differing understandings of gender as gender-as-difference and gender-as-power. Gender-as-difference tends to keep intact the binary between sex and gender, men and women, and femininity and masculinity. Gender understood as difference is a static characteristic, socially constructed but not relational. It refers to an ontology that “women (and men) matter.” This ontology would be appropriate if, for example, we were examining the number of instances in which rape was used during wartime. However, it would not uncover the deep-seated power relations that make rape into a viable (if brutal) battlefield strategy: its demoralizing effects, its devastation on society beyond the actual act.

Gender-as-power, however, reveals the power relations within and between societies, and is able to describe the historical roots and eventual outcomes of the public–private divide. Gender-as-power seeks to break down traditional binaries, and understand gender as an ongoing series of hierarchical relations. Here, when examining wartime rape, we would look into the meaning of motherhood, of community, of human relations to see how the act of rape in wartime is a power play that transcends the individuals involved, and affects the victimized society more broadly. Ontologically, “gender” or “gendering” as a process is what matters. Rather than looking just at the product of social construction (gender-as-difference, masculinity and femininity), gender-as-power approaches look at the process. For those who theorize from the perspective of gender-as-power, “women” and “men” are often markers for gender (especially at the level of elected office, where transsexual, asexual, or intersexual individuals are lamentably scarce) (Caprioli 2004:260).

Some feminist IR theorists argue that both gender-as-difference and gender-as-power are imperative to understanding the full thrust of gender as an analytical category. In her review of Beckman and D’Amico’s volume, V. Spike Peterson points out that gender-as-power is key to “delink[ing] gender from ostensibly natural sex differences” and thus should be given special consideration (1995:796). This is supported by earlier works from Teresa De Lauretis, who writes, “the construction of gender is both the product and the process of its representation” (1987:6). Thus a feminist ontology holds that women and men matter in international politics, and that social structures are imbued with gendered power relations.

The term ontology is often included in a discussion of epistemology, methodologies, and the like. Ontology may be defined as the researcher’s view of reality (as opposed to epistemology, which is the researcher’s view of the ways in which that reality is knowable). The line between ontology and epistemology is quite blurry. Social scientists (of the positivist, “falsifiable hypothesis testing” sort) may argue that a researcher’s goal is to get as close as possible to describing reality. Therefore it may be unproblematic for a positivist political scientist to argue that her results tell us something about the world as it actually is. This theorist would adhere to an epistemology (a deeply positivist one) that maintains the knowability of the world around her – so she would believe she is describing an ontological reality. For her – at least for the research project at hand – epistemology is straightforward: knowledge is based on finding the ontological truth, such as how many women are in parliaments and governments worldwide. (Examples include Caprioli 2004; Krook and Squires 2006; True and Mintrom 2001.)

The story is somewhat more complex for the researcher who believes that absolute Truth is unknowable or nonexistent (and not the goal of analysis). Most feminist theorists fall into this category. Starting from the insight that politics is about power – often gender-as-power – feminist theorists would say that the way one sees politics is inherently related to how one is situated in different relations of power. In other words, the “reality” of “The United States of America” is a quite different reality altogether if you are former President George W. Bush, or if you are a single working mother in East Los Angeles. And “The United States of America” is something else entirely if you are a citizen of Baghdad, or a North Korean. We may try to understand the worldview of other people (anticipating Christine Sylvester’s method of empathetic cooperation, as discussed later in this essay), but there is no one “reality” that can be “revealed” by even the most diligent researcher. This postpositivist epistemology complicates the idea of ontology somewhat. There is no one reality to “uncover”; rather, there are many realities; reality changes in time, space, and depends upon who is doing the looking. Reality is not static; it is not based on universal principles.

So, for the postpositivist (including most feminist IR theorists), ontology takes on a more complex meaning. Rather than trying to uncover “how things really are,” postpositivists study how social realities (the Westphalian system; international migration or trafficking; modern war) came to be, and also how these realities came to be understood as norms, institutions, or “social facts” – often examining the gendered underpinnings of each. This is actually quite similar to much of the work done under the label of constructivism. To quote Locher and Prugl (2001:11), most feminist IR theorists (and IR constructivists) share an “ontology of becoming” where the focus is on the intersubjective process of norm evolution, for example, than on the final result (although, again, there are vast differences within and among feminist IR).

In terms of international relations, the social reality of the sovereign state system is not static or fixed to the feminist IR theorist, but rather, there are changing ideas about those nation-states and the actors who bring them into existence. J. Ann Tickner writes that feminist IR theorists reject a state-centric ontology that retains “hierarchical binary divisions between order and anarchy and inside and outside” (2001:47, 48).

In a 2002 review essay that set off a flurry of responses, R. Charli Carpenter argued that feminist theorists have wrongly held a monopoly over the study of gender in IR. To Carpenter, feminists have laid false claim to the “gender” term, excluding those who would like to focus on the male “gender.” Claiming that the citizen immunity principle of just war theory is skewed toward women and children, and therefore puts draft-age civilian men at risk, Carpenter seeks to defend her choice to focus on men, labeling herself a “non-feminist.”

