Teaching Feminist International Politics

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Teaching Feminist International Politics

A Virtual Issue of the International Feminist Journal of Politics


We mark the occasion of 20 years of the International Feminist Journal of Politics with a free-access teaching issue of articles that colleagues have recommended as useful in their teaching. These will be available to all through the remainder of our 20th year!

Because teaching and learning is central to feminist scholarship and politics, deciding to put together this issue was easy. Assembling a team of devoted editors from our editorial board was easy. Soliciting nominations (during our 20th anniversary year) was easy. Over a social media campaign, we solicited nominations of articles that had been classroom-tested, teacher-endorsed, and student-engaged. From around the world nominations came. From these nominations the editors curated thirteen articles based on their individual merit and their collective ability to provide an anchor to a feminist international relations course or to provide feminist content to an introduction to global politics or international relations course.

Selecting the content for just one issue was hard. No two classrooms are the same from year to year, across courses with their own unique objectives, parameters and aspirations, across universities around the world with different locus of enunciation for why higher education matters. No two teachers use an article in the same way either. And no two students draw the same insights from a reading. Yet, year after year we each return to certain articles to teach again and again because of the joys of the clarity an author has provided, the insights the article enables, or the disruptions and decentering it provokes. We read these articles for their contributions, arguments for further development, new directions for research, and possibilities for comparison.

This virtual issue offers at a glance what a feminist engagement with the main themes and discussions in International Politics in the academy could look like. In making this virtual issue of selected reader-recommended articles, we cannot hope to reflect the full diversity of feminist scholarship in content, methods, regions, or styles of argumentation and writing. We can hope that each travels to all sorts of classrooms and teaching moments; and that each invites you to further explore the journal’s resources for your feminist classrooms.

The articles included in this virtual issue are free-access via this page up until 31 December 2019.

Visit the International Feminist Journal of Politics online to find calls for papers, conference details, FAQs, a policy-focused blog, and more!
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Virtual Issue Editors

1. Feminisms

Article TitleAuthor(s)VolumeIssueYear
Chinese Feminisms Encounter International FeminismsFeng Xu1122009

This article focuses on three key debates within China about the formation of Chinese feminisms: the origin of the Chinese women’s movement; the theoretical debates on the origin of women’s subordination; and what constitutes legitimate knowledge. It considers these internal debates in relation to the dialogues that Chinese feminists have pursued with western feminisms, and more specifically UN-based international feminisms. Chinese feminism is above all heterogeneous, and despite common beliefs about Chinese political discourse, meaningful debates do take place within Chinese feminism. However, the spectre of the West always lurks in the background of domestic debates. I situate the Chinese feminist debates in the political economy of knowledge production (how is knowledge produced, by whom and for whom, and who pays). My purpose is to shed light on the emergence of these debates and the stakes involved, in a society that is transitioning from an autarchic, centrally planned economy, from a Maoist politics of mass movement and from the devaluation of intellectuals and book-based knowledge. Central to the course of these debates is the emergence of a globally connected market economy, technocratic rule and a ‘knowledge economy’. Read the article via the link above.

2. Methodologies

Article TitleAuthorVolumeIssueYear
Of exceptions and continuities: theory and methodology in research on conflict-related sexual violenceJelke Boesten1942017

In response to an emerging debate around qualitative and quantitative methods in sexual violence research, in this paper I explore the apparent unease between the two methodological approaches, and ask how empirical data with regard to sexual violence in conflict informs policy and calls for justice. I argue that the quantitative turn in conflict-related sexual violence research feeds into its exceptionalization and tends to divorce such violence from more contextualized gender analyses, or perspectives that emphasize continuums of gender-based violence. While in some cases exceptionalization is essential, such as for the purpose of criminal accountability, for the purposes of understanding prevalence we need quantitative and qualitative analysis, and comparative as well as contextual data that will allow us to see the continuities as well. The analysis of gender, understood as a “constitutive element of social relations” (Scott, J. W. 1986. “Gender: A Useful Category of Historical Analysis.” The American Historical Review 91 (5): 1053–1075), is central to such a quest of better understanding both sexual violence and war. Read the article via the link above.

