Tuesday 1st February- ‘Gender Studies is Relevant But…: Interrogating the Partial Recognition of Feminist Scholarship in the Social Sciences’

This week, 1st of February between 1-2pm, in SB317,  NGender will be hosting Maria do Mar Pereira from the Gender Institute of the London School of Economics and Political Science. Dr. Shamira Meghani will be chairing the seminar. All welcome!

Title: ‘Gender Studies is Relevant But…: Interrogating the Partial Recognition of Feminist Scholarship in the Social Sciences’


Many women’s, gender, feminist studies (WGFS) scholars see the field as a project of both intellectual and critical/political intervention in the academy; for them, the two are closely articulated and impossible to separate. However, the production of a separation between WGFS’ intellectual and critical/political dimensions has been a defining characteristic of many non-WGFS academics’ engagements with WGFS. Accounts from several countries and disciplines have noted that much mainstream scholarship recognises some of WGFS’ analytical insights, but often bypasses or rejects WGFS critiques of dominant standards and tools of academic knowledge production. In this paper, I draw on an ethnographic study of Portuguese academia (inspired by feminist epistemology, Foucauldian scholarship, and science and technology studies) to analyse these forms of partial recognition of WGFS. I observed non-WGFS scholars speaking in conferences and classrooms and found that they generally describe WGFS as a field that can produce credible and relevant contributions to the social sciences and humanities, but only up to a certain point or only if/when done in a certain way. I will present examples of these discourses and analyse their structure, content and particularly their uses of humour, in an attempt to examine how boundaries of scientificity are drawn in them and how WGFS is positioned in relation to those boundaries. I show that this boundary-work produces a representation of WGFS as a field that is partly within, and partly outside, the space of ‘proper’ knowledge, a process that I call an epistemic splitting of WGFS. I argue that this splitting makes it possible for non-WGFS scholars to engage with WGFS in a selective way, because it acts as a supposedly legitimate epistemic rationale for acknowledging WGFS contributions which fit mainstream frameworks, while simultaneously rejecting as not ‘proper’ academic knowledge, and therefore as justifiably dismissible, feminist critiques of those frameworks.


Maria do Mar Pereira is finishing her thesis on the PhD Gender programme at the Gender Institute, London School of Economics and Political Science). She holds a graduate degree in Sociology from the Lisbon University Institute (ISCTE-IUL), for which she undertook an ethnographic study of the negotiation of gender among teenagers in a school in Lisbon. Her current research analyses the epistemic status of women’s, gender, feminist studies, i.e. the degree to which WGFS scholarship is recognised as valid, relevant and authoritative knowledge. She has also published on, and presented papers about, feminist epistemologies and methodologies, men’s discourses about gender, and issues of language difference and translation in social science research.



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