Criticisms by self-described feminist IR theorists abound. Carpenter’s operationalization of gender-as-difference does not incorporate the complementary understanding of gender-as-power. For the vast majority of feminist theorists, however (and recall that Carpenter does not claim to be one), this is not the case. For example, Laura Sjoberg (2006b) demonstrated how the object of Carpenter’s analysis (the civilian immunity principle in just war theory) is itself deeply gendered. It is true, Sjoberg concedes, that civilian men may be harmed; they may be excluded from the immunity principle. But it is much more important to investigate the deeply gendered underpinnings of the immunity principle itself. The immunity principle is based on a fundamental belief that women, children, the elderly, and the disabled are in need of protection, and that draft-age men’s rightful place is on the battlefield. This is one instance of what IR feminists mean when they say that the international system is “gendered.” This is the structure from which they seek emancipation for all (not just for biological women).

Let us look a little closer at this claim of “genderedness.” As Sjoberg points out, women, as a category, are the only ones who are excluded from battle at all times and in all conditions. Little boys will grow up to be capable fighters; the elderly and disabled may themselves once have fought. But women, under no circumstances, should take up arms. This normative principle is the foundation for the immunity principle. While the practice of civilian immunity may be harmful to civilian men, the infrastructure of the belief system is based on a gendered power hierarchy that legitimizes able-bodied males as soldiers and therefore targets, while able-bodied females, along with the very old and very young, are excluded from battle.

Whereas nonfeminist IR focuses on men and women as subjects, feminist IR problematizes these categories to show how they have been imbued with power relations. Some months following the publication of Carpenter’s initial essay, a forum on Gender and International Relations was published in International Studies Review. Terrell Carver, Marysia Zalewski, and Helen Kinsella each provided a critical analysis of what they believe to be Carpenter’s inadequate use of feminist scholarship, and Carpenter herself wrote a reply. Carver argued that “notions that ‘gendering’ IR must involve ‘balance’ or ‘equality’ are gendered notions in themselves, and gendered masculine, because they erase the hierarchy that exists within the binary and simple duality of ‘sex’ (as male versus female) and the history of female oppression” (Carver in Carver 2003:290). In other words, the majority of scholarship in IR is written, produced, and understood from an androcentric perspective. Feminism seeks to provide another set of voices; to rewrite the field from another perspective. (Actually, feminists seek to rewrite the field from many perspectives; as stated at the beginning of this essay, there are multiple understandings of feminism.) What is at stake is not only “men” and “women” (biological beings; gender-as-difference); it is also the much broader and much more complex series of social relations, from the interpersonal to the international, which are understood as feminists to be “gendered” (gender-as-power).

Helen Kinsella also contributed to the discussion by pointing out the diversity of feminist IR. Kinsella reminds us that there is vociferous debate within the field of feminist IR. In fact, most critics do not grasp the breadth and depth of the field, its complex and varied positions on epistemology, methodology, and method, and therefore the full implications of a seemingly innocuous word like “gender.” In order to continue this discussion, then, we must attempt to define or describe these concepts.

Defining Our Terms

The four concepts central to this essay (ontology, epistemology, methodology, and method) are closely linked and build upon one another. Perhaps the relationship between these four concepts is best shown visually:

ONTOLOGY ® EPISTEMOLOGY ® METHODOLOGY ® METHOD

Simply put, ontology refers to one’s understanding of the world – is the world fundamentally made up of nation-states, of human beings, of territory? Epistemology, methodology, and method all presuppose an ontology. As the previous section demonstrates, feminism shares broadly an intersubjective ontology, suggesting that the gendered attributes of states (and their leaders, and their citizens) are not given or fixed, but are constructed and reconstructed based on gendered power relations. Some feminist IR theorists would argue that anarchy itself has been gendered (feminine), in opposition to “manly states” (on “manly states,” see Hooper 2001; on feminized anarchy, see J.A. Tickner 1992; on the agent–structure relationship between the two, see Maruska 2007).

While the linear representation of ontology influencing epistemology, epistemology influencing methodology, and so on, may be the easiest to visualize and understand, a more nuanced description of the relationship between these concepts may be visualized as a maypole, where ribbons fall from a central pole, held by dancers who weave in and out of each other. In this alternative, ontology is not necessarily the basis for everything else. Instead, for example, it is our experience in using various methods that informs our understanding of appropriate epistemologies, and so on. These concepts are interconnected and ever-changing.

Whether one follows a linear or a twisting path, it can be said generally that a researcher’s epistemology informs how they go about understanding their object of analysis. Put another way, if a researcher’s ontology contains everything they believe to exist in the world, then their epistemology refers to the knowability of that world. As Sandra Harding succinctly reminds us, “an epistemology is a theory of knowledge” (1987:3). Epistemology tends to organize into two major constellations, or points on a spectrum, within social science. First, positivists tend to believe that there is a universal and objective Truth. The goal is to uncover that Truth in the form of facts. In the Introduction to The Feminist Standpoint Theory Reader, Harding suggests that positivism is founded on the idea that research can be politically and culturally neutral via an unbiased application of scientific methods (2004:4). On the other hand, postpositivists tend to believe that human bias is inescapable. Furthermore, even a “perfect” social science experiment will be imbued with cultural significance. In Harding’s words, “the conceptual frameworks [of positivist social science] themselves [promote] historically distinctive cultural and institutional interests […] all too often these interests and concerns were not only not women’s but, worse, counter to women’s needs and desires” (2004:4–5). Postpositivism (including feminist postpositivism) therefore argues that interpretation rather than Truth-uncovering should be our goal.

