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How should an understanding of gender shape our approach to the production of knowledge?

Posted on 10 March 2021

By Alice Roberts Dunn

image of Alice Roberts Dunn

Excellent news this week for Alice Roberts Dunn; who is currently an MA candidate in Social Research at the University of York and will start a 1+3 ESRC funded PhD with us in Autumn 2021. Alice's essay 'How should an understanding of gender shape our approach to the production of knowledge' has been published in the Journal of International Women's Studies.


For feminists, the question of what it means to take a feminist approach to the knowledge production process itself is of paramount importance. Drawing on postcolonial and intersectional thought and embedded in a discussion of the realities of the academic research process, this paper questions how an understanding of gender should shape such an approach. Ultimately, it argues the importance of moving beyond self-reflexivity alone and towards an understanding of research as a process of representation.
Starting from the intuition that feminist normative theorising should be grounded in women’s experiences, I first consider how the starting point and end point of feminist theory are intrinsically linked and always embedded within the contextual realities of academic research. Using feminist approaches to development as a springboard, I then examine how an intersectional understanding of gender should shape the feminist production of knowledge. I then argue for the importance of self-reflexivity for feminists seeking to ground their work in women’s conditions and experiences, while also challenging the ways in which it can lead to a reinforcing of existing unjust structures of power. Finally, drawing on Spivak’s exploration of the concept of representation and Alcoff’s analysis of the problems of speaking for others, I show that the concept of representation offers an alternative path for the feminist production of knowledge.