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Gender Expertise in International Organizations  

Özlem Altan-Olcay

Gender experts and gender expertise as a field of knowledge production and policymaking emerged in the late 20th century in response to the growing acceptance of gender mainstreaming in national bureaucracies as well as international organizations. Initially conceptualized as femocrats, gender experts and the resources devoted to them were welcome as important achievements of feminist movements in making their demands part of institutional frameworks. However, gender expertise is at the center of two important debates in feminist scholarship. First, feminist scholars, including those who have held positions as gender experts, debate the relationship between advocacy, professionalization, and the dangers of co-optation. These debates often connect with discussions of co-optation in broader scholarship on transformations in feminist discourses in institutional spaces. Second, critical scholarship has also produced much empirical data on the power inequalities in complex organizational settings within which gender experts operate. This scholarship focuses more on the actual experiences of gender experts. These debates may also give rise to new research on and with gender experts concerning the interactions between the researcher and the research subject, the positionality of thinking and writing today with hopes for (and despairs about) tomorrow, and the need to problematize binaries of the East and the West, the Global North and the South in knowledge production.