Feminist political science and feminist politics

By Marian Sawer



This article moves away from issues of the impact of women and feminist scholarship on political science to examine the relationship of feminist political science to a political constituency. It traces the trajectory of feminist political science from its close relationship with women's movement activism in the 1970s to the highly professionalised disciplinary subfield of today. It highlights some of the dilemmas resulting both from professional imperatives and from the norms of research excellence stemming from new forms of research governance. It finds that feminist political science has been pushed towards addressing an international community of scholars in a language inaccessible to local publics. But it finds that despite such pressures, feminist political science has still sought to produce work that is of direct relevance to achieving women's movement goals, whether within public policy or within political institutions broadly conceived. While it may no longer be speaking the same language, it is still seeking to identify the obstacles to change and the possibilities for transformation. This can be seen particularly clearly in the area of research on the intersection of electoral systems, quotas and party structures. Yet even here tensions can emerge, as with the concept of ‘critical mass’, perceived by activists as a crucial discursive tool but problematised by feminist scholars.

Citation: Sawer, M. (2014). Feminist political science and feminist politics. Australian Feminist Studies, 29(80), 137-147.

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