This positivist/postpositivist divide in the social sciences is perhaps the source of the greatest fundamental disagreement across and within fields, and the debate’s implications are enormous. Because a researcher’s epistemology is crucial to their understanding of the possibilities for social science, at stake for each side is the legitimacy of their life’s work in the eyes of the other. While most feminist theorists tend to adopt a postpositivist epistemology (Peterson 1992:12), this is not a hard and fast rule. As will be demonstrated, a postpositivist epistemology does not preclude the researcher from utilizing empiricist methodologies, and quantitative methods. The postpositivist may use statistical analysis to study (for example) the effects of gender mainstreaming in Europe – but she or he will be conscious of the implicit goals of the study: the question asked (does gender mainstreaming have a positive effect?) is itself imbued with “cultural and institutional interests,” to quote Harding once more.

While an intersubjective ontology is perhaps more conducive to postpositivist epistemologies (and indeed, most feminist IR theorists would consider that they espouse a postpositivist epistemology), it does not necessarily have to be this way. But how do the following three concepts (epistemology, methodology, method) fit together? The simple answer is that epistemology influences methodology, and methodology influences method. The more complex answer is that these concepts are intertwined (like the ribbons on a maypole). While sound research takes many different forms, it is advisable for a researcher to give thought to the project as a whole, to help choose methods that will be consistent with their general epistemological views. Each major research program within IR shares some broad ideas about the appropriate epistemologies, methodologies, and methods of analysis.

Sandra Harding writes, “A methodology is a theory and analysis of how research does or should proceed” (1987:3). Ackerly et al. expand on this; to them, methodology entails “the intellectual process […] guiding self-conscious reflections on epistemological assumptions, ontological perspective, ethical responsibilities, and method choices” (2006:6). Methodologies can be empiricist or interpretivist or somewhere in between; they include rational choice at one end of the spectrum, and more anthropological and self-reflective methodologies at the other.

By Harding’s definition, “A research method is a technique for (or way of proceeding in) gathering evidence” (1987:2). Examples include quantitative analysis, comparative case study, process tracing, discourse analysis, and art-gazing (each of which, as will be seen, are methods used by contemporary feminist IR theorists).

So, how to decide which method is most appropriate? Krook and Squires (2006) point out that research is best approached by determining the problem at hand. The research problem, paired with the researcher’s beliefs about how to gain insight into the problem (epistemology), will influence methodology and ultimately help them to decide on a method. For some projects, discourse analysis might be enlightening; for others, quantitative analysis will yield the desired information. The experience of utilizing this method, and insights gained regarding its benefits and challenges, will ultimately have feedback effects on a researcher’s epistemological and methodological views as they go forward.

Epistemology, Methodology, Method

Traditional political science has an on-again, off-again relationship with the critical analysis of epistemologies, methodologies, and methods. In the US, political science is dominated by positivist epistemologies, traditional social science methodologies (such as Rational Choice), and empirical methods (such as quantitative analysis and process tracing) that produce falsifiable hypotheses involving causality. One example of such work that is brimming with insight on the editors’ self-described neopositivist epistemological positions, and explicitly stating the goal of their research to be determining causal mechanisms (though not necessarily prediction) is Elman and Elman (2001). King, Keohane, and Verba’s Designing Social Inquiry (1994) garners almost 2000 citations in a Google Scholar search; it is listed on most (if not all) syllabi compiled by the Consortium for Qualitative Research Methods, and referred to (problematically) in at least one syllabus as the “the new orthodoxy” in qualitative IR (Blyth 2001). The stated goal of the book is to make qualitative work live up to scientific standards – standards which, according to King, Keohane, and Verba, are set by quantitative work.

Although Waever (2004) points out that European IR has much less of a focus on positivism and rationalism, a 2009 survey of over 2700 IR scholars in 10 countries suggests that the vast majority of the 24 scholars selected as “most influential in the field of IR in the past 20 years” all adhere to a positivist epistemology (Jordan et al. 2009).

Of course, IR feminists are not alone in their belief in an intersubjective social reality. These views are shared by constructivists, postcolonial theorists, critical theorists, and postmodernists more broadly. Whereas traditional IR realist and neoliberal research paradigms often rely on positivist epistemologies and their attendant methodologies and methods, constructivist IR theorists are increasingly open to more interpretive (especially qualitative) methodologies, and methods such as interviewing, ethnography, and discourse analysis. Because constructivism is a self-conscious departure from realist and neoliberal approaches, constructivist research is often more interested in epistemological questions. The immense literature surrounding the agent–structure debate in IR, started and perpetuated largely by constructivists such as Alexander Wendt, stands out as one ongoing discussion about epistemology. In the aforementioned 2009 survey of IR scholars, Wendt was named (after Robert Keohane) as the second most influential IR scholar in the past 20 years. Although one feminist theorist, Cynthia Enloe, made the list, her numbers were in the low single digits. This would suggest to some that the visibility of feminist IR can be raised via a partnership with constructivism. Though not all feminist theorists wish to engage other “-isms” within IR (and nor would they consider it a worthy goal), as the next few paragraphs will suggest, and as Locher and Prugl (2001) suggest, there seems to be potential for fruitful dialogue between feminist IR and constructivism for those who choose it.

However, the links between feminist IR and constructivism are not often made. Kinsella (in Carver 2003:295) provides a few examples:

Surely, the self-reflexivity now emphasized by Stefano Guzzini […] as a hallmark of constructivism is recognizable in Sandra Harding’s […] exploration of thin objectivity and Donna Haraway’s […] development of situated knowledges. Ted Hopf’s […] lament that constructivism lacks a theory of identity formation ignores the laborious work of feminist scholars on just such a question.

There is definitely space for the two subfields to coexist; there may even be a way for them to build off one another. But remembering our feminist commitment to consistent ontology, epistemology, methodology, and method – are such conversations possible, and desirable?

