POLITICS AND FEMINISM
Research on politics, political activities and power relations of various kinds have for long been central to feminist research. Understandings of what politics is, how it works and where it takes place have never been static or unified across academic communities engaging with the study of politics, be that political science itself, the many sub-disciplines studying politics (e.g. political geography, political history, political sociology), or the growing number of interdisciplinary studies of politics and the political. Since the late 1960s, many and diverse feminist and pro-feminist movements within and outside Academia have been actively contributing to this large, heterogeneous and contested research field. Questions and answers about the nature of politics and the political have been much on the move and, since the 1980s, in a certain direction. As compared with various, old and new modes of linking, some even reducing politics to economic matters, the debates about modernity/postmodernity and the many turns (linguistic, cultural and others) issued in these debates, conceptions of politics and the political rooted in philosophy and/or cultural theory now stand out strongly. In gender studies and feminist theory, the move towards philosophical and cultural approaches to studying politics is rather strong. At the same time a relative under-attention to political institutions, even a turn away from empirically oriented political theories and analytical frameworks aimed to investigate institutionalized power and political processes that constitute multi-level state-society relationships (political systems), can be noted.
Current scholarly debates about politics and the political should be seen in relation to many interlocking, conflicted processes of ongoing, global and local social changes, such as: more or less dramatic political system shifts (from the 1980s onwards); structural changes, tensions, and crises in the world economy; intensified conflicts over and politicization of sexuality, love and all kinds of biopower; and heightened political temperature in many cultural activities and discursive movements in the world of ideas and ideals, symbols and values. In all of these domains of social life, various forms of ongoing power struggles, through collective activities, social movements and interest articulation, can be seen throughout the world.
The objective of this field is to promote an inclusive view of feminist research interests in the study of politics; of the many sites and forms of political power, of policy-making and policy implementation in political systems and the various forms taken by activities and struggles aiming for realizing gender equality and other feminist values.
CRITICAL DISABILITY STUDIESStrand chair: Margrit Shildrick In recent years Critical Disability Studies has emerged as one of the most exciting areas of exploration in the continuing development of theories of embodiment, raising urgent issues of subjectivity, sexualities, power, and sexual difference to name just a few. After years of neglect, even disavowal, the question of anomalous embodiment and sexuality is at the heart of emergent scholarship forcing a reconsideration of the operative paradigms well beyond the arena of disability. Just as feminism, postcolonial studies and queer theory have all in turn offered a radical challenge to the existing conventions, so Critical Disability Studies is now the locus to watch for anyone concerned with interdisciplinary cutting edge theory. Taking a broadly postmodernist perspective, the research strand would draw on philosophy, literature, history, the social sciences, feminist theory and much more to pull together new ways of thinking about the body in all its forms, and to provide a rich and varied insight into the state of critical disability scholarship.
SEXUAL ETHNOGRAPHY - TRANSFORMING METHODOLOGIESStrand chair: Malena Gustavson Sexual ethnography continues to form methodological challenges to research practices, ethics and analysis with and through the testimonies of lived experiences. Exploring sexuality as ethnography engages a plethora of assemblages of narratives and practices in social relations and political institutions. Being a highly debated and also delicate matter sexual ethnography also generates incitement to continually rethink how to perform and communicate in the field. Feminist ethnographers’ critical engagement of disentangling the link between experience and representation has expanded and transformed theoretical and methodological endeavours in fieldwork as a site for knowledge production. There are elaborated approaches and interventions to participate in the field. Exploratory research practices aligned with feminist critique of othering also emphasizes ethical reflexivity, the researcher’s point of origin, attitudes and techniques of knowing. Framing this strand within the orbit of feminist queer and transnational intersections the methodological discussion will continue and invites to innovative, experimental and critical engagement in sexual ethnography. The strand will engage in questions such as: What are the challenges for a sexual ethnography ethically and analytically? How could we expand the dialogue between researcher and research subjects in the ethnographic processes? Ongoing projects: Sexual feelings (Malena Gustavson) Relevant publications
FEMINIST TECHNOSCIENCE STUDIES: RE-INVENTING TECHNOLOGIES, BIOLOGIES AND MEDICINE"Strand chairs: Cecilia Åsberg, Ulf Mellström, Margrit Shildrick & Nina Lykke This research strand continues and advances the feminist science studies tradition as it has been established and re-established by scholars such as Donna Haraway, Karen Barad, Lucy Suchman, Margrit Shildrick, Stacy Alaimo, Myra Hird, Nina Lykke, Mette Bryld and Lynda Birke at the intersection of advanced cultural theory, feminist materialisms and knowledge production within the natural sciences, medicine or engineering. This field has moved from critiques of science (the woman question in science) to active engagement with “the science question in feminism” (Harding 1986), and taken a quantum leap over the three decennia after Donna Haraway’s famous cyborg manifesto. In this strand we put focus on different kinds of knowledge production, historical and material conditions of existence and bodily ethics in the medical, technical and natural sciences. Key here are transdisciplinary understandings that bridge the modern divide between nature and culture, and its corollary of bifurcations into the so called soft sciences and the so called hard sciences. This strand is marked by a deep-seated feminist commitment to the ways in which gender and intersectionality are entangled with medicine, science and technology. This small, highly influential and highly transgressive field (admixing feminism and technoscience in practice) has in recent years single-handedly reinvented large parts of the feminist conceptual apparatus in gender studies, under portmanteau terms such as for instance - new materialism, agential realism, feminist materialisms, posthumanities, and somatechnics.
