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.
Geeta Chowdhry and L.H.M. Ling
Celeste Montoya, Sarah McCullar, and Marjon Kamrani
Feminist international relations (IR) scholars have worked to expand understandings of the global processes through studies of gender. There are multiple forms of feminist scholars and scholarship, with each epistemology having its own understanding of gender and its role in influencing international relations. These include feminist empiricism, feminist standpoint, poststructuralist feminist approaches, and postcolonial feminism. Some of the early feminist IR scholarship placed most of their emphasis on critiquing patriarchy, sometimes resulting to a narrow and essentialist construction of masculinity. These early works note the absence of women and the denigration of the feminine, as well as the predominance of masculine subject matter and masculine partiality in IR. This began to change with the recognition of different types of masculinities, offering a broader conceptualization of gender and masculinities beyond attachment to sex. Beyond recognizing the relational differences between masculinity and femininity, feminist scholars have also pointed out the differential value accorded to each, thus emphasizing the problematic hierarchical nature of such binaries. Another goal of feminist scholars has been to uncover the feminine roles rendered invisible, to challenge the masculine nature of IR as a discipline as well as deal with descriptive and substantive representational issues within the field and practice of IR. Meanwhile, the study of sexualities focuses on power dynamics and the hierarchies associated with sexual identity in its many forms. The predominant themes in this study include sexuality in relation to the study of war and nation; sexuality as a commodity; and studies of hetero- and homonormativity.