3. The State

Article TitleAuthorVolumeIssueYear
Political Identities/Nationalism as HeterosexismV. Spike Peterson111999

In the past decade, feminists have produced a considerable and important literature that critically analyses the gendering of the state and state-centric nationalism. This article draws from and shifts the focus of these studies to examine nationalism not simply as gendered but as heterosexist. I first locate nationalism as a subset of political identities and identification processes, then take (heterosexist) gender identities as an indispensable starting point in the study of political identities. I next turn to early western state making and its writing technologies to materialize the normalization of (hetero)gender binaries in thought (western metaphysics/phallogocentrism) and practice (divisions of power, authority, labor). Finally, I chart five gender differentiated dimensions of state-centric nationalism that expose the latter’s heterosexist presumptions – and enduring problems. Read the article via the link above.

4. Security

Article TitleAuthorVolumeIssueYear
Sex, Security and Superhero(in)es: From 1325 to 1820 and BeyondLaura J. Shepherd1342011

United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 was adopted in October 2000 with a view to ensuring that all aspects of conflict management, post-conflict reconstruction and peacebuilding be undertaken with a sensitivity towards gender as an axis of exclusion. In this paper, I do not dwell on the successes and shortcomings of UNSCR 1325 for long, instead using a discussion of the Resolution as a platform for analysis of subsequent Resolutions, including UNSCRs 1820 (2008), 1882 (2009), 1888 (2009) and 1889 (2009). This last relates specifically to the participation of women in peacebuilding and post-conflict reconstruction and is the most recent pronouncement of the Security Council on the issue of ‘women and peace and security’. Through this analysis, I draw attention to the expectations of and pressures on (some) women in the arena of peace and security, which can only be alleviated through discursive and material change in attitudes towards equality and empowerment. I argue that the Council is beginning to recognize – and simultaneously to constitute – (some/most) women as agential subjects and suggest that the fragmented and mutable representations of women in Council resolutions offer a unique opportunity for critical engagement with what ‘women’ might be, do or want in the field of gender and security. Read the article via the link above.

5. Economy

Article TitleAuthorVolumeIssueYear
Depletion: The Cost of Social ReproductionShirin M. Rai, Catherine Hoskyns & Dania Thomas1612014

In this article we explore the concept of depletion through social reproduction (DSR). We describe depletion, identify its key indicators and suggest different methodologies that could be used to measure it. We discuss issues having to do with gendered harm as well as questions about how depletion might be reversed. We conclude that recognizing DSR in this way can be a powerful tool for understanding the consequences of non-recognition of the value of domestic work to national economies, as well as the harm that might accrue in the doing of this work at both a systemic and individual level. Read the article via the link above.

6. Migration

Article TitleAuthorVolumeIssueYear
Gendered Global MigrationsEleonore Kofman642004

The globalization of migration has entailed a greater diversity and stratification of migration. Integrative approaches, such as transnationalism, structurationism and alternative circuits of globalization, have helped to place migration in broader sociocultural fields but have not adequately addressed the complex gendered stratification generated in countries of origin and destination. Much literature focuses on the socioeconomically disadvantaged, especially those undertaking domestic and sex work, but the opening up of skilled migration in developed countries, increasingly in feminized welfare sectors, is creating new lines of exclusion and inclusion and privileging the skilled and educated of the Third World. It also means that a neat division between the masculine high-tech sector and the feminine intimate, racialized and menial ‘other’ does not do justice to the complexity of gendered migratory flows. This article explores diverse forms of female migrations, labour market positions and the intersection of class, racialization and gender. I argue that we need to question the relegation of female migrants to the subordinate circuits of globalization and to extend our analysis beyond productive and reproductive labour in less skilled sectors. The inclusion of female skilled migrants can add a distinctive counter narrative, which includes care for and education of people, to our conceptualization of a knowledge economy and society, which tends to be based on scientific and technological sectors. Read the article via the link above.

