LOVE STUDIES AND FEMINISM
A new broad field of scholarship – Love Studies – has emerged internationally and has been expanding since the early 1990s. Especially since the beginning of the twenty-first century, and in contrast to previous reluctance in most disciplines (except literature and art history) to take love seriously as a subject of academic research, fast growing attention to the topic of love can be seen worldwide, in many different disciplines and interdisciplinary work, among both feminist and non-feminist scholars. Increasingly, love is now addressed in its own right instead of being translated into other terms (such as labour, care, desire, romance, trust), and a fast growing number of research activities (publications, conferences, networks, university courses) can be noted. Among feminists, love, especially sexual love and maternal love, has been a politically loaded issue for a long time, and therefore, perhaps, the subject of love as such has been even more difficult to deal with seriously than in non-feminist fields. A point of departure here is that Love Studies is a heterogeneous and conflictual field of knowledge interests, and feminist theorists are internally divided as to whether and how to enter into it; also, that feminist theory and politics have much to win by broadening and deepening the study of love, partly for the same reason that have made feminists so reluctant towards the subject.
The previous GEXcel research theme, Love in Our Time – a Question for Feminism (LiOT), was organized around the assumption that the currently growing research on love could and should be seen as a new field, that it could carry a name of its own, Love Studies, and that a stronger feminist presence in studies on love was needed. Not only did the research conducted under the auspices of LiOT confirm the assumption that a new field was emerging; it also identified some key features indicating what the new in the current, academic interest in love is about. In sum this result includes:
(1) a sociological approach placing love as a problem at the center of studying social order/disorder in (late/second/post-) modernity,
(2) a philosophical approach, also found in recent neuro-scientific studies, connecting love to creativity or a productive power of some specific kind, and
(3) a political approach, invoking love as a useful key concept for a new political theory of global revolution.
All three modes of approaching the analysis of love contain feminist work, but with a few exceptions non-feminist scholars are tone-giving. The field of research, launched here, will develop further the main lines of thought informing LiOT and investigate new questions raised explicitly or implied in its results.