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Article

Universals and Particulars in International Relations Theory  

Fiona Robinson and Anupam Pandey

One of the most vigorous debates within the discipline of international relations (IR) revolves around the “universal/particular” dichotomy: the tensions between worldviews that emphasize the “whole” as a unified entity or set of ideas—in the case of IR, the “whole” typically refers to the “whole world”—and those that emphasize constituent “parts”, and the differences among them. Discussions regarding universalism and particularism have involved the traditions of realism, liberalism, and the English School, as well as critical theory, poststructuralism, and postcolonialism. Furthermore, the opposition between universalism and particularism has often taken the form of the analysis of conflict between the sovereign state, on one hand, and universal human rights, on the other. Feminists have been particularly influential in challenging the universal/particular debate in the context of human rights. Their perspectives on human rights are exemplary of feminist scholarship in the field of international ethics more generally. Indeed, feminists are constantly striving to mitigate and overcome the tensions between the universal and the particular through their commitment to relationality. The crucial question that remains is: What should be the relationship between the universal and the particular and how should we conceive of this relationship in a non-antagonistic and constructive manner? The answer lies in conceiving the relationship between the two as a dialectical one. In order to understand the universal, it is important to accept the fact that it is derived from particular local contexts and can only be realized through the culturally specific norms and rules in each context.

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Feminist Perspectives on Foreign Policy  

Anne-Marie D'Aoust and Béatrice Châteauvert-Gagnon

Foreign policy analysis (FPA) deals with the decision-making processes involved in foreign policymaking. As a field of study, FPA overlaps international relations (IR) theory and comparative politics. Feminist perspectives on foreign policy look at global politics with the aim of understanding how gender as an analytical lens and a sophisticated system of power produces, and is produced by, foreign policy (analysis). There are two main spheres of feminist inquiries when it comes to foreign policy: the role of women as sexed power holders involved in decision-making processes and power-sharing in the realm of foreign policymaking, and the role of gendered norms in the conduct and adoption of foreign policies. One the one hand, feminist foreign policies as a state policy orientation embraced by some governments (e.g., Sweden or Canada) are geared toward gender equality in one or multiple areas pertaining to foreign policy (aid, trade, defense, and/or diplomacy). Such policies claim that prioritizing gender equality in foreign assistance serves broader economic and security goals. On the other hand, gender mainstreaming, one of the major international developments in foreign policy, moves toward a broader engagement with the way institutions have distinctively gendered cultures and processes that inevitably affect outcomes: do diverse assumptions about femininity and masculinity affect the bureaucratic procedures and, by extension, the policy results? Broadening feminist takes on foreign policy, queer perspectives aim to bring to the field a distinctive focus on how foreign policies are productive of, and produced by, not only gendered norms, but also sexualized norms, subjectivities, and logics. These different areas of policy focus do not preclude the instrumentalization of women’s rights for foreign policy purposes, such as military interventions made in the name of women’s rights, that can be detrimental to women.

Article

Gender, Identity, and the Security State  

Ellie C. Schemenauer

Much of what goes on in the production of a security state is the over-zealous articulation of the other, which has the effect of reinforcing the myth of an essentialized, unambiguous collective identity called the nation-state. Indeed, the focus on securing a state (or any group) often suggests the need to define more explicitly those who do not belong, suggesting, not only those who do, but where and how they belong and under what conditions. Feminists are concerned with how highly political gender identities often defined by masculinism are implicated in marking these inclusions and exclusions, but also how gender identities get produced through the very practices of the security state. Feminists in the early years critiqued the inadequacy of realist, state-centric notions of security and made arguments for more reformative security perspectives, including those of human security or other nonstate-centric approaches. At the same time, feminist research moved to examine more rigorously the processes of militarism, war, and other security practices of the state and its reliance on specific ideas about women and men, femininity and masculinity. Feminist contributions from the mid-1990s through the first decade of the millennium reveal much about the relationships between gender identities, militarism, and the state. By paying attention to gendered relationships of power, they expose the nuances in the co-constitution of gender identities and the security state.