7. Desire

Article TitleAuthorVolumeIssueYear
Love's Cruel Promises: Love, Unity, and North KoreaShine Choi1712015

In the current international context, North Korea is invariably seen as a problem of poverty, human rights and security upon which the international community must act. Framed as such, Korean reunification and reconciliation are seen as desirable developments and compelling reasons for tackling the ‘North Korea problem’. Such framings, however, reduce North Korea to a problem that positions the ‘international’ and ‘South Korea’ as the source of its solutions. The assumption here is that a truer, more stable loving-relation between North and South Korea, and by extension the international, would improve the present situation in North Korea and the problems it poses to the rest of the world. This great optimism can be seen in popular South Korean films such as Shiri and JSA where love is deployed as a powerful agent of change. The argument of this article is that the idea of national reconciliation that intimately attempts to erase divisions and install (a redemptive) unity actually kills the embraced North Korea. To illustrate how alternative responses to North Korea are possible, I consider how love can be ‘a properly political transformative concept’ (Berlant 2011), through a reading of Hwang Sok-young’s novel Baridaegi. Read the article via the link above.

8. Torture

Article TitleAuthorVolumeIssueYear
Empire, Desire and Violence: A Queer Transnational Feminist Reading of the Prisoner ‘Abuse’ in Abu Ghraib and the Question of ‘Gender Equality’Melanie Richter-Montpetit912007

Dominant discourses in the United States paint the acts of prisoner ‘abuse’ committed by US soldiers in Abu Ghraib in 2003 as either the obscene but exceptional example of some low-ranking soldiers gone mad, or as the direct result of the suspension of the rule of law in the global ‘war on terror’. Alternatively, feminist theorist Barbara Ehrenreich suggests that the pictures depicting female soldiers torturing prisoners are both horrifying and a sign of ‘gender equality’. This article departs from all three of these positions. I argue that the micro-level violences shown in the Abu Ghraib pictures are neither just aberrations nor a sign of gender equality. Rather they follow a pre-constructed heterosexed, racialized and gendered script that is firmly grounded in the colonial desires and practices of the larger social order and that underpins the hegemonic ‘save civilization itself’-fantasy of the ‘war on terror’. I explore how the participation of some of the US Empire's internal Others, namely White western women, may disrupt some of the social processes of normalization underpinning this colonial fantasy, but nevertheless serves to re/produce the identity and hegemony of the US Empire and its heterosexed, racialized and classed World (Dis)Order. Read the article via the link above.

9. Global Governance

Article TitleAuthorVolumeIssueYear
From intergovernmental negotiations to (sub)national changeSusanne Zwingel732005

In the last thirty years, a process of global norm creation in the field of gender equality has taken place. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women marks a milestone in this process: it emerged as the first legally binding international instrument for the protection of women’s rights. The 180 states that have ratified the Convention have interpreted their treaty obligations in diverse ways, ranging from reluctance to active incorporation. Beyond its original mandate, CEDAW has increased attention on gender issues within the UN human rights framework. Further, it has motivated transnational NGO activism that uses the Convention to connect local understandings of women’s rights with global standards to influence national policy developments. Taking these global, national and transnational dynamics together, the article argues that CEDAW has been transformed from a ‘classical’ intergovernmental regime to a transnational network enforcing women’s rights. Based on these findings, a theoretical view on global norm creation and enforcement is developed that stresses the reciprocal interrelation between global, national and local spheres. Instead of assuming a ‘trickle-down’ dynamic as a consequence of global agreements, it is argued that the legitimacy and authority of global norms depends on their active interpretation and appropriation within national and local contexts all over the world. Read the article via the link above.

