Handbook of Feminist Research
Theory and Praxis
- Sharlene Nagy Hesse-Biber - Boston College, USA
Qualitative Research | Research Methods for Gender & Sexuality | Social Research Methods
The Handbook continues to provide a set of clearly defined research concepts that are devoid of as much technical language as possible. It continues to engage readers with cutting edge debates in the field as well as the practical applications and issues for those whose research affects social policy and social change. It also expands on the wealth of interdisciplinary understanding of feminist research praxis that is grounded in a tight link between epistemology, methodology and method.
The second edition of this Handbook will provide researchers with the tools for excavating subjugated knowledge on women's lives and the lives of other marginalized groups with the goals of empowerment and social change.
'The Handbook of Feminist Research: Theory and Praxis is a well-developed contribution to the body of feminist literature. It effectively highlights the connection between feminist research and social change by drawing upon the range of existent feminist epistemologies, methods, and practices, all of which adopt different means of conceptualising, researching, and ultimately representing the lived experiences of women, varied across the lines of race, class and/or other demographics. The text, while accessible for both research and teaching purposes, perhaps most importantly draws our attention to the need to be critically aware in the process of conducting feminist research. One must address the challenges, research developments, and, crucially, the diversity amongst women, that may be incurred in attempting to research, understand, and accurately represent the lived experiences of all women'
We continue to reach out to two primary constituencies. The first is researchers, practitioners, and students within, and outside the academy, who conduct a variety of research projects and who are interested in consulting "cutting edge" research methods and gaining insights into the overall research process. This group also includes policymakers and activists who are interested in how to conduct research for social change. The second edition's audience continues to include academic researchers who, it is hoped, will use the Handbook in their research scholarship, as well as in their courses, at the upper-level undergraduate and graduate levels, as a main or supplementary text.
The second edition of the Handbook also includes a range of new research and teaching resources for both these readership groups with a list of websites as well as journal references that are specifically geared to each chapter's content. In addition, the second edition has an enhanced pedagogical feature at the end of each chapter that provides a set of key discussion questions intended as a praxis application for the ideas and concepts contained in each chapter.
The second edition's Handbook structure contains three primary sections that that represent a more finely tuned focus on theory and praxis, including the an enhanced set of case study research examples for each chapter that provide readers with a step-by- step praxis examples for conducting their own research projects.
Section one, "Feminist Perspectives on Knowledge Building,"
traces the historical rise of feminist research and begins with the early link of feminist epistemologies and perspectives within the research process. We trace the contours of early feminist inquiry and introduce the reader to the history, and historical debates, of and within feminist scholarship. We explore the androcentrism (male bias) in traditional research projects and the alternative set of questions feminist researchers bring to the research endeavor. We explore the political process of knowledge building by introducing the reader to the link between knowledge, authority, representation and power relations.
The chapters in Section One, introduce the unique knowledge frameworks feminists offer to enhance our understanding of the social reality. We explore some of the range of issues and questions feminists have addressed and the emphasis of feminist epistemologies and methodologies on understanding of the diversity of women's experiences, the commitment to the empowerment of women and other oppressed groups.
We examine a broad spectrum of the most important feminist perspectives and we take an in-depth look at how a given methodology intersects with epistemology and method to produce set of research practices. The Handbook's overall thesis is that any given feminist perspective does not preclude the use of specific methods, but serves to guide how a given method is practiced in the research process. While each feminist perspective is distinct, it sometimes shares elements with other perspectives. We discuss the similarities and differences across the spectrum of feminist perspectives on knowledge building.
Section two of the Handbook, "Feminist Research Praxis," examines how feminist researchers utilize a range of research methods in the service of feminist perspectives. Feminist researchers use a range of qualitative and quantitative as well as mixed and multi methods, and this section examines the unique characteristics feminists researchers bring to the practice of feminist research, by by maintaining a tight link between their theoretical perspectives and methods practices.
This section includes three new chapters. Deboleena Roy's chapter titled, "Feminist Approaches to Inquiry in the Natural Sciences: Practices for the Lab," tackles how feminist researchers go about their work within a natural science laboratory setting. She notes the importance of being reflexive of the range of ethical conundrums that are contained within practicing the scientific method. Roy suggests the importance of infusing laboratory research with a sense of "playfulness" and what she terms a "feeling around" in the pursuit of feminist laboratory knowledge building, that privileges a reaching out to other scientists in order to build a community of "togetherness" among researchers.
Stephanie Wahab, Ben Anderson-Nathe, and Christina Gringeri's new chapter, "Joining the Conversation: Social Work Contributions to Feminist Research," provides exemplary case studies of the practice of feminist research within a social work setting. Wahab et al. suggest that social work history of being grounded in praxis, ethics and reflection, can contribute to feminist knowledge building. In turn, social work's engagement with feminist theory, may help to disrupt the assumptions of knowledge contain in social work practice.
Kristen Intemann's new chapter, "Putting Feminist Research Principles Into Practice," suggests that research principles of feminist praxis can benefit scientific research. Intemann proposes that scientific communities need to tend to issues of difference in the scientific research process by including diverse researchers (in terms of experiences, social positions, and values), that will serve to enhance a critical reflection on scientific research praxis with the goals of enhancing the perspective of the marginalized, and working towards a multiplicity of conceptual models.
Section III of the Handbook, "Feminist Issues and Insights in Practice and Pedagogy" examines some of the current tensions within feminist research and discusses a range of strategies for positioning of feminist research within the dominant research paradigms and emerging research practices. Section III also introduces some feminist "conundrums" regarding knowledge building that deal with issues of truth, reason logic and ethics. Section III also tackles the conceptualization of difference and its practice. In addition, it addresses how feminist researchers can develop an empowered feminist community of scholars across transnational space. Section three also focuses on issues within the practice of feminist pedagogy that includes a discussion of how feminists can or should convey the range of women's scholarship that differentiates it from the charge that women's studies scholarship conveys only ideology not knowledge.
A new chapter added to this section is Katherine Johnson's contribution titled, "Transgender, Transsexualism, and the Queering of Gender Identities: Debates for Feminist Research." Johnson examines some of the core issues of contention within queer studies with the goal of identify those theoretical perspectives that have particular relevance to feminist researchers. Johnson argues that feminist researchers need to be cognizant of the range of identity positions with regard to gender identities. Johnson encourages feminist researchers to explore definitions, terminology, and areas for coalitions in order to promote the crossing of identity borders. Johnson's work analyzes the dialogues between feminism and transgender, transsexual, and queer studies and at how the fields may work together to more robust research.
Sharlene Hesse-Biber and Abigail Brooks' introduction to this section remind us that "There is no one feminist viewpoint that defines feminist inquiry." But rather "feminists continue to engage in and dialogue across a range of diverse approaches to theory, praxis, and pedagogy" (Hesse-Biber & Brooks, this volume).
Sample Materials & Chapters
Chapter 2: FEMINIST EMPIRICISM