LIMINAL LIVES, BODILY ETHICS AND BIO-CURIOUS FEMINIST POSTHUMANITIES"Strand chair: Cecilia Åsberg What is life in the era of the life sciences – when genetic, neurological, chemical concepts and matters proliferate well beyond the confinements of the laboratory in popular culture and shape our sense of selfhood? Who, or what,gets to count as human, humanized, monstrous, or non-human, as natural in the natural sciences, as cultural, sexed orgendered, in humanities, science and in the wider scientific imaginary of today?This research strand will focus the question of gendered biologies, liminal lives and bodily ethics from the multiple interwoven perspectives emerging from the recent feminist reinvention of the messy relations and blurred boundaries of sex/gender, nature/culture, science/humanities. The point of departure is materialist trends in feminist theory, which have focused on embodiment and the materialities of sexed bodies – human and non-human. Against the background of a critique of feminist theories of sexual difference in the humanities and social science that have long been embedded in constructionist paradigms, materialist feminist trends haveattracted the attention of feminist researchers from a broader spectrum of different disciplinary backgrounds, including medicine and biology. However, while theorizing on the relationship between human and non-human animals, technology and biology, sex and gender has figured sexual difference, differentiated subjectivity and embodiment as key feminist concerns, communication across the borders of the different theoretical strands and interdisciplines has been scarcer. Furthermore, it has been difficult to bridge disciplinary barriers between empirically-oriented research, typically carried out by bioscientists, and theoretically-oriented research, carried out by humanities and social sciences scholars, thus preventing a synergetic dialogue. Against the background of these gaps in previous research, the strand will aim at the development of new transdisciplinary research on bio-curious feminist forms of posthumanities, moving cultural feminist theory out of the anthropocentric comfort zone and into a more-than-human humanities. While we map "the human" and its constitutive inside and outside of the the Humanities, we draw in this research strand on feminist science studies roots and recent re-routes in new materialisms, on creative approaches oftechnoscience and culturalstudies, and human-animal studies. However, we focus especially on the relationships, circulating cultural contents and synergetic exchanges between the humanities and the natural sciences, molecular biology, techno- and life sciences – as matters of urgent concern for feminist scholarship.
CANCER CULTURES AS LENS TO INTERSECTIONAL PATIENTHOOD STUDIESStrand chair: Nina Lykke The strand is focusing on three interrelated dimensions. Firstly, the question of cancer as a cultural phenomenon is addressed, taking a starting point in the paradox that, while representations of cancer and cancer patienthood abound in contemporary popular culture, cancer is more seldom the theme of critical cultural studies. A small, but significant tradition for critical cultural studies of cancer, including queer, trans, feminist, and postcolonial ones does, however, exist, and has served as an inspiration for the strand. Secondly, the strand is taking issue with patienthood as an embodied sociocultural positioning and subjectivity. Patienthood (and un/health) is explored as a dimension to be included in intersectional feminist theorizations. It is understood as a dimension which intraacts closely with the issue of dis/abilities, but it is also assumed that more adequate analytical perspectives seem to emerge from a taking into account not only overlaps, but also distinctly separate dynamics and political perspectives. Thirdly, the strand builds on and further develops postconstructionist frameworks, defining (un)healthy bodies as material-semiotic actors entangled in transcorporeal, affective relations made up of networks of culture and biology.