Locher and Prugl answer with a resounding “yes.” Constructivism has contributed to feminism a theory of agency, from which feminist IR has benefited (2001:113). They argue that feminism can help constructivism “to conceptualize power and gender as social and pervasive” (2001:111) – in short, to understand gender-as-power, and all forms of power to be relational rather than material. Secondly, feminism can help constructivism to take seriously its own postpositivist epistemological claims. Rather than striving for acceptance from realist and neoliberal positivists, feminism demonstrates to constructivism that it is more fruitful to critically evaluate and build off of one’s own epistemological foundations with appropriate methodologies and methods.

To that end, combining feminist IR with constructivism brings with it the potential for both to make a greater impact on the field of IR more broadly. By joining forces in the emancipatory project with theorists whose epistemological, methodological, and methods choices are in line with our own, feminist theorists only serve to broaden their appeal, and strengthen the call for a less gendered world.

Since there is an affinity between constructivism, critical theory, and feminist epistemologies and ontologies, and since many theorists in these constellations share transformational and emancipatory goals, it should not be surprising that they share many of the same methodologies. Like other critically oriented theorists, feminist methodologies tend to be interpretivist.

Within feminist IR, discussions of epistemology, methodology, and methods abound. One of the early edited volumes on the subject, Feminism and Methodology (Harding 1987), provides the groundwork for this entire discussion. In the book’s introduction, Sandra Harding discusses the difference between epistemology, methodology, and method. This comes a year after The Science Question in Feminism (1986), in which Harding analytically separates the three feminist epistemological stances. The most recent (and most comprehensive) site of reflections on these concepts is found in Ackerly et al.’s 2006 volume Feminist Methodologies for International Relations. The book’s 12 contributors focus on methodology and methods, but each discussion also involves epistemology (either implicitly or explicitly). This book, along with other recent texts, will be the primary resource for my discussion on epistemologies, methodologies, and methods.

Epistemology

In 1986, Sandra Harding conceptualized three basic (but not mutually exclusive) variants of feminist epistemology. These include feminist empiricism, standpoint feminism, and feminist postmodernism. This framework has been widely adopted by contemporary feminist IR theorists. Although the three epistemologies overlap (often, one writer – even one paragraph! – will combine two approaches), it is analytically helpful to sort and discuss them separately.

Feminist empiricism, according to Harding, “argues that sexism and androcentrism are social biases correctable by stricter adherence to the existing methodological norms of scientific inquiry” (1986:24). Under this view, traditional epistemologies can be congruent with a feminist perspective. “Feminist empiricism” as an epistemological stance may be a misnomer, however: as Wibben (2004) has pointed out, empiricism may be better understood as a methodology. While this discussion will be picked up in the next section, for now let us use the term “feminist empiricism” as Harding does, to mean the branch of feminist epistemology that sticks to a positivist epistemology. Feminist empiricism (and positivism in general) has inspired heated debate within feminist IR circles; as J. Ann Tickner (1997) and many others have acknowledged, most feminist theorists do not fall within this category. However, Marchand (1998) reminds us that this does not necessarily preclude positivist work from being feminist. In recalling Beckman and D’Amico’s typology, some positivist research on gender mainstreaming, such as True and Mintrom (2001), focuses on gender-as-difference and keeps the male/female binary intact. But this research may be undertaken with the goal of examining the effect of a particular policy on the lives of women – an explicitly feminist goal.

Standpoint feminism (the variant of epistemology favored by Harding herself) argues that

men’s dominating position in social life results in partial and perverse understandings, whereas women’s subjugated position provides the possibility of more complete and less perverse understandings. Feminism and the women’s movement provide the theory and motivation for inquiry and political struggle that can transform the perspective of women into a “standpoint” – a morally and scientifically preferable grounding for our interpretations and explanations of nature and social life.

(Harding 1986:25)

Like other feminist standpointers, Harding believes that women, having been historically excluded from positions of public power for millennia, are uniquely able to see, and to critique, the workings of that power. (Recalling this essay’s earlier discussion of reality – the single mother from East Los Angeles would have a very different standpoint from President Bush.) Standpoint feminism is thus a vibrant political and epistemological project, adding previously excluded voices that serve to unravel traditional understandings of power. For example, in The Feminist Standpoint Theory Reader (Harding 2004), different chapters offer perspectives including black feminism (Patricia Hill Collins), maternal thinking as a standpoint (Sara Ruddick), women from the Third World in the US feminist movement (Chela Sandoval), and non-Western feminism (Uma Narayan), to name just a few.

The example of the single mother anticipates the obvious critique: can there really be just one feminist standpoint? As The Feminist Standpoint Theory Reader aptly demonstrates, later formulations of standpoint feminism argue that there is indeed no single “feminist standpoint” – rather, they are multiple and depend on one’s ethnicity, culture, sexuality, class, and myriad other factors. Kathy Ferguson (1993) points out that far from being essentialist, feminist standpoints are shifting and myriad. Ferguson’s term “mobile subjectivities” highlights the insight that there can be no one “feminist standpoint,” not even for an individual researcher as she travels through time and space, and the context changes. An understanding of this concept brings us to the epistemology of feminist postmodernism, which represents and embraces the stance that multiple feminist standpoints exist simultaneously. A growing number of Third World and postcolonial feminist theorists adopt this approach. As mentioned near the beginning of this essay, postcolonial theorists generally attempt to reorient our understanding of political relations from a nonhegemonic perspective. For example, Agathangelou and Ling (2004) problematize and compare the strategies of “imperial politics” employed by the US and al-Qaeda during the post-9/11 era. Ling (2002) starts her book by recalling her confusion during her first year of graduate school: when introduced to the (Western) concept of the Prisoner’s Dilemma, she found herself unable to decide on a “rational” decision (cooperate or defect) without knowing the broader context deemed irrelevant by econometric cost-benefit calculations. Arlene Tickner (2003) focuses on how Latin American perspectives provide new understandings of international relations, and questions the “authoritativeness” of dominant perspectives. Steans (2006:152n41) lists several excellent postcolonial feminist works, discussing them throughout her book.

