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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

Militarization, Women, and Men: Gendered Militarizations  

Erika Svedberg

Militarization is commonly thought of as a process that fundamentally changes society and all types of relations in it: the formal and institutional as well as the informal and the intimate. At its most extreme, militarization results in the disappearance of civil, civilianized space, leaving the civilians with no choice but to live in symbiosis with the military and its war-making. In a militarized society, women, men and children are typically affected differently. Since the mid-1980s, there has been a steady flow of feminist literature specifically exploring questions on gender and militarization in various disciplines, including international relations (IR), as well as men and masculinity. To uncover the ways that militarization and gender are related, several different angles need to be employed. Indeed, contemporary feminist debates show that it is not ever clear what gender actually is, or how it should be best used in a consistent way in analyses of power relations. So how can gender be thought about? As a “freestanding” social construct or as embodied? Is the gender order of male dominance and female adjustment the actual machinery that drives militarization and war? When militarization is introduced, what happens to the gendered embodiments of men and women? How are men’s and women’s bodies marked in the processes of militarization? In other words, how does militarization work to organize and categorize the bodies differently? The process of gendered militarization is often discussed using the conceptual binary of protector–protected. In short, gender is the order that imprints the masculine as “Protector” and the feminine as “Protected,” which helps to make society more easily militarized.

Article

Gender Violence, Colonialism, and Coloniality  

Natália Maria Félix de Souza and Lara Martim Rodrigues Selis

Feminist perspectives on gender, colonialism, and coloniality have provided important contributions to the discipline of international relations, particularly by producing dislocations on the established political imaginary. By critically engaging issues of embodiment, violence, and resistance, these perspectives have been able to subvert epistemological positions that objectify subaltern experiences, particularly those of colonized and racialized women. Furthermore, feminism’s ability to account for non-Western experiences of colonialism and coloniality has demanded a fundamental commitment to re-signifying gender violence in ways that markedly challenge its mainstream connotations. In that sense, distinct Latin American and Afrocentric critical approaches have opened different avenues to politicize gender without ignoring the experiences and knowledges of colonized, racialized, and sexualized populations. Their differing perspectives on embodiment emerge from the voices, practices, and struggles of women who refuse liberal diagnoses and solutions to their multiple, long-standing oppressions and experiences of violence. In this regard, it is important to highlight the centrality of popular, communitarian, and indigenous feminists whose actions and reflections have been sustaining revolutionary debates on bodies, states, territories, capitalism, and so forth. A reconstructive feminist narrative must seriously engage with existing practices of resistance to understand the ways in which they have already been reconstructing political imaginaries and grammars. In following this path, a critical feminist approach to international relations can abandon its modern academicist ambitions for universal solutions to recover the plural narratives, memories, knowledges, and interpretations of people as opportunities for experiencing another discipline and, hopefully, another world.

Article

LGBTI Human Rights in Global Politics  

Phillip M. Ayoub

Transnational organizing by groups dedicated to promoting the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) people is not a particularly new phenomenon, though it remained rare in the early decades of the 20th century. It was not until the advent of the sexual liberation movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s that LGBTI issues became more prominent. Moreover, despite their diversity, these transnational groups and networks have been able to speak with an increasingly unified voice, setting out a relatively coherent vision for global LGBTI human rights organizing. Over the past three decades, transnational LGBTI human rights activists have become increasingly successful in getting their voices heard and demands met within prominent international organizations such as the European Union and the United Nations. This success, however, has varied dramatically across international organizations and among the states they represent. Perhaps not surprisingly, given the Western origins and biases of transnational LGBTI movements and human rights principles, as well as the greater levels of tolerance toward homosexuality in the region, LGBTI rights organizations have had their greatest successes in Europe. Generally speaking, however, there has been a significant expansion of LGBTI rights over the past 30 years, even if it has come with a notable backlash and resistance. Yet despite these dramatic developments, the study of LGBTI politics has remained peripheral to most fields within the discipline of political science. This is slowly changing thanks to a proliferation of scholarship, including bridge-building work and an empirical turn, that is moving LGBTI research slightly closer to the center of the field.