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Gramscian International Political Economy from a Feminist Perspective  

Pooja Rishi

Feminist Gramscian international political economy (IPE) is an interdisciplinary intellectual project that has focused both on theoretical and empirical analysis of women and gender within the field. Feminist Gramscian IPE emerged from the confluence of an eclectic body of work over the last several years encompassing fields as disparate as international relations, IPE, feminist economics, the literature on gender and development, and feminist literature on globalization. As with feminist perspectives in other disciplinary fields, Gramscian feminists have largely embraced postpositivist, interpretivist, and relational analysis while trying to maintain the emancipatory potential of their work for women the world over. Current Gramscian feminist analyses are firmly grounded and draw from early Marxist/Socialist feminist interventions. They have also engaged with the three major categories of analysis in Gramscian thought—ideas, material capabilities, and institutions—in order to understand hegemonic processes that function to (re)construct and (re)produce both gendered categories of analysis and practice. Feminist revisions of Gramscian IPE have focused on international institutions, rules and norms, while simultaneously shedding light on contemporary states and how they are being transformed in this current phase of globalization. Three central tasks that feminist Gramscian scholars may consider in future research are: to be more engaged with the notion of hegemony, to revisit the political methodology employed by many feminist Gramscian analyses, and to devote more attention to non-mainstream perspectives.

Article

Sovereignty as a Problematic Conceptual Core  

Rosemary E. Shinko

The concept of sovereignty has been the subject of vigorous debate among scholars. Sovereignty presents the discipline of international law with a host of theoretical and material problems regarding what it, as a concept, signifies; how it relates to the power of the state; questions about its origins; and whether sovereignty is declining, being strengthened, or being reconfigured. The troublesome aspects of sovereignty can be analyzed in relation to constructivist, feminist, critical theory, and postmodern approaches to the concept. The most problematic aspects of sovereignty have to do with its relationship to the rise and power of the modern state, and how to link the state’s material reality to philosophical discussions about the concept of sovereignty. The paradoxical quandary located at the heart of sovereignty arises from the question of what establishes law as constitutive of sovereign authority absent the presumption or exercise of sovereign power. Philosophical debates over sovereignty have attempted to account for the evolving structures of the state while also attempting to legitimate these emergent forms of rule as represented in the writings of Hugo Grotius, Samuel von Pufendorf, Jean Bodin, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. These writers document attempts to grapple with the problem of legitimacy and the so-called “structural and ideological contradictions of the modern state.” International law finds itself grappling with ever more nuanced and contradictory views of sovereignty’s continued conceptual relevance, which are partially reflective and partially constitutive of an ever more complex and paradoxical world.

Article

Women Teaching International Studies  

Mary N. Hampton and Kathleen A. Mahoney-Norris

One aspect of women’s professional experience in the field of international studies is that of teaching. Women’s experience in the gendered classroom has been shaped by three general factors: their identity, their interests, and the institutions in which they work. Major dimensions of identity can be grouped into: identity as reputation; identity as race and sex; and identity as role models and mentors. Meanwhile, women’s teaching is clearly affected by their scholarly interests, which impact on both the subjects they choose to teach and their pedagogical approaches. While it would not be surprising to find that women teachers tend to teach more about women and feminism, a major survey of International Relations (IR) faculty in the United States found other significant differences between women and men in the classroom, often linked to women’s differing research interests. Women’s teaching is also impacted by the institutional environment in which they work. Surveys and studies across the academic spectrum confirm the importance not only of gender equity at institutions, but also the presence of an institutional climate, or culture, that is friendly to women faculty. Major elements that affect the institutional environment include the number of faculty women (including senior women); the type of institution (its focus on research or teaching); and the ability to offer feminist and gender courses, and related pedagogies.