Under a feminist postmodernist epistemology, there is no one Truth to be attained. Truth is fractured, multiple, and elusive, much like the perspectives of contemporary standpoint feminists. In fact, the boundaries between these two epistemological approaches (standpoint and postmodern feminism) are often unclear, if they exist at all. Christine Sylvester (1994), for one, consciously blurs the boundary between the two approaches in her work. While it seems possible that feminist empiricism is often needlessly excluded from such epistemological line-blurring, for now, it seems, only the second two versions of feminist epistemology regularly are combined.

Methodology

Feminist methodologies are crucial in that they link a researcher’s epistemology with an appropriate method. Whether conscious or unconscious, a researcher’s methodology will reveal her beliefs about the world and its knowability (ontology and epistemology), as well as the most appropriate way to ascertain that knowledge (method).

Methodologies tend to accumulate in two broad constellations, which are labeled here as “empiricist” and “interpretivist” because these seem to take a wide variety of methodologies into account. These types are not all-inclusive, nor are they binary (either-or). The choice of methodology will be informed by many factors, including the subject of investigation and the goals of the project at hand.

Interpretivist methodologies generally reveal that the researcher takes a more postpositivist epistemological stand. As the label implies, the goal is interpretation of texts, historical incidents, or interviews, giving them contexts and discerning the workings of (gendered) power. Interpretivist methods also tend to be self-reflective, because the author is conscious of her role in the knowledge gathering and interpretation process, and is continually aware of (and attempting to be explicit about) bias. In her choice of methods, the interpretivist and self-reflective researcher will give consideration, among other things, to the potential power disparities between interviewer and interviewee, to the subtle forms of bias inherent in coding (with quantitative methods), and/or to the likelihood that a given document contains a subtext just as relevant as the written one.

Empiricist methodologies, in contrast, tend to beget traditional methods, such as sampling, game theory, inductively reasoned structured case studies, and statistical analysis. These methods and methodologies together usually belie a positivist epistemology: one that supports the goal of finding unbiased Truth. However, empiricist methodologies do not necessarily imply positivist epistemologies.

One enduring debate within feminist theory involves the type of work that should be included under the “feminist” umbrella. As J. Ann Tickner summarizes, feminist theorists generally share “an ontology of social relations and a preference for post-positivist methodologies” (2001:66). Many feminist theorists seek to broaden this claim a bit further, arguing that quantitative techniques – and empiricist methodologies more broadly – can fit within a feminist ontology and epistemology (see Marchand 1998).

From any feminist epistemology (empiricist, standpoint, or postmodern), the ways in which traditional IR has represented the world are not to be taken for granted. By and large, ontologies that do not question power relations in the world are themselves questioned by feminist theorists (especially those adhering to an emancipatory style of feminism). Therefore most feminist theorists tend to look at socially constructed gender (gender-as-power) rather than biologically determined sex (gender-as-difference). For those researchers (including feminists and nonfeminists) whose focus is the concept of gender, gender operates at an intersubjective level: gendering is a process; gendered individuals and states are always in formation; and gender inherently involves unequal power relations. According to the feminist philosopher Sally Haslanger (2007): “Where ordinarily [in traditional social science] we take ourselves to be dealing with an ontology of substances, natural things, intrinsic properties, we’re in fact dealing with an ontology of social things, relations, and non-substantive (and often normative) kinds.” Researchers adhering to an empiricist methodology may well study “women” as a substance – this may occur with or without the fundamental understanding that gender is more than a woman’s issue, and rather a fundamental set of power relations in the world. What makes feminist work “feminist” (in the broadest sense) is the author’s (stated or unstated) goal to examine these gendered power relations, and to seek emancipation from – or at least unsettle – them (J.A. Tickner 1997).

As may be expected, Sandra Harding has had a lot to say about feminist empiricism. She writes that feminist empiricism is more palatable to positivists than to postpositivists, because it “[leaves] unchallenged the existing methodological norms of science” (1986:25). Because most feminist IR theorists fall into the latter (postpositivist) group, it is conceivable that feminist empiricism could rouse some suspicions at first glance. However, Harding continues, feminist empiricism is superior to most versions of positivism because, while it does not call “science-as-usual” a general problem, it does identify “bad science” and makes self-conscious attempts to steer clear, to avoid bias, and to identify patterns of gender subordination (1986:25). While she has been mostly critical of empiricism throughout her career (Harding 1991:92, cited in Tuana 1993:294), Harding has also revealed a fundamental insight:

The feminist empiricist solution in fact deeply subverts empiricism. The social identity of the inquirer is supposed to be irrelevant to the “goodness” of the results of research. Scientific method is supposed to be capable of eliminating any biases due to the fact that individual researchers are white or black, Chinese or French, men or women. But feminist empiricism argues that women (or feminists, whether men or women) as a group are more likely to produce unbiased and objective results than are men (or non-feminists) as a group. (1986:25, first emphasis added)

To that end, it may be possible to combine a postpositivist epistemology with quantitative methods, via an interpretivist methodology. Ackerly et al. write that “feminist methodological reflections are often directed at the redesign of methods that have been used to explore non-feminist questions in fields where feminist inquiry is relatively new” (2006:7). In other words, these empirics may be used to supplement abstract theory. The linking point between a postpositivist epistemology and quantitative methods is a self-reflective and interpretivist methodology. The methodology is crucial: how a researcher approaches her topic, including ethical and theoretical considerations, determines the ultimate validity of her project. But contrary to popular belief, this self-reflective and interpretivist methodology can also be empiricist.

