Contre la réforme des retraites et la LPPR : le  5 mars, la recherche s'arrête
Print this page

Epistemology and feminist and gender theories

Feminist epistemology aims at analyzing social relations of sex in their historical, social, political, and cultural dimensions so as to better understand the mechanisms underlying the production of hierarchies, of gender and sexual discriminations, and more generally of categorizations. To do so, it focuses on the construction of gender categories, the different forms and modes of implementation of the sex/gender system in their historicity and their cultural multiplicity. It calls into question established historiographies and their implicit assumptions (including in little questioned fields such as art historiography) and reexamines the production of gendered knowledge, thereby contributing to the development of feminist methods and theories. Finally, it seeks to study and evaluate the changes induced within human and social sciences by the introduction of issues of gender and sexuality. The 1970s witnessed the emergence of a feminist epistemology which accompanied, extended, and inflected women’s movements. Thanks to the elaboration, over the last forty years, of a genuine feminist archive and a corpus of works conveying multiple approaches, methods, and perspectives, feminist epistemology can now further the critical analysis of the production of knowledge.
Based on this account, projects in political science, economics, and art history will be instigated to extend an analysis, already carried out in the field of social sciences, regarding what gender “does” to our disciplines’ concepts, objects, and methods. For instance, the purpose of the critical revision of the history of economic thought through a gender lens, focusing in part on the genealogy of theoretical apparatuses and concepts, will be to find out to what extent a gendered approach can be developed within orthodox economics while at the same time retaining a heuristic value, or if such an approach necessarily leads to a distancing and an external posture with respect to the dominant paradigm.
Feminist epistemology also seizes on feminist critiques of historiography and of the production of standards and periodizations. Beyond the comparative perspectives which it has developed and renewed, its purpose is to study in their historicity the different cultural translations and interpretations of theories and struggles, so as to critically revise the different histories of thought (regarding for example politics, the economy, sexuality, coloniality, racialization etc.). Drawing from the theoretical tools of Black feminism, subaltern studies, queer studies, post-colonial studies, and cultural studies, research in feminist epistemology will be conducted as part of a larger project for a self-reflective and critical analysis on the production of knowledge. In intellectual history and in the history of science, research on the tools and categories of analysis of social sciences already conducted by the three teams will extend into a review of the historicity of concepts (freedom, emancipation, class, sexuality, sovereignty, empire), of their evolution throughout the theories handed down to us by the history of ideas and the history of science, and of their heuristic potential for the understanding of the contemporary world.
Among the media used for this research, we may mention the interdisciplinary book project “Gender Epistemologies,” for which support from the GIS Idg-Gender Institute is being considered. It will include a critical anthology of texts by canonical Western philosophers, as well as a series of books revisiting “classic” authors from the social sciences through a gender lens, revealing both their frequent blindness to this issue and the theoretical contributions which nevertheless fostered gender research.