Article

International/Global Political Sociology  

Dirk Nabers and Frank A. Stengel

International Political Sociology (IPS) emerged as a subfield of International Relations (IR) in the early 2000s. IPS itself may be understood as constituted by a field of tension between the concepts of “the International,” “the Political,” and “the Social.” Against this background, the centrality of anarchy and sovereignty as the fundamental structuring principles of international politics are increasingly called into question. While IPS remains an exciting, creative and important endeavor, researchers are also exploring paths toward what might be called a Global Political Sociology (GPS). Although IPS has become more global in orientation, more sociological with respect to sources, and more political in its stance, three ongoing shifts need to be made in order to transform IPS into GPS: first, insights from disciplines foreign to IR—both Western and non-Western—need to be employed in order to illustrate that specific localities have implications for the global as a whole; second, the continued engagement with causal theorizing must be replaced with contingency and undecidability as the fundamental constituting features of the political; and third, if the international that has been the nucleus of IR activities for decades, but impedes our understanding of politics instead of stimulating it, then alternative ways of theorizing global politics must be explored.

Article

Feminisms Troubling the Boundaries of International Relations  

Christine Sylvester

A constant source of concern for feminists working in International Relations (IR) has been the field’s implied or stated boundaries. During the first ten years of its existence (roughly covering the years 1985–1995), the main goal of feminist IR was to challenge a caged-in knowledge realm that excluded more phenomena than it promised to seek. By the early twenty-first century, IR had devolved into a camp structure that was able to accommodate on the inside all manner of theories, people, and places. Yet while feminism contributed to troubled boundaries of IR, it did so against the backdrop of internal boundary dilemmas of inside and outside, good women/bad women, authentic versus dominant voice, gender versus feminism, and so on. Today, feminist IR is somewhat different from its earlier orientations. It now draws heavily on postmodern thinking about margins, multiple truths, subjugated identities and discourses, and power in general, and takes on IR theory and methodology using insights from postmodern thinking and other disciplines such as anthropology and geography. Feminist IR continues to bring new locations of the international and relations to the fore. Two such areas deal with the subject of violent women in international relations and the urgencies of development around the world.

Article

Gender, Women, and Representation in State Politics  

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.

Article

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.

Article

Feminist Security Theorizing  

Laura Sjoberg

Feminist Security Theorizing is in many ways what it sounds like—thinking about security in the global political arena through gender lenses. Since early work in feminist International Relations (IR), feminists have been exploring research questions about the ways that gender shapes and is shaped by war, conflict, and militarism. The field has developed to be labeled Feminist Security Studies (FSS). Debates about whether FSS is “feminist security” studies or feminist “security studies” have asked about the subfield’s focus—whether it is toward rethinking security in feminist ways or toward the mainstream field of security studies as such. With space in the field for both approaches, feminist security theorizing has looked at revealing the importance of gender in conceptualizing security, demonstrating that gender is key to understanding causes and predicting outcomes, and showing gender as a key part of solving security problems. FSS has several common theoretical commitments and concerns. These include a necessary commitment to intersectionality, a recognition of the importance of theorizing not only about gender but also about sexuality, a consciousness about framing, and an awareness of the politics of sociology of the academic disciplines in which it is situated. It is important to explore the past, present, and potential futures of feminist theorizing about security, concluding with an invitation to expand recognition of feminist work addressing security issues across an even wider variety of perspectives.

Article

Gendering Human Security: How Gender Theory Is Reflected and Challenged in Civil-Military Cooperation  

Gunhild Hoogensen Gjørv and Kirsti Stuvøy

Gendering human security is useful for making explicit the role of practice and actors, and the power relations between them, attributed through socialized and naturalized characteristics of the feminine and masculine. It offers analytical and empirical insights that release human security discourses from the stranglehold that a state-based, militarized security perspective has thus far had on the definition of security as a whole. A gender-based human security analysis reveals what human security means when understood through the power and practices of domination and marginalization, and more specifically the extent to which the militaries are capable of contributing to human security today. In feminist approaches as well as many human security perspectives, security has been delinked from the state and discussed in terms of other referent objects. Feminist and human security share a “bottom-up” approach to security analyses, but feminists have identified a gender blindness in human security theory. Gender is a primary identity that contributes to the social context in which the meaning and practice of security unfolds. Gendering human security exposes how the security needs of individuals are also identified in relation to specific groups, which reflects the feminist understanding of humans’ relational autonomy and implies that human security is not individual but social security when gendered.