There is no hard-and-fast rule that empiricism and positivism are necessarily linked. Rather, in a footnote, Annick Wibben writes, “In IR empiricism and positivism are often conflated” (2004:111). Wibben continues, citing Steve Smith: “positivism is a methodological position reliant on an empiricist methodology which grounds our knowledge of the world in justification by (ultimately brute) experience and thereby licensing methodology and ontology in so far as they are empirically warranted” (Wibben 2004:111, citing Smith 1996:17). So, positivism may require empiricism, but not the other way around. It is possible that a feminist theorist, adhering to a postpositivist epistemology, may use empirics to further her theoretical agenda and emancipatory goals.

So, what feminist empiricists (with epistemologies that are mainly, but not always, positivist) share with the rest of feminist IR is an ontology that questions gendered social relations. Put another way, empiricism as a feminist methodology does not preclude postpositivist epistemologies. In 1990, Lynn Hankinson Nelson presented a postpositivist version of feminist empiricism, ungrounded by the constraints of social science’s goal of objectivity. Nelson argues that political and scientific “facts” are actually better understood as “social facts,” or beliefs that are dialectical, intersubjective, and contingent on time and space. So just as mainstream IR theorists test empirically the existence of the so-called “democratic peace,” postpositivist feminist empiricists could focus on the changing intersubjective categories and meanings of “man” and “woman,” and do so using empiricist methodologies. In the words of one reviewer, “Nelson broadens the application of empiricism to include politics and values, for she argues that all beliefs, scientific as well as political, ‘can be and should be subjected to empirical control’” (Tuana 1993:295, citing Nelson 1990:248). In other words, all theories (not just “scientific” ones) should be tested. She is concerned with breaking down binaries, including the positivist/postpositivist divide, by demonstrating that many theoretical ideas may be testable to some degree.

Interpretivist and empiricist methodologies (and others not mentioned here) incorporate various methods. Methodologies are often confused with methods. Analytically, methodologies lie between epistemology and method: an epistemology (a theory of knowledge, itself informed by an ontology) gives rise to a particular set of possible methodologies (ways of approaching a research problem; here, labeled empiricist or interpretivist). These methodologies then are best actualized with the use of appropriate methods (such as statistics, interviewing, or discourse analysis). The next section will provide a brief survey of these and other methods used in feminist IR.

Method

Recall that according to Sandra Harding, “A research method is a technique for (or way of proceeding in) gathering evidence” (1987:2). Methods take three general forms, according to Harding: they involve “listening to (or interrogating) informants, observing behavior, or examining historical traces and records” (1987:2). Regardless of one’s ontology, epistemology, and methodology, methods fit into these three categories (listening, observing, examining). The crucial difference between methods is not in the methods themselves, but in how they are deployed: in a large-N quantitative study, for example, is the researcher focusing on women or gender; is she thinking critically about minimizing bias in survey questions; is she allowing for silences and not-so-obvious explanations? It is the researcher’s ability to think critically about possible sources of bias, and to minimize (or be explicit about) assumptions, that is probably more important than the choice of methods itself. After all, as Krook and Squires state, the best work is “problem-driven rather than method driven” (2006:46).

When paired with a positivist epistemology and empiricist methodology, many methods are undertaken, with one of the explicit goals being that they are replicable. Quantitative and game-theoretic methods in particular lend themselves to being replicated. As a result, it is often easier for a graduate student to model her own work off a published book. The methods are relatively straightforward, they assume that bias is minimized, and they tend to be quite “scientific.”

Many (if not most) feminist IR scholars tend to utilize more case-based, qualitative methods (as acknowledged by J.A. Tickner 2005 and countless others). These methods – such as interviewing, ethnography, observation, and discourse analysis – often are used by scholars who are not attempting to discover objective truth divorced from particular historical/cultural circumstance. Sandra Harding (in Harding 2004: ch. 8) argues that feminist standpoint theory opens the door to “strong objectivity,” meaning that when attention is paid to the research questions asked, and the politics behind them, the researcher is able to reveal social/power relations, expose gendered assumptions, or add a previously unheard voice to the conversation, and participate in a broader emancipatory project. Their epistemologies are postpositivist; their methodologies are interpretivist.

The paradox of feminist IR’s heavy use of qualitative methods and interpretive methodologies is that they become even more of a target of the “mainstream” by failing to adhere to the goal of scientific objectivity. (See for example Keohane 1989 and the response by Weber 1994; J.A. Tickner 1997 also weighs in.) In addition, because qualitative methods are rarely as explicit as quantitative or game-theoretic methods, feminist IR students may feel as though they have to reinvent the wheel. Whereas interpretivist dissertations may be required to formally state and discuss the types of methods they utilize, these sections are often watered down or omitted altogether in the published book version.