10. Human Rights

Article TitleAuthorVolumeIssueYear
Women's Human Rights Activists as Cross-Cultural TheoristsBrooke A. Ackerly332001

In addition to offering a basis for the criticism of universal human rights theorizing and practice, women’s experience contributes to universal human rights theory building. Women’s human rights activists’ insights provide the foundation for a theory of universal human rights that is cross-cultural and critical. In sharing their work and strategies, two online working groups of women’s human rights activists demonstrate that a theory of universal human rights must offer both (1) common ground on which the parallel efforts of human rights activists around the world can be acknowledged and (2) recognition that though sometimes networked and integrated with those parallel efforts, activism for social change is local, and uses locally appropriate ways to promote women’s human rights. Using a theoretical method that treats non-theoretical texts as important sources for theoretical insights, the article introduces an activist-authored cross-cultural theory of human rights, its assumptions, and its theoretical framework. Finally, it draws implications from the activists’ theory for human rights scholars. Read the article via the link above.

11. Citizenship

Article TitleAuthorVolumeIssueYear
Navigating the Left Turn: Sexual Justice and the Citizen Revolution in EcuadorAmy Lind and Christine Keating1542013

Since the late 1990s, a series of pro-LGBT reforms have taken place in Latin America, coinciding in part with the region's shift away from neoliberalism to the Left. The Ecuadorian state has been at the forefront of this trend, decriminalizing homosexuality in 1997 and including an anti-discrimination clause on the basis of sexual orientation in the 1998 Constitution, the first in the region to do so. The 2008 Constitution went further; redefining the family, recognizing same-sex civil unions and providing legal protection on the basis of gender identity. At the same time, the 2008 Constitution banned same-sex marriage and adoption and continues the ban on abortion – indications that heteronormativity continues to underlie state policy and law. What is at stake in the state's seemingly ambivalent embrace of LGBT and feminist struggles for sexual justice? We argue that this contradictory stance towards struggles for sexual justice is a result of the interplay between homophobic and homoprotectionist state strategies. We draw out the implications of this ambivalent form of state inclusion for queer and feminist politics and argue that activists' navigation of the left turn necessitates a deeply coalitional approach to politics, one that fosters alternatives to state-centered configurations of justice. Read the article via the link above.

12. Humanitarianism

Article TitleAuthorVolumeIssueYear
The Gender Politics of Celebrity Humanitarianism in AfricaJemima Repo & Riina Yrjölä1312011

This article examines Anglo-American news media through a discourse-theoretical framework to study first, how celebrities are constituted as gendered humanitarian subjects acting on behalf of African problems, and second, how the concept of ‘Africa’ is produced, not only as a place, but also as a purpose in the world system. The debate surrounding celebrities is at an impasse, where they are seen as either instrumental or detrimental to African development. To break this standoff, we begin by placing celebrities in their neo-colonial context. We argue that the legitimacy of Bono, Bob Geldof and Angelina Jolie as humanitarian actors is underpinned by particular reproductions of race, class and gender. They are positioned in a heteronormative world political framework in which celebrities recreate Africa and its proper place in the neoliberal international system through a performative perpetuation of historically embedded subjectivities. The analysis then turns to Madonna’s Malawian adoption in 2006 as a case that does not entirely ‘fit’ and probes its subversive capacity. The article argues that the adoption controversy made visible the privileged, neo-colonial position from which celebrities, and western humanitarianism broadly speaking, happens, and gives rise to further questions pertaining to Africa’s childlike position in the western imaginary. Read the article via the link above.

13. Academe

Article TitleAuthorVolumeIssueYear
An Unten(ur)able Position : The Politics of Teaching for Women of Color in the USAnna M. Agathangelou & L.H.M. Ling432002

The U.S. academy wants ‘multiculturalism’ in the classroom. But its public rhetoric of fairness, standards, and diversity falls far short of its exclusionary actions in private, particularly for women of color faculty at tenure time. Tenure evaluations, we propose, reflect a narrative of institutional power that perpetuates the academy’s religious colonial legacy. Priest-Novitiate relations rule the academy more than a community of peers. Accordingly, women of color faculty face not just a glass ceiling when it comes to tenure and promotions. Rather, they encounter a more subtle, complex, and insidious form of resistance. It consists of a specific configuration of racial (white), gender (male), class (aristocratic or upwardly-mobile), and cultural (Western medieval) criteria that women of color cannot possibly satisfy. We conclude with some suggestions for transforming these social relations in the academy. Read the article via the link above.

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