Content of the Theme

Today, gender research is carried out in the entire field of the Humanities, as well as in the Social and Natural Sciences. Common starting points for researchers in this interdisciplinary field are found in theories of gender and related concepts. However, equally important for the wide applicability of gender perspectives is a common ground in feminist epistemology and methodology. This theme aims at exploring knowledge production, through the lens of gender, as a process involving a range of choices and positionings concerning epistemological and methodological issues. The theme offers students who apply a gender perspective in their dissertations the opportunity to deepen their knowledge and enhance scientific capacity. Students, regardless of dissertation topic, are invited to sharpen their methodological tools and engage in current debates on knowledge as situated, the validity of scientific knowledge and methodological challenges facing researchers in the present-day world.

The theme presents an overview of central debates in the fields of feminist epistemology and methodology starting in the early, classical discussions of gender, knowledge and power. A key concern is to explore the ways in which feminist epistemology illuminates broader epistemological discussions of the significance of objectivity. Throughout the theme, the interconnections between epistemology and methodology are foregrounded.

Issues brought to the fore by intersectionality, post-colonial and queer theory are addressed. The students will engage in critical reflexivity applied to their own research projects giving attention to the different stages of the research process and the particular challenges of their respective topics.

Three specific feminist methodological traditions, relevant to a wide array of disciplines and topics, will be explored; creative academic writing, ethnography and historiography. The theme of writing runs through all three strands of methodology. In creative academic writing, the focus is on how writing as a method can contribute to creativity in the research process. Ethnography and historiography are studied with attention to their specific writing genres, and as methodological traditions in which crucial feminist tools and insights have developed.

Four courses

The theme runs over one and a half year, beginning in the spring term of 2021. It consists of two courses (7,5 credits each) and two eligible courses (5 credits each). The first course offered in the theme is Feminist epistemology and methodology (7,5 credits), which covers central debates and concepts in these fields, such as the method debate on male bias, objectivity-relativism debates and the elaboration of concepts like situated knowledge, strong objectivity and feminist empiricist theories of evidence. The second course, Creative academic writing (7,5 credits) that invites the students to look upon their academic texts with fresh eyes and reflect upon writing and creativity. Course three (eligible, 5 credits) Gender and method: ethnography, is dedicated to ethnographic research traditions and the methodological approaches that are the hallmark of feminist ethnography. Course four (eligible, 5 credits) Gender and method: historiography, addresses feminist historiography and the archive as a research site. The students will practice hands-on methods throughout the theme, such as writing exercises, text analysis in class and group excursions to archives and ethnographic fields.

The students will be invited to join the doctoral network of the Gender Academy and to participate in open seminars, a doctoral conference (in August 2021 together with senior researchers) and social events that will give the PhD students access to the gender research milieu at Stockholm University.

Year one: Spring 2021

Course 1: Feminist Epistemology and Methodology, 7,5 credits, Spring 2021

The course gives a comprehensive overview of feminist epistemology and methodology and of central debates in these research areas starting in the early, classical discussions of gender, knowledge and power. Central concepts and strands of thinking like standpoint, strong objectivity, situated knowledge and feminist empiricist theories of evidence are studied. The feminist epistemological contribution to the debate on scientific objectivity is given particular attention.

A key aim is to create awareness of the need for critical reflexivity in the different stages of the research process applied in work on the students’ own research projects. The course addresses methodological issues brought to the fore in the broad tradition of gender research, including intersectionality, post-colonial and queer theory.

Course 2: Creative Academic Writing, 7,5 credits, Spring 2021

Learning how to write an academic text involves assimilating a range of rules and conventions that enhance scientific aims, but equally important in the process is the creative aspect. The feminist scientific tradition has since the beginning problematized notions of objectivity and distance as scientific ideals, a discussion that includes academic writing genres. The course explores non-traditional writing genres and raise questions like: How can writing function as a way of thinking? What does it mean to make use of one’s fantasy in writing? How are writing genres connected to topic?

Year two: Autumn 2021–Spring 2022

Course 3: Gender and Method: Ethnography, 5 credits, eligible, Autumn 2021

The course gives a comprehensive overview of the emergence of ethnographic research in the humanities, the contemporary spread of ethnography to a range of disciplines and the emergence of media and digital ethnography. Particular weight is given to the role played by feminist, reflexive ethnography in these processes. Central concepts and methodological issues are addressed, like the construction of the field, ethnographic writing genres, participant observation, insider/outsider, the ethnographic interview, ethical dilemmas and power relations of particular relevance to gender research in a local and global perspective. The course includes a collective fieldwork in a chosen setting.

Course 4: Gender and Method: Historiography, 5 credits, eligible, Spring 2022

The course addresses the ways in which temporal processes are mirrored in different texts and materials, whose history is found in the history books and whose history remains unwritten. A main theme is how cultural and social knowledge can be organized in epochs, events and turning points, and how this view can be analysed and problematized. The role of the archive in historical research will be highlighted.

The students will be introduced to the feminist discussion of archives and the ways in which they are embedded in their historical, social and political context.  During the course, the students will visit archives and work with contemporary and historical sources, printed and digital material, and exercises in writing gender history.


Theme coordinator: Marja-Liisa Keinänen and Lena Gemzöe, Department of Ethnology, History of Religions and Gender Studies.