There are several recent exceptions of feminist work that makes its research design explicit, including Hooper (2001), Hansen (2006), and Lobasz (2008), to name just a few. Lobasz (2008) uses predicate analysis, a method she adapted from Milliken (1999). Milliken’s article surveys various discourse analytic methods, but is not specifically “feminist” in its scope; Lobasz’s use of Milliken highlights the utility of methods discussions that are outside of “feminist IR” strictly speaking. In addition to relying on methods laid out in published works, students of feminist IR are well served by reading articles and books specifically dedicated to methodology and method. To that end, Ackerly et al. (2006) is an excellent resource. While making no attempt to be comprehensive, it allows several feminist IR theorists to reflect on their choice of methods, and to discuss the pitfalls and advantages of their approach.

In her chapter (which is itself informed by self-reflection as a methodology), Carol Cohn reflects thoughtfully on her “multi-sited ethnographic” method. Informed by a methodology that allowed her to shift the focus of her research as the investigation proceeded, “following gender as metaphor and meaning system” (Ackerly et al. 2006:93), Cohn examined news reports (newspaper, television, and radio) and conducted in-depth interviews. She listened to statements at Congressional hearings and closed-doors conversations between nuclear defense intellectuals. All the while, she was conscious of the assumptions made about her (“as a civilian white female academic asking questions” about gender integration and nuclear weapons). Rather than searching for an ultimate Truth, Cohn found instances of “continuities across sites [which are] telling, and significant” (Ackerly et al. 2006:99, 107). Cohn’s work stands as a model for the student of feminist IR; her chapter describes, in detail, how it was done.

Annica Kronsell, in another chapter of Ackerly et al. (2006), delves into the challenges of her method of “studying silence” in IR. She writes, “Studying silence means in practice that the researcher has to rely on methods of deconstruction, to study what is not contained within the text, what is ‘written between the lines’” (Ackerly et al. 2006:115). The goal of studying silence is to make gender visible “in a field that claimed none, to see women in texts that routinely, ‘naturally’ featured men or inanimate states and systems” (Sylvester 2002:160).

Kronsell’s work seeks to destabilize previously held beliefs on the naturalness of a state-centric and masculinist ontology within the field of IR. In this way, Kronsell’s chapter is quite similar to projects, including Hansen (2000), which recognizes the absence of gender in security studies, Maruska’s (2007) deconstruction of the agent–structure dialectic, and Sjoberg’s “Gendering Power Transition Theory” (2009). All of these writers take inspiration from J. Ann Tickner (1992), who discusses not only the gendered international system, but also the gendered field of IR.

In another chapter from Ackerly et al. (2006), Bina D’Costa also focuses on silence, but in a different way. Her method entails “centering the marginalized,” or placing the stories of refugees, illegal immigrants, rape victims, lower castes, and other humans who are minimized by a version of hegemonic masculinity, on center stage (Ackerly 2006:129–30). While it is inherently crucial to document the stories of, for example, Bangladeshi victims of rape during the 1971 war, these cases “link the appropriation of women’s bodies to the appropriation of territory and nation” (2006:151). So, while the stories are intrinsically important, they also contribute to our theoretical understanding. Lene Hansen (2001; 2006) similarly looks at victims of rape during the Bosnian War to add a gendered dimension to our understanding of the construction of security threats (securitization) in IR.

While J. Ann Tickner (1992) is arguably one of the main points of reference for projects looking at the gendered nature of IR (as above), Cynthia Enloe’s classic Bananas, Beaches, and Bases (1990) provides inspiration for those, like D’Costa and Hansen, who give voice to the marginalized (usually women) during times of war and peace. Bananas, Beaches, and Bases asks the fundamental question: whose experiences do we include when we talk “international relations” – and why don’t we include the voices of the marginalized civilians (especially women) who are just as affected by war and politics as the soldiers themselves? Together, these works (and many more) seek to include those voices.

In her chapter in Ackerly et al. (2006), Tamy Jacoby reflects on the challenge of allowing theoretical insights gained during fieldwork to guide the researcher’s choice of methodology and method. Like Cohn, Kronsell, and D’Costa, Jacoby also combines a description of her methods with a broader discussion of the methodology informing her approach. Jacoby started her fieldwork in Israel/Palestine with a specific question in mind, and through a process of critical reflection, she ended up with a new framework: “While I started out seeking to discover an alternative definition of security more appropriate for women, I ended up researching the concept of identity as it is constituted through women’s experiences of being insecure in a zone of conflict” (Ackerly et al. 2006:154). Throughout carrying out her interviewing and observational methods, Jacoby was conscious that “[female activists] have a political agenda that they want to present to the world in order to influence public opinion and ultimately the political system.” A healthy dose of skepticism, interpretation, and reading between the lines informed her work; epistemologically, Jacoby was not searching for one positivist Truth, and those epistemological beliefs informed her methodology, which in turn informed her methods.

All of these projects, from Ackerly et al. (2006) and elsewhere, demonstrate a conscious attempt to be consistent within one’s epistemology, methodology, and methods. Examples are drawn heavily from the Ackerly et al. volume primarily because these scholars are writing with the explicit goal of making their epistemology, methodology, and methods clear. But other examples of innovative methods for feminist IR abound.