Article

Feminism and the Politics of Difference  

Maria O’Reilly

Feminist scholars and practitioners have challenged—and sought to overcome—gendered forms of inequality, subordination, or oppression within a variety of political, economic, and social contexts. However, feminists have been embroiled in profound theoretical disagreements over a variety of issues, including the nature and significance of the relationship between culture and the production of gendered social life, as well as the implications of cultural location for women’s agency, feminist knowledge production, and the possibilities of building cross-cultural feminist coalitions and agendas. Many of the approaches that emerged in the “first” and “second waves” of feminist scholarship and activism were not able to effectively engage with questions of culture. Women of color and ethnicity, postcolonial feminists and poststructural feminists, in addition to the questions and debates raised by liberal feminists (and their critics) on the implications of multiculturalism for feminist goals, have produced scholarship that highlights issues of cultural difference, division, diversity, and differentiation. Their critiques of the “universalism” and “culture-blindness” of second wave theories and practices exposed the hegemonic and exclusionary tendencies of the feminist movement in the global North, and opened up the opportunity to develop intersectional analyses and feminist identity politics, thereby shifting issues of cultural diversity and difference from the margins to the center of international feminism. The debates on cultural difference, division, diversity, and differentiation have enriched feminist scholarship within the discipline of international relations, particularly after 9/11.

Article

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

Jennifer Heeg Maruska

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.

Article

Globalization through Feminist Lenses  

Angela B. McCracken

Feminist scholarship has contributed to the conceptual development of globalization by including more than merely the expansion and integration of global markets. Feminist perspectives on globalization are necessarily interdisciplinary; their definitions and what they bring to discussions of globalization are naturally shaped by differing disciplinary commitments. In the fields of International Relations (IR) and International Political Economy (IPE), feminists offer four major contributions to globalization scholarship: they bring into relief the experiences and agency of women and other marginalized subjects within processes of globalization; they highlight the gendered aspects of the processes of globalization; they offer critical insights into non-gender-sensitive globalization discourses and scholarship; they propose new ways of conceiving of globalization and its effects that make visible women, women’s agency, and gendered power relations. The feminist literature on globalization, however, is extensively interdisciplinary in nature rather than monolithic or unified. The very definition of key concepts such as globalization, gender, and feminism are not static within the literature. On the contrary, the understanding of these terms and the evolution of their conceptual meanings are central to the development of the literature on globalization through feminist perspectives. There are at least four areas of feminist scholarship on globalization that are in the early stages of development and deserve further attention: the intersection between men/masculinities and globalization; the effects of globalization on women privileged by race, class, and/or nation; the gendered aspects of the globalization of media and signs; and the need for feminists to continue undertaking empirical research.

