Feminisms and Cross-Ideological Feminist Social Research: Standpoint, Situatedness and Positionailty -- Developing Cross-Ideological Feminist Research

Article excerpt


When we consider the different cultural spaces in which feminist social researchers might be carrying out empirical research the nature of 'feminist social research' becomes difficult to define. The issue becomes even more complex when we consider the multiple standpoints, contexts and positionalities of different kinds of feminists from diverse backgrounds, both secular and religious. There cannot be a blanket universal agreement between feminists from different ideological positions regarding appropriate subjects and methodologies for research. Nevertheless, the writer concludes that through a pragmatic feminist approach, exemplified by working in a situated way with the materials that are available, we can move toward moments of issue-based coalition between standpoints.

Key words: feminist social research, feminist standpoint theory, cross-cultural feminist research, Islamic and 'Western' feminisms

Feminisms and Cross-ideological Feminist Social Research: Standpoint, Situatedness and Positionality -- Developing Cross-ideological Feminist Research (i)

Myfanwy Franks (ii)


Arriving at an acceptable universal definition of feminism or of what it is that constitutes feminist research is problematic. This is because the patriarchal relations against which feminisms constitute a resistance, differ in their configuration from place to place. It is evident that the contexts in which feminist research is carried out differ considerably. 'Situated' experience leads to 'situated' knowledge and consequently there are diverse feminisms which include both secular feminisms and feminisms within religions. That which is progressive in one situation may be retrogressive in another. In this paper I shall address some of the important issues in feminist social research methodology that have arisen over the past two decades and attempt to find ways to build bridges between epistemological differences of application in a cross -cultural context. These methodological issues include the notion that feminist researchers should not be in the business of objectifying women as well as the problematic nature of objectivity in feminist social research. The issue of difference among feminists makes it impossible to construct a prescribed universal method with respect to these concerns. Three critical influences in the definition of identity are standpoint, situation, and positionality, i.e., the way in which a group or individual is defined by others. In liberal discourse the last of these is often neglected as an identity issue. The three concepts imply that identities and outlooks are fluid and that there cannot be universally prescribed research methods. At the same time I shall argue that although differences between feminist identities are multiple and complex, that the three concepts of standpoint, situatedness and positionality suggest that amidst the apparently irreconcilable differences there are possibilities of moments of agreement and understanding between feminists from different backgrounds. Standpoint, situatedness and positionality also imply that there cannot be universally taboo groups for research purposes nor prohibited issues for feminist research. Although the postmodern emphasis on difference means that the impossibility of a universal agreement has been exposed, there remains the potential for joint research and action on specific issues between networks of feminists of different standpoints. I conclude that the way forward for feminist social research is a pragmatically based research which utilises the tools arid materials available locally (and globally available if accessible) (iii), purposive research with a user group or groups in mind and is not simply theory for theorisation's sake.

Below I shall discuss the standpoints, locatedness and positionalities of feminisms especially in relation to Islamic and 'Western' forms of feminism. …