In her 2004 book The Curious Feminist: Searching for Women in a New Age of Empire, Cynthia Enloe deploys some of these creative methods in both the research and writing processes. The series of essays features, among other things, reflections drawn from gazing at old photographs (channeling Christine Sylvester’s method of art-gazing (2004)). Essays are interwoven with poetry, to tell her story in a different and possibly more meaningful way. Enloe’s methodology is always interpretivist and self-reflective, and admirably so: she affirms her willingness to always “being open to surprise, being ready to publicly acknowledge surprise” (2004:14) – no easy feat in the self-sure and self-promoting world of academia! She states that feminist methods are used well by someone who “always arrives before the meeting begins to hear the before-the-meeting offhand banter and is still wide awake and curious when the meeting-after-themeeting continues among a select few down the corridor and into the pub” (2004:5). In other words, feminist research adhering to a postpositivist epistemology (whether empiricist, standpoint, or postmodern) is not carried out in the laboratory. Observations outside the boardroom are often more telling than the ones on the inside. Like several of the other feminist IR scholars discussed in this section, Enloe is always listening to silence, and looking for the workings of gender.

In addition to individual works on feminist methodology, symposia and multiauthored perspectives have been appearing on the landscape. For example, the British International Studies Association hosted a working group on methodologies in feminist research in 2000 (summary here adapted from Elias and Kuttner 2001). This conversation reveals an intimate relationship between methodology and method. Some of the participants’ reflections, and yet more possibilities for a feminist method, include Marysia Zalewski’s discussion of discourse analysis and Stephanie Kuttner’s constructivist process tracing. Juanita Elias’s discussion of her “interviewing-up” method revealed her self-reflective, interpretivist methodology (remarking on the ways to negotiate power disparities between interviewer and interviewee). Marianne Franklin reflected on the difficulties of employing an ethnographic method in internet research; her remarks were illustrative of an interpretivist methodology. Even more fundamentally, Donna Pankhurst reminded participants that what feminist IR shares is a critical epistemology, and emancipatory goals. Pankhurst, much like Krook and Squires (2006), reminds feminist theorists to “break out of the disciplinary shackles” and utilize whatever method will assist us in furthering a “transformatory agenda” (Elias and Kuttner 2001:285).

One feminist theorist who has most definitely resisted the “disciplinary shackles” of traditional IR is Christine Sylvester. In Feminist International Relations: An Unfinished Journey (2002), Sylvester is explicit about her postmodern epistemology, and how that affects her methodology and ultimate choice of methods. Among the innovative methods that Sylvester develops and utilizes are world-traveling (“traveling to difference and recognizing it, living with its lessons, its aesthetics” (2002:283)) and empathetic cooperation: “processes enabling (rather than cannibalizing) rich particular histories […] not derivations of it from [our own] ‘superior’ experience” (2002:119). In her own work, Laura Sjoberg (2006a; 2006b) has taken up Sylvester’s method of empathetic cooperation, demonstrating that a reformulation of just war theory using empathetic cooperation as its rubric ultimately creates a less gendered, and more just just war theory, by suggesting new jus ad bellum and jus in bellum criteria.

Conclusion

Hopefully, it is evident (though not too painfully so) that this survey of feminist IR epistemologies, methodologies, and methods is anything but comprehensive. As IR feminists strive to work with other theorists who share their intersubjective ontology, the boundaries will expand and become even more blurred, including not only other postpositivist viewpoints (such as postcolonialism) but also mainstream constructivism and empirical (even quantitative) methodologies when appropriate. As feminist IR seeks inclusiveness, two requirements remain. First of all, what distinguishes IR as “feminist” is an intersubjective ontology, and an understanding of the centrality of gender as both power and process. And second, feminist IR projects should aim for self-reflection and consistency in their epistemology, methodology, and methods.

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Waever, Ole (2004) Aberystwyth, Paris, Copenhagen: New “Schools” in Security Theory and Their Origins between Core and Periphery. Delivered at the 2004 Annual Meeting of the International Studies Association, Montreal.Find this resource:

Weber, Cynthia (1994) Good Girls, Little Girls and Bad Girls: Male Paranoia in Robert Keohane’s Critique of Feminist International Relations. Millennium: Journal of International Studies 23 (1), 337–49.Find this resource:

Wendt, Alexander (1992) Anarchy Is What States Make of It: The Social Construction of Power Politics. International Organization 46 (2), 391–425.Find this resource:

Wibben, Annick T.R. (2004) Feminist International Relations: Old Debates and New Directions. Brown Journal of World Affairs 10 (2).Find this resource:

Association for Feminist Epistemologies, Methodologies, Metaphysics and Science Studies. At http:/myweb.dal.ca/lt531391/findex.html, accessed June 22, 2009. From the website of FEMMSS, you can sign up for a discussion list-serve.

Course syllabus. At www.wpunj.edu/cohss/women/Feminist_Methodology_course_outline.htm, accessed June 22, 2009. An example of various syllabi on feminist epistemologies, methodologies, and methods that are available on the internet. This one, from the Women’s Studies Department at William Paterson University, is a syllabus for Feminist Methodologies which also includes references on epistemology and method.

“Feminist Epistemology and Philosophy of Science,” in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. At http:/plato.stanford.edu/entries/feminism-epistemology/, accessed June 22, 2009. Recently revised and useful for a broad overview.

Feminist Theory and Gender Studies Section of the International Studies Association blog. At http:/ftgss.blogspot.com/, accessed June 22, 2009. This page gives an insight into the activities and thinking of members of the section. It may be useful in organizing conference panels and contacting other theorists interested in feminist IR more broadly.

Reading resource. At http:/userpages.umbc.edu/∼korenman/wmst/fem_epistemology2.html, accessed June 22, 2009. Well-organized reading list compiled by Lauraine Leblanc of the Institute for Women’s Studies, Emory University, covering feminist epistemologies and research methods.