Article

International Political Economy: Overview and Conceptualization  

Renée Marlin-Bennett and David K. Johnson

The concept of international political economy (IPE) encompasses the intersection of politics and economics as goods, services, money, people, and ideas move across borders. The term “international political economy” began to draw the attention of scholars in the mid-1960s amid problems of the world economy and lagging development in the third world. The term “global political economy” (GPE) later came to be used frequently to illustrate that what happens in the world is not only about interactions between states and that the GPE includes many different kinds of actors. The survey aims at a comprehensive picture of the different schools of IPE, both historically and as they have developed in the early 21st century. Authors of antiquity, such as Aristotle and Kautilya, explored the relationship between the political and the economic long before the term “political economy” was coined, presumably by Antoine de Montchrestien in 1613. The mercantilist writings of the 17th and 18th centuries, including those of Colbert, Mun, and Hamilton, argued in favor of the state using its powers to increase its wealth. List, writing in the 19th century, emphasized the tension between national economic self-determination and free markets. The 19th- to 20th-century iteration of the mercantilist view can be found in the form of economic nationalist policies, which link to a realist approach to international relations more generally. Theorists of the Global South have adapted economic nationalist policies to address the problem of development. The liberal tradition of IPE also has historical antecedents, beginning with classical political economy. Examples include the influential works of Locke, Hume, Smith, and Ricardo. After World War II, the economic writings of Keynes, Hayek, and Friedman were influential. Variants of neoliberal IPE can be found from the 1950s with scholarship on integration and from the late 1970s with scholarship on international regimes. Late-20th-century and early-21st-century liberal scholarship has also explored varieties of capitalism and economic crises. An alternative stream of IPE can be traced through Marxian political economy, beginning with the work of Marx and Engels in the 19th century and proliferating globally. This approach provides a critique of capitalism. Other critical approaches that have emerged in the 20th and 21st centuries include feminist global political economy and postcolonial critiques of liberal and Marxian analyses. Trends in scholarship include analyses of China and transition of the neoliberal order, queer theory for global political economy, and studies of growing trends toward precarious forms of labor. A final section discusses research beginning in the 1990s that is relevant to the global political economy of transborder transmission of disease, a topic of special concern in light of the Covid-19 pandemic of 2020.

Article

Feminist Perspectives on Human Rights  

Laura Parisi

Feminism has provided some new perspectives to the discourse on human rights over the years. Contemporary feminist scholarship has sought to critique the liberalism on which the conception of formal “equality” in the international human rights laws has been derived on a number of grounds. Two of the most pertinent critiques for this discussion are: the androcentric construction of human rights; and the perpetuation of the false dichotomy between the public and private spheres. This exploration of the relationship between liberalism and women’s human rights constitutes a significant shift in which many feminists had realized that the emphasis on “sameness” with men was limited in its utility. This shift rejected the “sameness” principle of the liberal feminists and brought gender-specific abuses into the mainstream of human rights theory and practice. By gender mainstreaming international institutions and future human rights treaties, specific women’s rights could be defined as human rights more generally. Feminists have since extended their critique of androcentrism and the public–private dichotomy to the study of gender inequalities and economic globalization, which is an important systemic component of structural indivisibility. In particular, the broader women’s human rights movement has come to realize that civil-political liberties and socioeconomic rights are inextricable, though there is disagreement over the exact nature of this relationship.

Article

Transnational Feminist Activism and Globalizing Women’s Movements  

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.

Article

Gender and the Global Political Economy  

Penny Griffin

Feminist and gendered interventions in the discipline of international political economy (IPE) traces the constitutive and causal role that gender plays in the diverse forms, functions, and impacts of the global political economy (GPE). There are subtle distinctions between “feminist” and “gendered” political economy. The term “feminist IPE” is assigned only to those scholars who identify directly with feminism and label themselves feminist. “Gendered IPE” includes feminist IPE, but also incorporates those analyses not necessarily centered on women’s work, their practices, and their experiences. Whether understood empirically or analytically, increased references to “gender” in IPE invariably resulted from the extensive, varied, and challenging feminist theorizing that had made visible the neglect of sex and gender in IPE. Indeed, gendered IPE scholarship is dedicated to transforming knowledge through committed gender analysis of the global political economy, deploying “gender” as a central organizing principle in social, cultural, political, and economic life. A relatively recent theoretical turn in gendered political economy thoroughly highlights the problems involved when gender is entirely associated with the body as a mark of human identity. Contemporary gendered IPE covers the variety of ways in which analysis of a person’s sex is simply not enough to describe their experiences. Indeed, ongoing feminist and gendered IPE concerns generally focus on the marginalization of gender analysis in IPE. Meanwhile, promising avenues in gendered IPE include gender and sexuality in IPE, as well as gender and the “Illicit International Political Economy” (IIPE).